Comments on Aaron Maté ‘s interview with John Mearsheimer

John Mearsheimer: Ukraine War Is A Long-Term Danger

The main point of Aaron Maté ‘s interview with John Mearsheimer is that  the U.S. miscalculated about how easy it would be to defeat Russia via arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions. Both sides are in a position where they’re now unwilling to negotiate or give up land.  Losing the war, or losing the Donbas and Crimea,  is an existential threat to Russia. So if  Ukraine were to prevail in the war — not likely, given the current situation  in which the Ukrainian counteroffensive is faltering– Russia would likely be strongly tempted to use nuclear weapons.  Other threats come from the high investment the West has put into winning this war; the West is likely to continue arming Ukraine.  It would be humiliating to allow Russia to win.   That’s a possibility, since Ukraine is stressed; despite the tens of billions in weapons, Russia has an advantage. Another threat come from the possible entry into the war of Poland and Belarus. At best, the war war can end in an ugly stalemate that continually has the risk of escalating into a hot war.

I thought the following statement by Mearsheimer was wise.   Maté had asked him whether President Biden had any room to negotiate with President Putin, given Biden’s refusal before the invasion to negotiate about NATO expansion.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER:  Well, let me make a quick point.  I think your description of the American position in December 2021 and in the run-up to the war in February 2022 is correct.  But it’s also important to emphasize—and people in the West don’t want to hear it, but it is true—that the Russians were desperate to avoid a conflict.  The idea that Putin was chomping at the bit to invade Ukraine so he could make it part of Greater Russia, it’s just not a serious argument.  The Russians did not want a war, and they did, I believe, everything possible to avoid a war.  They just couldn’t get the Americans to play ball with them.  The Americans were unwilling to negotiate in a serious way.  Period.  End of story.

Mearsheimer goes on to say, ” I think that first of all, both sides are so deeply committed to winning at this point in time that it’s hard to imagine them negotiating any kind of meaningful peace agreement.” The U.S. promises to eventually allow Ukraine to join NATO. “So, we are playing—we, meaning the West—are playing a key role here in incentivizing the Russians to destroy Ukraine. It makes absolutely no sense to me from a strategic point of view or from a moral point of view. You think of the death and destruction that’s being wrought in Ukraine, and you think that this could have easily been avoided. It makes you sick to your stomach just to contemplate it all.”

Maté and Mearsheimer discuss the near-total censorship in U.S. mainstream media of opinions critical of the war in Ukraine. Mearsheimer says:

I was deeply opposed to the Iraq War in a very public way, in late 2002 and up until March 2003, when the war started. And it was tough to make a case against the war in public in those days. It was tough to be heard, but it is much tougher to be heard today. The climate is much more Orwellian…the mainstream media is committed to policing the marketplace to make sure that people who disagree with that conventional wisdom are not heard, or if they are heard their arguments are perverted or countered immediately.


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