Why the West’s Strategy in Ukraine Is So Dangerous

Professor John Mearsheimer is the man who predicted the Ukraine crisis. In a new, must-watch video discussion with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord, he explains why the West’s current strategy is so dangerous.

Mearsheimer begins by noting that “what we have here is a war between the United States and Russia”. Wait, isn’t this a war between Ukraine and Russia? Yes it is, insofar as all the combatants are from those two countries (aside from a few mercenaries and foreign volunteers).

But just because there aren’t U.S. troops on the ground, doesn’t mean that country isn’t deeply involved in the conflict – to the extent that one can speak of a ‘proxy war’ between the U.S. and Russia. The argument is laid out in these two articles by the journalist Aaron Maté, who says “the U.S. provoked Putin’s war”.

Both of Maté’s articles are worth reading in full, but here are some of the most relevant facts:

• Prior to the 2014 Western-backed coup, a phone call was leaked in which two U.S. officials (Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt) explicitly discuss whom they’re going to install in the next Ukrainian Government.

• In 2017, Senator Lindsay Graham told a group of Ukrainian soldiers, “Your fight is our fight. 2017 will be the year of offence.” Likewise, Senator John McCain said, “We are with you, your fight is our fight and we will win together.”

• In 2019, the RAND Corporation examined options that the U.S. could pursue to “overextend and unbalance” Russia’s economy and armed forces. It concluded that “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine” would yield high benefits by exploiting “Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability”.

• In January of 2020, the Congressman Adam Schiff openly stated, “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

• In February of 2022, Zelensky’s former National Security Advisor revealed to Time magazine that Zelensky’s decision in February of last year to shut down three pro-Russian TV stations was “calculated to fit in with the U.S. agenda”.

• In addition to sending billions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, the U.S. spent years training the country’s armed forces, and has been providing ‘real time’ battlefield intelligence since the conflict began.

Returning to John Mearsheimer’s comments, he says the war in Ukraine is “the most dangerous crisis since the Second World War” and is actually “more dangerous than the Cuban crisis” owing to the risk of nuclear escalation. But why is there a genuine risk of nuclear escalation?

The reason is that Putin and many Russians perceive NATO expansion into Ukraine as an “existential threat” to Russia. Many Western commentators dispute that the expansion is such an existential threat. But what they think is “irrelevant”, says Mearsheimer, because “the only thing that matters is what Putin and his fellow Russians think”.

From Putin’s point of view, therefore, “he cannot lose”. In other words, losing the war is simply not an option. Meanwhile, the U.S. and its NATO allies are banking on a total Russian defeat, up to and including regime change. They have decided, “we have to win”.

And when two nuclear-armed powers each decide that losing is not an option, the risk of nuclear escalation rises considerably. Note: even if the risk of nuclear escalation is only, say, 10%, that’s still a disturbingly high chance of such a catastrophic outcome.

Shouldn’t we be doing what we can to reach a compromise, even if that involves concessions to Russia like recognising Crimea and ruling out NATO membership for Ukraine? Simply waiting for Russia to lose, and hoping there’s no a nuclear war, doesn’t seem like a very good strategy.

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