Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago is the man who, way back in 2015, said the following:
The West is leading Ukraine down the primrose path and the end result is that Ukraine is going to get wrecked … What we’re doing is encouraging the Ukrainians to play tough with the Russians. We’re encouraging the Ukrainians to think that they ultimately will become part of the West … And of course the Ukrainians are playing along with this, and the Ukrainians are almost completely unwilling to compromise with the Russians and instead want to pursue a hardline policy. Well as I said to you before, if they do that their country is going to get wrecked.
Quite a prophetic remark, you might say. Indeed, predicting that Ukraine would “get wrecked” seven years in advance would seem to suggest that Mearsheimer has a good understanding – that he’s worth listening to. (Note: Mearsheimer did not think Russia would launch a full-scale invasion, so he wasn’t 100% right.)
With the Ukraine crisis still dominating the headlines, Mearsheimer must be the golden boy of his department, right? Actually, no. A group of students recently circulated a letter denouncing him for “propagating Putinism” and claiming his actions are “extremely detrimental for our country”.
The students take issue with several statements from Mearsheimer’s 2015 lecture (which is the source of the quotation above). For example, they characterise his use of the word “coup” to describe the toppling of Viktor Yanukovych as “ideological rather than academic”. (They prefer the more heroic-sounding “revolution”.)
The students end their missive by demanding “public disclosure” of all Russian funding received by Professor Mearsheimer, as well as a “statement from the university community at large that it does not condone anti-Ukraine ideology on campus”. They also claim that, if left unaddressed, the problem could “tarnish the reputation of our beloved University”.
I haven’t been able to find any articles suggesting that the university took action in response to the letter. So the students’ campaign appears to have failed. Good.
And it’s of course absurd to suggest that Mearsheimer holds an “anti-Ukraine ideology”. Indeed, much of his 2015 lecture (which the students probably just skimmed through while searching for ‘incriminating’ statements) is concerned with how to prevent Ukraine from “getting wrecked”.
As I noted in a previous post, Mearsheimer’s proposal comprised three elements: ruling out NATO membership for Ukraine; funding an economic rescue plan, together with Russia and the IMF; and insisting that Ukraine respect minority rights, especially minority language rights.
It seems plausible that if we’d followed this proposal, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are today, with Russian troops advancing on Kiev, and the West powerless to intervene for fear of sparking World War III. From what I see, Mearsheimer is a far better friend to Ukraine than the people who dismissed his warnings.