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American Realists: Washington And Moscow Are To Blame For The War Equally – OpEd

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Prior to the Ukraine war, American and European policymakers did not acknowledge that they had provoked Russia by trying to integrate Ukraine into the West; because the United States and its European allies saw the real source of the problem as the vengeance of a collapsed empire and its attempt to reclaim Russia’s lost lands.

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One of the most important criticisms leveled at realist theorists of the Ukrainian war is that their methods are described as appeasement of bullying. However, the fact is that American realists have no ideological or moral problem but they say that in principle, the world is governed in this way, and the West has repeatedly tried to bully its demands on others.

The American theorist Mearsheimer describes the Ukraine conflict as the result of a rational response to Russia and the Ukrainian resistance to the war as a result of a misunderstanding of the reality of world power politics. He believes that just as the United States does not allow any foreign enemy to exert too much influence over it in its security sphere; and if America’s neighbors use their legal independence to secure or increase their military power, then the Monroe Doctrine is invoked in the context of the “right of military intervention”, the same logic has been applied by Russia.

Thus, for realists like Mearsheimer, the crisis could have been easily resolved if Ukraine had understood the geopolitical reality and found a way to live alongside Russia. Mearsheimer believes that if the Ukrainians were smart enough, they would stay away from the United States and not prioritize their strategic interests in the conflict between international law and strategic interests, because in the international system the right to power is the guiding component of the foreign policy of Russia and the United States in which Ukraine is no more than prey.

This is not the first time that Western policymakers have taken an idealistic approach to international politics, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, another American theorist; in previous cases, such as the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars, the same approach has had devastating consequences. They believe that this time, too, there is no positive outlook for the West’s idealistic behavior in defense of the right.

Mearsheimer in “Why the West is Principally Responsible for the Ukrainian Crisis” has examined the origins of the crisis in Ukraine, criticizing the current approach in the West and leaving no doubt that Putin is the initiator of the war and responsible for everything that happens. However, why he did so is another matter. The mainstream in the West believes that he is an irrational and incomprehensible aggressor who seeks to create a greater Russia across the former Soviet Union. Therefore, Putin alone is fully responsible for the Ukraine crisis.

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But Walt says the Ukraine war is not over yet, and it is unclear what end awaits Russia, Ukraine, and NATO members. Even the unfavorable conditions for Russia in this war at present do not necessarily diminish the dangers of the war for the West and the world. In other words, although Western politicians still insist that Vladimir Putin is the main culprit in the Ukraine war, it is still unclear, at least to this day, whether they will succeed in ousting him or whether Putin will succeed in the aftermath of a costly war to make Ukraine a satellite country of Russia or annex a large part of Ukraine to its soil.

If Putin wins the war, realist theorists can for a long time cite the example of the West’s treatment of Moscow as one of the most important documents of their theories. However, in case of his loss, there will be plenty of liberals who will defend the insistence on international custom and law, and the adherence to accepted institutions and rules of US-led global unipolar rule as a principled approach.

In realist logic, Ukraine can make any decision about membership in military alliances or how to regulate its relations with Moscow. At the same time, it is at NATO’s discretion to decide on the membership of a country like Ukraine based on its needs, priorities, interests, and aspirations. But when NATO insists that despite Russia’s opposition to Ukraine’s membership, it has no problem with Kyiv’s membership, it not only ignores the Kremlin’s security concerns but defines itself in a position far more powerful than Moscow in the international hierarchy.

In Ukraine, the United States ignored Moscow’s red line and sought to turn Ukraine into a “Western stronghold” on the Russian border using the “double strategy.” On the one hand, this strategy was intended to bring Ukraine closer to NATO and the European Union, and on the other hand, it was to create a pro-American democracy along the borders of totalitarian Russia.

It can be said that the West and Russia are largely equally to blame for the beginning of the war. In particular, the United States became the main culprit in the crisis that began in 2014 with the interference in the Ukrainian elections and caused pro-Russian President Yanukovych to flee to Moscow. The wind that the United States sowed in Ukraine in 2014 turned into a war that separated Crimea from Ukraine and may be reaped by a whirlwind in World War III; because this war has the potential to create a nuclear war between Russia and NATO.

Moscow and Washington are getting closer to confrontation step by step. An example is the confrontation between NATO and Russia in December 2017; when the Trump administration decided to sell defensive weapons to Ukraine, it was difficult to determine the defensive nature of those weapons, and Moscow saw them as offensive to Russia and its allies in the Donbas region. In addition to Trump, other NATO nations intervened and began sending weapons to Ukraine, while also training the Ukrainian armed forces and allowing them to participate in joint air and naval exercises. In July 2021, Ukraine and the United States jointly hosted a major naval exercise in the Black Sea region involving navies from 32 countries.

Strengthening relations between Ukraine and the United States was also developing under Biden. This commitment was reflected in an important document known as the US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, signed in November by US Secretary of State Blinken and his Ukrainian counterpart Kuleba. The purpose of the document was to emphasize Ukraine’s commitment to the deep and comprehensive reforms necessary for full integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. The document explicitly emphasizes the commitments made by Presidents Zelensky and Biden to strengthen Ukraine-US strategic cooperation and the two countries’ cooperation under the 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration.

Not surprisingly, Moscow found this evolving situation unbearable and attacked Ukraine in order to impose its will on Washington. Thus, American realists seek to narrate a series of events that contradict the prevailing view of liberalism in the West, emphasizing that they see NATO expansion as one of the reasons for the Ukraine crisis. In addition, Putin’s expansionist goals are part of this crisis in their idea.

In spite of the fact that a recent NATO document sent to Russian leaders sees NATO as a defense alliance that poses no threat to Russia, the available field evidence, from the realists’ point of view, contradicts these claims. In fact, they say, it does not matter how Western leaders portray NATO’s goal or intentions; what matters is how Moscow understands NATO’s actions.

Timothy Hopper

Timothy Hopper is an international relations graduate of American University.

One thought on “American Realists: Washington And Moscow Are To Blame For The War Equally – OpEd

  • July 24, 2022 at 5:54 pm
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    Mearsheimer & Walt should be in our State Department. Neocons must be thrown out.They are a danger to America

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