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by John Mearsheimer
Friday, Sep. 05, 2014 at 11:12 AM
NATO's eastward expansion is at the heart of the Ukraine crisis. Sec of State Baker promised Gorbatchev that NATO would not expand eastward if the Berlin wall were allowed to fall. Can't the West understand Putin's security concerns if NATO extends to Russia's borders?
John Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of "Conventional Deterrence" (1983) and other books.
to read his article "Why theUkraine Crisis is the West's Fault" published in Foreign Affairs September/October 2014, click on
Washington may not like Moscow’s position, but it should understand the logic behind it. This is Geopolitics 101: great powers are always sensitive to potential threats near their home territory. After all, the United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less on its borders. Imagine the outrage in Washington if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico in it. Logic aside, Russian leaders have told their Western counterparts on many occasions that they consider NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine unacceptable, along with any effort to turn those countries against Russia -- a message that the 2008 Russian-Georgian war also made crystal clear...
To understand why the West, especially the United States, failed to understand that its Ukraine policy was laying the groundwork for a major clash with Russia, one must go back to the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration began advocating NATO expansion. Pundits advanced a variety of arguments for and against enlargement, but there was no consensus on what to do. Most eastern European émigrés in the United States and their relatives, for example, strongly supported expansion, because they wanted NATO to protect such countries as Hungary and Poland. A few realists also favored the policy because they thought Russia still needed to be contained.
But most realists opposed expansion, in the belief that a declining great power with an aging population and a one-dimensional economy did not in fact need to be contained. And they feared that enlargement would only give Moscow an incentive to cause trouble in eastern Europe. The U.S. diplomat George Kennan articulated this perspective in a 1998 interview, shortly after the U.S. Senate approved the first round of NATO expansion. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies,” he said. “I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anyone else.”
The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer.
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