"My basic argument is that the west, and here I'm talking about the United States because the United States drives the train, is principally responsible for the Ukraine crisis, which of course has now turned into a war," Mearsheimer began.
"The west had a three-pronged strategy involving Ukraine, all of which was designed to make that country a western bulwark on Russia's border," Mearsheimer explained.
"Three-pronged strategy first called for bringing Ukraine into NATO. Second, bringing Ukraine into the European Union, and third, promoting a color revolution—an orange revolution in Ukraine that would turn Ukraine into a pro-western liberal democracy. This three-pronged strategy the Russians unsurprisingly viewed as an existential threat," Mearsheimer explained, adding that the US forced NATO to say that Ukraine would become part of NATO.
Mearsheimer made clear that he thought that Ukraine defeating Russia in this war is foolish, but said that it's a "figment of the west's imagination" to think that Russia would invade a NATO country such as the Baltic states, Romania, or Poland.
"Let's hypothetically talk about what would happen if Russia attacked those countries. The US would come to their defense; that's a very different issue than talking about defeating the Russians in a particular country, wrecking their economy, causing regime change, and maybe even breaking Russia up. There's a fine line out there that you don't want to cross," he said.
Mearsheimer said that Russia's goals are being misunderstood, as Putin now aims to "leave a dysfunctional rump state."
"That's why they're wrecking Ukraine now," he said, later adding that there is "no way" that Ukraine will ever be "truly neutral" and not "affiliated with the West."
"The Russians aren't going to accept that," he said.
Much later in the interview, Mearsheimer is asked about the future of liberal democracies in a world where there are rising powers who don't hold the same values as the United States.
"It looks like we're headed to a more multi-polar world in the coming decades," Sayers began "the coming era of the so-called 'end of history' era, the end of unipolar American dominance. The sense that liberal democracies were expanding forever outwards is decisively past or on the way out. Do you think this multipolar world is here to stay, and do you think it's a good thing?"
"I think it's definitely here to stay," Mearsheimer responded, "and I think it's more dangerous than the Cold War was. Let me tell you how I think about this; I was born and raised during the Cold War, and the world was bipolar at that point in time. Then, in 1989, with the end of the Cold War and certainly in December of 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, we went from a bipolar world to a unipolar world.
"Then, around 2017, we transitioned from a unipolar world to a multipolar world. During the Cold War, you had the US and the Soviet Union during the unipolar moment, you just had the soul pole the United States, and today, you have three great powers; the United States, China, and Russia.
"Now, you could not have great power politics in the unipolar world because there was only one great power, and by definition, there were no two great powers that could compete with each other. What we have today, with the US-China competition in east Asia, and the US-Russia competition over Ukraine, is we have two conflict dyads, and in very important ways they're separate dyads. US-China, US-Russia, no conflict dyad in the unipolar moment, and one conflict dyad during the Cold War, US-Soviet, involving great powers," he continued.
Mearsheimer said that he believes that both the rising conflicts with Russia and separately with China are more dangerous than the Cold War was.
"I would argue that not only do you have two instead of one, each one of those dyads is more dangerous than the conflict dyad in the Cold War," he said.
"As we've talked about today, the United States and Russia are almost at war in Ukraine, and we can hypothesize plausible scenarios where the United States ends up fighting against Russia in Ukraine, and then we talked about the US-China competition and the problems associated with Taiwan, and Taiwan is not the only flashpoint in east Asian, there's also the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Korean Penninsula. So, you could imagine, a war breaking out between the United States and China in East Asia, and a war breaking out in Ukraine involving the United States and Russia," he said.
"I think more easily than you could imagine a war breaking out during the Cold War in Europe or in east Asia involving the United States and the Soviet Union. So I think we live in more dangerous times today than we did during the Cold War, and certainly, than we did during the unipolar moment, and I think if anything, the situation is only going to get worse for reasons that you and I have talked about regarding Ukraine as well as Taiwan."
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