John Mearsheimer and the dark origins of realism

Adam Tooze in the New Statesman:

“Why is Ukraine the West’s fault?” This is the provocative title of a talk by Professor John Mearsheimer – a famous exponent of international relations (IR) realism – given at an alumni gathering of the University of Chicago in 2015. Since it was first posted on YouTube, it has been viewed more than 18 million times.

In 2022 Mearsheimer is still delivering his message, most explosively on 1 March in an ill-advised down-the-telephone interview to the New Yorker. Against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mearsheimer’s provocation is causing outrage. And it raises the question: what is the realism that Mearsheimer claims to espouse?

On the one hand, Mearsheimer is disarmingly even-handed. The push for Nato expansion in 2008 to include Georgia and Ukraine was a disastrous mistake. The overthrow of the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych regime in 2014, a revolution supported by the West, antagonised Russia further. The West should accept responsibility for having created a dangerous situation by extending an anti-Soviet alliance into what is left of Russia’s sphere of influence. And then comes the inflammatory conclusion: Putin’s violent pushback should not come as a surprise.

More here.