The Year of Living Dangerously
Was 2014 a Watershed?
Business in a Changing World
Stewarding the Future
The Return of Geopolitics
The Revenge of the Revisionist Powers
The Illusion of Geopolitics
The Enduring Power of the Liberal Order
How to Respond to a Disordered World
What the Kremlin Is Thinking
Putin’s Vision for Eurasia
Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault
The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin
Who Started the Ukraine Crisis?
A Broken Promise?
What the West Really Told Moscow About NATO Expansion
Why the Kremlin Is Betting on Escalation and Isolation
China's Imperial President
Xi Jinping Tightens His Grip
Keep Hope Alive
How to Prevent U.S.-Chinese Relations From Blowing Up
Asia for the Asians
Why Chinese-Russian Friendship Is Here To Stay
A Meeting of the Minds
Did Japan and China Just Press Reset?
The End of Realist Politics in the Middle East
The Middle East's Durable Map
Rumors of Sykes-Picot's Death are Greatly Exaggerated
Staying Out of Syria
Why the United States Shouldn't Enter the Civil War—But Why It Might Anyway
The Hollow Coalition
Washington's Timid European Allies
This is What Détente Looks Like
The United States and Iran Join Forces Against ISIS
Measuring the Threat from Returning Jihadists
Welcome to the Revolution
Why Shale Is the Next Shale
New World Order
Labor, Capital, and Ideas in the Power Law Economy
The Strategic Logic of Trade
New Rules of the Road for the Global Market
John Mearsheimer (“Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” September/ October 2014) is one of the most consistent and persuasive theorists in the realist school of international relations, but his explanation of the crisis in Ukraine demonstrates the limits of realpolitik. At best, Mearsheimer’s brand of realism explains only some aspects of U.S.-Russian relations over the last 30 years. And as a policy prescription, it can be irrational and dangerous -- as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s embrace of it demonstrates.
According to Mearsheimer, Russia has annexed Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine in response to NATO expansion, which he calls “the taproot of the trouble.” Russia’s state-controlled media have indeed pointed to the alliance’s enlargement as an explanation for Putin’s actions. But both Russian television coverage and Mearsheimer’s essay fail to explain why Russia kept its troops out of Ukraine for the decade-plus between NATO’s expansion, which began in 1999, and the actual intervention in Ukraine in 2014. It’s not that Russia was too weak: it launched two wars in Chechnya that required much more military might than the Crimean annexation did.
Even more difficult for Mearsheimer to explain is the so-called reset of U.S.-Russian relations, an era of cooperation that lasted from the spring of 2009 to January 2012. Both U.S. President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to moves that they considered in the national interest of their respective countries. The two leaders signed and ratified the New START treaty, voted to support the UN Security Council’s most comprehensive set of sanctions against Iran ever, and vastly expanded the supply route for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that travels in part through Russia. They worked together to obtain Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, created a bilateral presidential commission to promote cooperation on everything from nuclear energy to counterterrorism, and put in place a more liberal visa regime. In 2010, polls showed that over 60
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