March 15, 2022 Editor

Reflection on: John Mearsheimer on why the West is principally responsible for the Ukrainian crisis

The political scientist believes the reckless expansion of NATO provoked Russia

Mar 11th 2022

by John J. Mearsheimer

image above: Dan Williams

WN: I recently sent out to several people an article link entitled: Inside Putin’s circle — the real Russian elite. I received this response from my friend, Taylor Wilson:

I think you’re correct in wanting to examine how the West acts around the world and in their policies (Monroe Doctrine) in the same breath as how Putin acts. In modern language, it is the tragedy of great power politics (to borrow from John Mearsheimer). In more theological language, it is the evil of power lacking justice and charity (and therefore peace). A corruptio optima pessima 1 of authentic power (as wisdom), perhaps.

The article you sent was most enlightening in regard to the inner power structure of Russia and how they view themselves in the world.

As an anecdote that supports what you’re saying: I was speaking with a co-worker who immigrated from Kenya four years ago, and he told me that most people there support Putin and Russia because they have so long felt the exploitation of the global free market and have witnessed the political meddling which occurs whenever there is an effort made to protect their natural resources and economy.

On my Front Page, you will find this:

Augustine recounts this story of Empire:

The king asked the fellow, “What is your idea, in infesting the sea?” And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, “the same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate: because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor[Prime Minister/President].” (Saint Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans, trans. Henry Bettenson, New York: Penguin Books, 1984, IV, 4, p. 139).”

We read:

  • From the dawn of history the oppressor has always insisted that oppression was good for the oppressed. — Moorfield Storey
  • Each act of aggression, each new expedition of conquest is prefaced by a pronouncement containing a moral justification and an assurance to the victims of the imperial aggression that all is being done for their benefit. — Richard F. PetticrewAmerican Exceptionalism
  • The Expansion of the Roman Empire, which accusers were blaming Christ for having reversed, was not an automatic benefit to the human race; for “if justice has been abolished, what is empire but a fancy name for larceny?” — Augustine (The Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries, Jaroslav Pelikan, 1997, p. 30.)
  • Roman historian Tacitus wrote so long ago:

To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire2; they make a desolation and call it peace[/democracy].

One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation (p. 133).

  • American public intellectual Edward Said wrote in the Preface of Orientalism (1978):

Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn’t trust the evidence of one’s eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest ‘mission civilisatrice.’

American Empire has always and supremely been about “lawlessness,” “plundering, butchering, and stealing,” “the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation,” leaving “desolation,” “destruction and misery and death” in its wake (while calling it “peace and freedom”), and long since has been in voracious bid for worldwide domination, in order to extract maximum wealth from all peoples and the Planet. Our call is simply to practise insurrection against Empire in all its avaricious, brutal and horribly destructive ways. (No small order!)

In this historical moment that supreme manifestation of Empire is the United States – to which the entire Western world is tied in various supportive ways; under which domination the rest of the world suffers: in the Greater Middle East as only one example, which endures brutal will to domination and oppression at the hands of American Empire. I reflect on this in an introduction to a posting here. An expanding list of postings on American Empire may be accessed here.3

The above does not mean giving Putin a pass. Any more though, than also insisting there is no free pass for the West either. Hence my website that is dedicated to:

The Gospel as Counter-Narrative to Empire.

Finally, please see this article, by Dave Lawler · May 05, 2022.

What he’s saying: “Putin shouldn’t have invaded Ukraine. But it’s not just Putin who is guilty. The U.S. and the E.U. are also guilty,” [Brazilian presidential front-runner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva] said, later adding that Western leaders were “encouraging” the war by backing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rather than negotiating with Putin.

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also blamed NATO for the war. India has taken a neutral stance on the invasion while buying up more Russian oil at a discount.
  • Lula’s opponent in October’s election, President Jair Bolsonaro, has expressed neutrality over the war and solidarity with Putin, whom some right-wing nationalists see as an ideological ally.
  • But Lula (who was previously Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010) is not the only leader on the Latin American left — where suspicion of the U.S. runs high — to decline to blame Russia. While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has preached “non-intervention,” his party launched a Mexico-Russia “friendship caucus” in March.–Axios

Please also see: Pope Francis Says NATO Started War in Ukraine by ‘Barking at Putin’s Door’, by Barbie Latza Nadeau, Correspondent-At-Large. The subtitle reads: The pontiff defended Putin and claimed—without foundation—that it was “others who created the conflict” in Ukraine. The story was filed under: “Conspiracy Theories.” We read:

“I feel that before going to Kyiv, I must go to Moscow,” he told Corriere Della Sera in an interview that ran Tuesday. But the meeting would not exactly be to condemn Putin, based on what he told the paper. He said that the real “scandal” of Putin’s war is “NATO barking at Russia’s door,” which he said caused the Kremlin to “react badly and unleash the conflict.”

America, the West just doesn’t get it! As wrong and tragic as the war in Ukraine is; as wrong and as tragic 9/11 was–at very minimum this is blowback from wrongs for which the West historically, America and the West currently, is fully to blame. It’s called “Empire.”


THE WAR in Ukraine is the most dangerous international conflict since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Understanding its root causes is essential if we are to prevent it from getting worse and, instead, to find a way to bring it to a close.

There is no question that Vladimir Putin started the war and is responsible for how it is being waged. But why he did so is another matter. The mainstream view in the West is that he is an irrational, out-of-touch aggressor bent on creating a greater Russia in the mould of the former Soviet Union. Thus, he alone bears full responsibility for the Ukraine crisis.

But that story is wrong. The West, and especially America, is principally responsible for the crisis which began in February 2014. It has now turned into a war that not only threatens to destroy Ukraine, but also has the potential to escalate into a nuclear war between Russia and NATO.

The trouble over Ukraine actually started at NATO’s Bucharest summit in April 2008, when George W. Bush’s administration pushed the alliance to announce that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members”. Russian leaders responded immediately with outrage, characterising this decision as an existential threat to Russia and vowing to thwart it. According to a respected Russian journalist, Mr Putin “flew into a rage” and warned that “if Ukraine joins NATO, it will do so without Crimea and the eastern regions. It will simply fall apart.” America ignored Moscow’s red line, however, and pushed forward to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border. That strategy included two other elements: bringing Ukraine closer to the EU and making it a pro-American democracy.

The links between Ukraine and America continued growing under the Biden administration. This commitment is reflected throughout an important document—the “US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership”—that was signed in November by Antony Blinken, America’s secretary of state, and Dmytro Kuleba, his Ukrainian counterpart. The aim was to “underscore … a commitment to Ukraine’s implementation of the deep and comprehensive reforms necessary for full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.” The document explicitly builds on “the commitments made to strengthen the Ukraine-U.S. strategic partnership by Presidents Zelensky and Biden,” and also emphasises that the two countries will be guided by the “2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration.”

Unsurprisingly, Moscow found this evolving situation intolerable and began mobilising its army on Ukraine’s border last spring to signal its resolve to Washington. But it had no effect, as the Biden administration continued to move closer to Ukraine. This led Russia to precipitate a full-blown diplomatic stand-off in December. As Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, put it: “We reached our boiling point.” Russia demanded a written guarantee that Ukraine would never become a part of NATO and that the alliance remove the military assets it had deployed in eastern Europe since 1997. The subsequent negotiations failed, as Mr Blinken made clear: “There is no change. There will be no change.” A month later Mr Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine to eliminate the threat he saw from NATO.

According to a recent NATO document sent to Russian leaders, “NATO is a defensive Alliance and poses no threat to Russia.” The available evidence contradicts these claims. For starters, the issue at hand is not what Western leaders say NATO’s purpose or intentions are; it is how Moscow sees NATO’s actions.

Mr Putin surely knows that the costs of conquering and occupying large amounts of territory in eastern Europe would be prohibitive for Russia. As he once put it, “Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.” His beliefs about the tight bonds between Russia and Ukraine notwithstanding, trying to take back all of Ukraine would be like trying to swallow a porcupine. Furthermore, Russian policymakers—including Mr Putin—have said hardly anything about conquering new territory to recreate the Soviet Union or build a greater Russia. Rather, since the 2008 Bucharest summit Russian leaders have repeatedly said that they view Ukraine joining NATO as an existential threat that must be prevented. As Mr Lavrov noted in January, “the key to everything is the guarantee that NATO will not expand eastward.”

My story about the conflict’s causes should not be controversial, given that many prominent American foreign-policy experts have warned against NATO expansion since the late 1990s. America’s secretary of defence at the time of the Bucharest summit, Robert Gates, recognised that “trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching”. Indeed, at that summit, both the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, were opposed to moving forward on NATO membership for Ukraine because they feared it would infuriate Russia.

The upshot of my interpretation is that we are in an extremely dangerous situation, and Western policy is exacerbating these risks. For Russia’s leaders, what happens in Ukraine has little to do with their imperial ambitions being thwarted; it is about dealing with what they regard as a direct threat to Russia’s future. Mr Putin may have misjudged Russia’s military capabilities, the effectiveness of the Ukrainian resistance and the scope and speed of the Western response, but one should never underestimate how ruthless great powers can be when they believe they are in dire straits. America and its allies, however, are doubling down, hoping to inflict a humiliating defeat on Mr Putin and to maybe even trigger his removal. They are increasing aid to Ukraine while using economic sanctions to inflict massive punishment on Russia, a step that Putin now sees as “akin to a declaration of war”.

Please click on: The West is Principally Responsible for the Ukrainian Crisis

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  1. See: THE CORRUPTION OF CHRISTIANITY: IVAN ILLICH ON GOSPEL, CHURCH AND SOCIETY (JANUARY 2007) Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4 | Part 5; and Ivan Illich – An Intellectual Journey —[]
  2. as in the naïve silliness displayed by Canadian Michael Ignatieff with his claim about America as an Empire Lite: Nation Building In Bosnia Kosovo; as in the equally naïve sleight of hand of American Mark Bowden, in (September 2013) The Killing Machines: How to think about drones. He appears to actually believe in the drivel of Western expansionist apologia, writing:

    In our struggle against terrorist networks like al-Qaeda, the distinction between armed conflict and law enforcement matters a great deal. Terrorism embraces lawlessness. It seeks to disrupt. It targets civilians deliberately. So why restrain our response? Why subject ourselves to the rule of law? Because abiding by the law is the point—especially with a weapon like the drone. No act is more final than killing. Drones distill war to its essence. Abiding carefully by the law—man’s law, not God’s—making judgments carefully, making them transparent and subject to review, is the only way to invest them with moral authority, and the only way to clearly define the terrorist as an enemy of civilization . . . []

  3. Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on “Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:

    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.[]


Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.