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Mearsheimer Told Us So — In 2014

Legendary realist prof warned that West leading Ukraine down 'primrose path' that would ruin it
Screen Shot 2022-02-24 at 6.58.33 PM

Take a look at this newly relevant 2014 lecture by Prof. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, the legendary foreign policy realist. He was talking about the Euromaidan situation, and explaining how the West was pushing Ukraine to the point of a serious crisis with Russia:

Don’t have time to watch the whole thing? Here:

I’m getting a lot of blowback in the comments section from people who are appalled that I’m not spending all my time lambasting Putin, but instead complaining about how we in the West helped bring about this situation, or bitching about our own decadence. Fine, complain all you want. As I said, ultimately this war is Putin’s fault. He should not be doing this, and I hope he comes to grief because of it.

However, as uncomfortable as it is for some of you to hear it, you had better stop and think about how we got to this dangerous situation with Russia, and what things we in the West had under our control, that we failed to do right. That Hitler was responsible for World War II doesn’t obviate the role the victorious WWI allies played through the ruinous Versailles Treaty. If our goal in the post Cold War era was to rub Russia’s nose in the dirt, well, we gave it a go. We ought to have instead tried to create peace and stability. There is no possible scenario under which offering to bring Ukraine (and Georgia) into NATO, as President G.W. Bush did in 2008, could have led to anything other than what happened today.

What’s more, I know it is unpleasant for some of you to consider the decadence in the US and in the West in general in this context (e.g., “Bombs are falling in Ukraine, and you’re obsessing over trannies?!?”), but you should think twice about this. If we are now facing a renewal of the long struggle with Russia, and probably even a struggle against China too, allied with Putin’s Russia, then the leaders of Western countries had better think about how they are going to meet the demands of this struggle. They have no hope of doing so with a country in which they have abused and alienated a huge number of people for the crime of being white, heterosexual, culturally conservative, or clinging bitterly to their bigoted churches. We saw just the other day that Justin Trudeau actually seized the bank accounts of people supporting the trucker protests, under the guise of fighting domestic terrorism. I have absolutely no doubt that Washington will try the same. The woke left, having marched through the institutions, are weaponizing them against parents, children, families, church people, conservatives, and other deplorables.

You tell many of us that we are racist, fascist, deplorable scum who deserve to be fired, or at least to worry about our livelihoods because we don’t agree with you, and then you expect us to be all on board to risk our kids’ lives to serve a political and social order that despises us? Really, explain how that works.

Who on earth do they think are going to fight their damn wars? Better get Ibram X. Kendi, immigration lobbyists, and that sadomasochist trans freak at the Department of Energy to suit up, because it’s not going to be my sons. They’re not going to be sent out under the command of Pentagon generals who were never held accountable by Congress for their Afghanistan lies (see the Afghanistan Papers) to fight for a declining Empire whose power-holders hate people like us. If you want to be a great power, you had better start treating actual Americans better. The Pentagon’s propaganda (see this recent piece, for example) claims that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a “force multiplier”. Maybe it’s not that the generals want to show their future corporate employers that they get woke capitalist culture, and can be trusted once they retire; maybe they actually believe this. Once all the conservatives drop out of the military or fail to sign up because they do not want to defend an order that treats them like villains, the Pentagon is going to need all the industrial-grade copium it can get its hands on.

Again, I know a lot of you don’t want to hear it, but as you are planning out how the West is going to respond to the monster Putin over the long term, you had better start thinking about those things. The crusading liberals and warmongering, corporate-lackey Republicans have made sure that the America in 2022 is not as strong as America when the Cold War ended. That is a big problem, as we will all discover soon. We cannot control what Putin does to Ukraine, but we can control our ability to respond to it in the long term. Better start thinking hard right now about the national security implications of the culture war the ruling class in America is waging on its own people.

Maybe, just maybe, we will start listening to the Mearsheimers among us.

UPDATE: And think about all the leftist young people who have been educated to think of themselves as inheritors of an evil civilization, one tainted indefensibly by racism, homophobia, and all the rest. When you call on them to defend us, what are they going to do? If what the elites say is true, why should they lift a finger?

UPDATE.2: In his just-published Substack newsletter, John Schindler, former National Security Agency analyst and professor at the Naval War College, explains why Putin’s war on Ukraine is ultimately a religious war. As an Orthodox Christian, I urge you strongly to pay attention to this analysis.

As Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the ROC, explained in early 2019, “Ukraine is not on the periphery of our church. We call Kiev ‘the mother of all Russian cities.’ For us Kiev is what Jerusalem is for many. Russian Orthodoxy began there, so under no circumstances can we abandon this historical and spiritual relationship. The whole unity of our Local Church is based on these spiritual ties.”

What spurred Patriarch Kirill to make that statement was the separation of much of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Russia in early 2019 with the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, with go-ahead from the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople (i.e., Istanbul: who is the not-a-pope of world Orthodoxy, where national churches are self-governing). This involved the transfer of thousands of parishes and millions of believers from the long-existing Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has been under the ROC since the seventeenth century, to the brand-new OCU. The UOC-MP is self-governing under Moscow and there wasn’t much spiritual demand in Ukraine for independence from Russia, what Orthodox term autocephaly.

However, the pressures of the not-quite-frozen conflict with Russia after 2015 made church issues a political football, and Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko made autocephaly his pet project, with backing from Ukrainian nationalists, who found it offensive that the UOC remained under Moscow, where the church is a vehicle for Putinism, Russian nationalism, and anti-Ukrainian aggression. Advocates of the new OCU had a valid point there, and they were also correct that, since autocephaly is the norm in the Orthodox world, why didn’t Ukraine have its own, fully independent national church?

The answer there, that Orthodoxy tends to move on “Orthodox time” which appears glacially slow to secular minds, thinking more in terms of centuries than years or even decades, was unedifying to advocates of the OCU, who got their wish in early January 2019, when the Ecumenical Patriarch granted autocephaly to Ukraine’s new national church. What followed was predictably messy and politicized, with fights across Ukraine over parishes and clergy. This issue is neither simple nor clear-cut: the OCU is considered broadly nationalist (with exceptions) while the UOC, despite its Russian connections, has many laypeople who are Ukrainian patriots who don’t feel they belong to a “foreign” church. Moreover, this issue birthed a schism in global Orthodoxy that has reverberated on several continents, most recently in Africa. The OCU-UOC split has even caused heartburn among American Orthodox believers.

Above all, the schism rendered Moscow white-hot with rage. The ROC viewed this as a direct attack on its “canonical territory” and on world Orthodoxy itself. The Kremlin, too, made no effort to conceal its outrage here. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov quickly denounced the Ecumenical Patriarch as Washington’s puppet: “His mission, obviously, is being prepared by the Americans and they do not hide that they are actively cooperating with him, using the slogan of ‘freedom of religion and belief’…Bartholomew’s mission, obviously, is to bury the influence of Orthodoxy in the modern world.” A few weeks later, Lavrov added fuel to the fire by castigating the OCU as “this travesty of history, and pursuing the objective of sowing discord between Russia and Ukraine in addition to preventing our peoples from being friends are essentially a crime [by the current Ukrainian regime] against their citizens.” A few months after that, Lavrov reiterated that this tragedy was all America’s fault: the ROC “is currently under tremendous pressure from a number of Western countries, primarily the United States, which set itself the goal of destroying the unity of world Orthodox Christianity.”

It’s an article of faith in the Kremlin that the creation of the OCU is an American project designed to destroy world Orthodoxy and harm Russia. It’s painful for me to state this but the Russians have good reason to think this. Unlike absurd Kremlin propaganda lines about “Ukrainian Nazis” perpetrating “genocide” against Russians, the idea that Washington wanted the split of Orthodoxy in Ukraine is a reasonable inference upon examination of recent U.S. Government conduct. What’s the evidence?

Our Kyiv embassy congratulated the OCU for its birth and the selection of its first primate, then the State Department in Washington amplified the same. Celebrating Constantinople’s grant of autocephaly, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed it as a “historic achievement for Ukraine” which represented America’s “strong support for religious freedom.” Pompeo’s statement left no doubt about America’s backing the OCU against the UOC. Pompeo’s position in the worldwide Orthodox schism was made clear by his subsequent meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch, whom the Secretary of State hailed as “a key partner as we continue to champion religious freedom around the globe.” Neither was this a partisan project, since the position of the Biden administration on this issue is identical to its predecessor’s. Four months ago, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also met with the Ecumenical Patriarch, reaffirming U.S. commitment to religious freedom, which in Moscow unsurprisingly looked like support for the OCU.

Since very few Americans, and functionally no non-Orthodox ones, noticed any of this, it’s worth asking why the State Department felt compelled to take a public position on any of this. Does Foggy Bottom side with Sunni or Shia? What about Lutheranism versus Methodism? Who in Washington thought it was a good idea to throw its weight behind the OCU, since anybody who knew anything about Putinism and its religious-civilizational mission had to be aware that such statements were guaranteed to raise Moscow’s ire.

That ire has now taken the form of air strikes, missile barrages, and advancing tank battalions. Just last month, Lavrov restated his government’s position that the United States stands behind the “current crisis in Orthodoxy.” As he explained without any word-mincing, Washington caused “the most serious dispute in the entire Orthodox world,” adding, “The United States of America had an immediate hand in the current crisis in Orthodoxy. They created a special mechanism, a special agency for the freedom of religious confession, which actually is not dealing with freedom but most actively set up and financed Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew so that he conducted a device for schism, particularly in Ukraine, in the first place, for creating there the schismatic, uncanonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”

We should not indulge Muscovite conspiracy theories nor countenance Russian aggression. However, the facts are plain enough. Simply put, by recognizing the OCU and hailing its creation, Washington changed the Kremlin’s game in Ukraine, making Putin’s long-term plans for his neighbor untenable. Without a united Orthodox Church across the former lands of Rus, answering to Moscow, the “Russian World” concept falls apart. Every secular geostrategic challenge cited as a reason for Putin’s aggression – NATO expansion, Western military moves, oil and gas politics – existed in 2014, yet Putin then chose to limit his attacks on Ukraine to Crimea and the Southeast. What’s changed since then that makes his effort to subdue all Ukraine seem like a good idea in the Kremlin? The creation of an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 2019, with official American backing, is the difference, and Moscow believes this was all a nefarious U.S. plot to divide world Orthodoxy at Russia’s expense. Clearly Putin has decided that reclaiming Ukraine and its capital, “the mother of Russian cities,” for Russian Orthodoxy is worth a major war. Make no mistake, this is a religious war, even if almost nobody in the West realizes it.

Read it all. We are in way over our heads.



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