Why does Russia want Ukraine?

As the world watches Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the big question is why does Russia want Ukraine? Just hours before the invasion, one of the world’s most respected political scientists, Professor John Mearsheimer, explained the situation at an exclusive investment forum.

Here is an edited transcript of the insights for Professor Mearsheimer on the crisis.

Why is Russia invading Ukraine?

Russia wants to put an end to NATO expansion into Ukraine. In slightly more general terms, what the west has been trying to do – roughly since April 2008 – is turn Ukraine into western bulwark of Russia’s border. And the Russians have said since then that this is categorically unacceptable. Russia views the idea of Ukraine becoming part of the west, and especially a member of NATO, as an existential threat.

Why is the United States involved with Russia and Ukraine?

The United States is trying to bring Ukraine into NATO and that is categorically unacceptable to the Russians. The point you have to keep in mind about great powers is they do not like great powers coming into their neighbourhood. In the United States we have the Monroe Doctrine that says no distant great power from either Europe or Asia can place military forces in the western hemisphere. The Russians are saying you can not bring a military alliance that was a mortal foe of the Soviet Union up to our boarders.

Double standards?

Professor Mearsheimer, who is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, went on to point out why he sees double standards in the role of the United States in the Russia – Ukraine conflict.

“During the Cuban missile crisis when the Soviets placed nuclear tipped missiles into Cuba, we (the U.S.) said this is unacceptable and we forced the Cubans to remove those missiles,” he said.

“So what’s happening here is the Russians are acting much the way the United States its with regard to the Monroe Doctrine.

“The problem in the United States is we are incapable of putting ourselves in Russia’s shoes, we simply refuse to believe that the Russians think NATO is a threat and therefore we continue to up the anti, therefore making the situation worse.”

Putin doesn’t care for rights of Ukrainians

The professor said the world should keep in mind that Russian President Vladimir Putin will always put the ‘right’ to defend Russia against existential threats, above the rights of the Ukranian people.

“As far as Russians are concerned, the right that matters most is the right to maximize Russia’s security.

“My view on this is that it makes no sense to talk about rights. In International politics might makes right. Do you really think the United States would recognise China’s right to put military forces in Canada or Mexico?.

“Do you really think we would recognise Mexico or Canada’s right to put Chinese military forces in those countries? Of course we wouldn’t… And the same thing goes with Vladimir Putin, he does not believe that Ukraine has the right to join NATO, period, end of story.”

Putin’s television address as troops cross Ukrainian boarder

On state television overnight, Vladimir Putin urged Ukrainian troops to “lay down your arms” as airstrikes began and referred to the Ukrainian people as “comrades, colleagues, relatives and friends” of Russia.

United States President Joe Biden released as statement saying the world will hold Russia accountable.

“The prayers of the world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by the Russian military forces,” said Biden’s statement.

Biden is scheduled to make a public address within hours.

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