Die Rede von Prof. John J. Mearsheimer, 24. Mai 23, https://wp.me/paI27O-4Hp
Mearsheimer, , this page…
Here is my written version with emphasis with deepl.com, and disturbed by hearing errors of the automatic English protocol. In case of question, the spoken word you hear for yourself applies…. I am grateful for tips on mistranslations.
John Mearsheimer’s speech begins at Min 6.25:
John Mearsheimer Ukraine Salon,
The speech by John Mearsheimer, 24 May 23,
with the first questions afterwards by Ray McGovern,
so I’m chairman John Henry chairman of the committee for the Republic and I don’t know if you heard the sad news butthis weekend Boyden Gray one of the founders of the committee for the Republic died here in Georgetown in his sleep it was peaceful I talked to Boyden on Friday and we were looking forward to getting together next week and but he had deteriorated and he was pretty much Bound in his house and he didn’t have much to live for so uh Boyden is a started the committee for the Republic after the invasion of Iraq along with Bill nitzi who passed two years ago and so now there’s just Chas Freeman and Ireland to their left standing but Boyd meant so much to me you know you know without avoiding the world feels alone so I’d like to just take a minute of silence and to those of you who knew Boyden in his memory let’s get wait in a minute thank you
let’s begin what is the difference between the American Republic and the American Empire, the American Republic Sean Quincy Adams
celebrates the march of the Mind the American Empire celebrates March of the foot soldier
The Americans Republic’s birth certificate is the Constitution the birth certificate of the American Empire is the strong do what they will and we accept what they must a foreign policy of the Constitution is neutrality and influence about broad by example foreign policy of the American Empire it’s manifest destiny the lifeblood of the American Republic is separation of powers the lifeblood of the American Empire is Limitless executive power
Ben Franklin advised that the Constitutional Convention that had given birth to a republic not a monarchy if we could keep it keeping it requires education
Thomas Jefferson instructed if a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be James Madison echoed the same sentiment knowledge will forever govern ignorance if Americans voted out of office senators and representatives for violating their oath of office to defend the Constitution by unilateral surrender of the war power to the White House chronic appointless presidential Wars would never have begun Congress has declared Warren but five conflicts over 234 years we added it up the other day it was not 200 234 years
Clinton asked for war against Serbia in 1999 what did Congress do Congress bought
Obama asked for war against Syria in 213. what did Congress do Congress
He barked… the Congress has declared war in only cases of actual or perceived self-defense so I guess this to our speaker tonight so let’s imagine here for a moment that the American Republic is alive and well and Congress did and it’s doing its job
what would we have we’d have Fulbright hearings on Ukraine and the star witness at those hearings would be our speaker tonight Chicago professor John Mearsheimer
and John has if you were during the pen when The Invasion took place in in February 2022 last year we had a online salon for John and and Ray McGovern a week after the invasion and that we couldn’t do it in person we were back in the club and that got over a million views so every time John talks somewhere he gets a million views so clearly he has a standing to talk to us tonight so John welcome it’s it’s great to have you back in person I guess this is your third time that was a second and we did the one on Israel with you years ago and so and the questions he’s going to have a great presentation but you know is is zielinski Ho Chi Minh or is he Zam is Ukraine Putin’s Waterloo does Putin have less moral Authority in Ukraine than the United States did with the American Indians with Iraq Libya Yemen John we’re eager for the debate that the Constitution ordains and demand so glad you can be here with us
John Mearsheimer: thank you very much John for the kind words thank you all for coming out tonight to listen to me speak it’s actually a pleasure to be here there are three basic questions on the table about Ukraine
the first is what caused the War
number two is what’s the state of the war today where are we at the moment
and then the third question is what is likely to happen moving forward
and I don’t want to talk about the causes of the war I may say a few words in the conclusion but I’m not going to talk about the causes of the war I want to focus mainly on where this train is headed but to talk about where the train is headed it’s important to talk about
where we are today first and then segue in to talking about the future and I’m going to make two arguments uh the first argument is that there’s no chance of a meaningful peace agreement uh there may be at some point in a distant future a ceasefire and that will then turn into a frozen conflict but the chances of resolving this in any meaningful way are remarkably small in my opinion
and then my second argument is that the Russians are going to win the war they’re not going to win a decisive Victory but they’re going to end up conquering a huge chunk of Ukrainian territory beyond what they already have and they’re going to take Ukraine and make sure it remains a dysfunctional rump state we make three preliminary points before I get to the substance of my talk
first of all I’m predicting the future and as we all know we live in a remarkably uncertain world and prediction is you know a tricky business at best so just be aware that I’m not speaking the truth I’m telling you what I think
is likely to happen second point is I am in the business of explanation I’m not trying to justify the behavior of Putin or tell you what I hope happens I’m simply going to tell you based on a lot of experience thinking about these issues what I think is going to happen and then finally you want to understand that I really need four hours but John wouldn’t give it to me so I’m going to be certain quite cursory on a number of issues and that’ll leave plenty of opportunities for you folks to ask me questions and I’ll answer questions s for as long as you want and John permits okay so again what I’m going to do is first focus on where we are today right and then I’m going to segue into talking
about where this trend is headed with regard to where we are today
there are three main actors in the story The United States or the West is one Ukraine is two and then on the other side you have the Russians
and what we have to talk about is the threat environment that each one of those actors faces and the goals of each one of those actors as things stand today in other words you want to look at Russia the west and Ukraine focus on what the threat environment is what their goals are and then finally we want to say some words about what the situation is on the battlefield today and that’s the basic outline I want to take you through in talking about the present situation. First of all with regard to Russia’s threat environment there’s no question that the Russians believe that they face an existential threat from the west and from Ukraine working together against them an existential threat in the sense that they believe that their survival is at stake and I can unpack later if people would like what is meant by the term survival but there’s no question that Putin himself uses the phrase existential threat to talk about what the Russians are facing now there are two layers to that existential threat
the first layer is the pre-war layer and that one is all about the West efforts and here the United States was really in the driver’s seat to make you praying a western bulwark on Russia’s border and that strategy or policy of course included NATO expansion EU expansion and turning Ukraine into a pro-western liberal democracy those three policies packaged together were all designed again to make Ukraine Western bulwark on Russia’s borders the Russians made it unequivocally clear from 2008 forward that this was unacceptable and that it was not going to happen and they made it clear that they would destroy Ukraine as a functioning Society before they would let it happen
that’s the first layer of the existential threat the second layer of the existential threat comes into play after the war starts once the war starts the United States has to stipulate what its goals are vis-a-vis Russia and we have made it clear that our goal is to defeat the Russian military in Ukraine, to wreck its economy and to in effect knock it out of the ranks of the great powers
there’s also all sorts of rhetoric coming from the west and people in the administration right that make the argument that we should go beyond that and that we should pursue regime change then we should put Putin on trial and there’s even lots of talk these days about breaking apart Russia the way the Soviet Union broke apart in December this is the second layer of the existential threat so there’s no question that the Russians see themselves facing an existential threat and I might add here that I have a number of friends who argue that the Russians are not facing an existential threat my response to them is very simple it doesn’t matter whether you think they’re facing an existential threat the only thing that matters is whether they think they’re facing an existential threat and they are the evidences remarkably clear in my opinion so that’s the threat environment for the Russians
then the question is what is what are their goals now a lot of people think that the Russians are bent and have been bent since February 22nd it’s February 24th 2022 in conquering all of Ukraine and it absorbing it into a greater Russia. The Russians have never been interested in that and they’re not going to try to do that but the Russians are interested in doing is capturing a substantial portion of Ukraine and also making Ukraine a dysfunctional rump state they have already formally annexed four oblas plus the Crimea and they have made it clear they have no intention of giving that territory up I might add here that they don’t control all four of those oblasts completely at this point in time but those four oblas plus Crimea make up 23 percent of Ukraine’s territory I also believe that they will take the four oblas that are immediately to the west of those four oblas and this includes Odessa and karkif and once they do that they will control 46 of Ukrainian territory Dimitri trenan who is a well-known and well plugged in Russian strategists argues that they will take those eight oblas plus Crimea as I described it but they will also take additional territory in the north of Ukraine that runs basically up to the part of Kiev that is on the Eastern Bank of the Dnipro River now what will guide Russia’s thinking in the conquest of this territory first of all there’s the Don bass problem the Russians have to make sure that they basically take and control all of the areas that have large numbers of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers because if they don’t they’ll have the Don bass problem all over again and you remember the Don bass problem from roughly 2014 to 2022 where you effectively had a civil war in that region between ethnic ukrainians on one side and ethnic Russians and Russian speakers on the other they don’t want that to happen again and the only way to prevent that from happening is to take all of the areas where you have large numbers of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers and that’s why I think for sure they’ll take those other four oblas to the west of the four they’ve already taken that’s the donbass problem then is the porcupine problem the porcupine problem is they don’t want to conquer territory that has lots of ethnic ukrainians because as you all know the ethnic ukrainians hate them and they will fight like wild dogs to resist the Russians even if the Russian military wins on the battlefield so they will stay away from the territories in large part that are west of the Dnipro River then they have to make sure that they take enough Ukrainian territory that they turn Ukrainian Ukraine into a genuine dysfunctional rump state for example it makes eminently good sense so lots of Russians say to take Odessa because if they control Odessa in addition to all of what they now control they basically control Ukraine’s Black Sea Coastline and that will enable them to strangle the Ukrainian economy whenever they see fit. So my argument is they’re going to take a lot more territory than they already have taken if they can and you want to understand that I have not said anything about the military dimension of this conflict and it may be the case that they don’t have the military capability to take all that territory discuss that later but now my point is in terms of the goals that the Russians have said for themselves I believe based on a series of Articles and conversations with some Russians that their interest is in taking a large chunk of Ukrainian territory and also turning Ukraine into a dysfunctional rump State and keeping it as a dysfunctional rough state now what about the United States and the West and when you talk about the West the main focus is on the United States because the United States is the leader of the pack but nevertheless the Europeans do matter somewhat I don’t want to completely dismiss their influence let’s talk first about the threat environment as I did with the Russians and then go to the goals it’s very interesting before 2014. this is when the crisis first broke out you will remember in February of 2014 February 22nd 2014. before that date even though we were interested in expanding NATO Eastward there’s no evidence in the public record that that was aimed at containing Russia there’s no evidence that we thought Russia was a serious threat before February 22nd 2014 but of course when the crisis broke out we did a sudden turn and all of a sudden Russia became a really serious threat and you all understand that the reason we did that was we did not want to blame ourselves the outbreak of the crisis we wanted to blame the Russians so of course Russia had to be a threat Putin had to be an imperialist bent on creating a greater Russia but that happened all of a sudden but nevertheless we did not view Russia as an existential threat at the time. I think since the war has started we have slowly but steadily worked ourselves in the west to the point where we now view Russia as an existential threat. I’m not completely sure that’s correct right but that’s my sense that that’s where we’re at in a Russian case it’s easy to make the case that they see what we’re doing in the west with Ukraine is an existential threat and I’ll get to Ukraine in a second it’s easy to make the case that Ukraine sees what the Russians are doing is an existential threat obviously right with regard to the west and with regard to the United States in particular it’s a trickier case so be aware of that and we can go over that issue in the Q a if need be but why do I say that well first of all if you look at the East Europeans and here we’re talking mainly about the polls and the Baltic states they clearly view Russia as an existential threat but I would argue that virtually every country in Europe Depends for its Security on NATO this is not talked about much in the west but the fact is that deep down European leaders completely understand that NATO provides security for them it’s their security umbrella and the great fear here is that if we lose in Ukraine it will do significant damage maybe even destroy the alliance and therefore people are deeply committed to making sure that that doesn’t happen and I sense that is in effect an existential threat then as the United States and China the fact is that the United States sees China as a greater threat than Russia and in the United States there’s a widespread feeling that if we lose in Russia that this will have a devastating effect on our ability to contain China so we have to win I think in my opinion there’s no question that American policy makers view China as an existential threat it’s a pure competitor that’s threatened to dominate Asia we do not tolerate that Russia’s not a peer competitor but if Russia wins in Europe and the United States has delivered a blow it will have significant consequences for our position in Asia finally I think there is a widespread perception that the Russians are a threat to the liberal International order and even more importantly this is a fight between democracies and authoritarian States and if the Russians win it’ll be a devastating blow to the democracies in their competition with these authoritarian States so you have somebody like King Charles who recently said in Germany the security of Europe as well as their Democratic Values are at stake I think that view is widespread in Europe and even in the United States and in fact these are the words that were recently introduced in a congressional resolution that has not been passed yet quote United States interests European security and the cause of International Peace depend on Ukrainian victory all this to me hints that we View what the Russians are doing as an existential threat now what are our basic goals I’ve already explained what our basic goals are:
right we are bent on again knocking Russia out of the ranks of the great Powers we’re even talking again about regime change in Russia putting Putin on trial and maybe breaking apart Russia the way the Soviet Union was broken apart in the early 1990s so our goals are remarkably ambitious and by the way they’re consistent with the claim that I made a minute ago that we view Russia as an existential threat if you look at what we’re doing it fits neatly with the claim that Russia is an existential threat or something very close to that furthermore it’s very important to emphasize that we remain firmly committed to Bringing Ukraine into NATO and of course this is an absolute No-No for the Russians let me say a few words about the ukrainians now their threat environment they view the Russians as an existential threat this is really a no-brainer given what the Russians are doing in Ukraine it’s clear that ukrainians think they are facing an existential threat and with regard to Ukraine’s goals Ukraine’s goals are basically the same as their goals the ukrainians have a deep-seated interest in seeing Russia knocked out of the ranks of the great Powers uh to put it in general Austin’s words the ukrainians have a deep-seated interest in making sure that Russia never again has the power to invade another country so the ukrainians are with us in terms of what the basic goals are so I think basically what you have here is a situation where both Russia and Ukraine clearly view the other side as an existential threat and where I believe the West including the United States view Russia as an existential threat I say a few words about the battlefield uh it’s very important to understand that this is a war of attrition the basic goal of each side is to bleed the other side white this is not a war of maneuver there are no Blitz kriegs here this is Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali standing Toe to Toe and beating the hell out of each other this is a battle like World War One fights at Verdun at the psalm and so forth and so on it’s a it’s a classic war of attrition I think in 2002 for most of that year I think the ukrainians had the upper hand and as you remember in the late summer of 2022 and also in the early fall of 2022 uh the uh ukrainians uh scored victories in terms of capturing territory in harkiv and in her son and as you know the ukrainians were at the end of 2022 thought by many to be in a position where they could actually win the war because 2022 was a good year. I believe that after the Russians mobilized 300 000 troops and begin to rationalize their military make the necessary adjustments I think what happened is that the Russians got the upper hand in 2023. and I think uh the Russians now have the upper hand I think the fact that that the Russians just took bakmut this fight that lasted for many months and where the Ukrainians thought fiercely to contest the Russians the fact that the Russians want I think is evidence that the Russians have the upper hand I think the fact that the ukrainians do not want to launch their counter-offensive is evidence that they’re in trouble. The only reason they’re thinking about launching an offensive and may indeed launch that offensive soon it’s because of tremendous pressure from the West they don’t want to do it because they understand that they’re in trouble and in a minute I’ll explain to you why that’s the case but despite the fact that I think the Russians have the wind at their back in 2023 in contrast to 2022 I don’t think one could argue at this point in time the Russians have won the war in any meaningful way so I just want to be clear that’s not my argument. I’m just making the case that today when you look at the battlefield you look at the military balance between the two sides I think the Russians are in better shape than the Ukrainians and I think again the ukrainians were in better shape for most of 2022.
all right so let’s shift gears now and talk about where we’re headed and let me Focus first on the battlefield and and when I focus on the battlefield I’ll pick up from where I just left off talking about the present situation on the battlefield I’ll talk about the future situation and this is where I’ll make the case that the Russians are going to win this war this is as I said a war of attrition Bears more resemblance to World War One than it does to World War II uh and who wins a war of attrition is a function of three factors:
the balance of resolve
the population size of the adversaries
and the amount of artillery that each side has it’s uvery important to understand that artillery is the main weapon when you fighting a war of attrition
when I was in the Army and then when I went to West Point it was impressed upon us that artillery is the king of battle and when you get into a fight like the ukrainians and the Russians are now engaged in the casualty exchange ratio is largely a function of the artillery on each side so you want to ask yourself as we think about this conflict what does the balance of resolve look like what are the population figures look like and what is the balance of artillery look like because the balanced artillery tells you a great deal about casualty exchange ratios which obviously matter greatly in a war like this all right start with resolve in terms of resolve I don’t think there’s any meaningful difference obviously the ukrainians are resolved to win this one and to get back their territory completely understandable and obviously the Russians are resolved to win this one and settle this conflict as best they can on favorable terms and given that they think they see an existential threat facing them their resolve is great so I don’t see any meaningful difference in the balance of resolve
what about uh the balance of population going into the war the ukrainians had far less people than the Russians the balance was 3.5 to 1 going into the war there were 3.5 Russians for every Ukrainian today I believe there are five Russians for every one Ukrainian you just want to think about that five to one imbalance you all understand that eight million ukrainians have left the country, three million have gone to Russia and that 3.5 to 1 ratio that I gave you was based on the assumption that those Russian speakers in ethnic Russians in the Don Bass counted as part of the Ukrainian population they’re now counted as part of the Russian population uh I could go on and on about the numbers but I think five to one is a good ratio to explain where we are at today and this is bad news for the ukrainians then we come to the artillery imbalance almost all of the reports on that balance say the number is either five to one seven to one or maybe ten to one in the Russians favor this has massive consequences do you just want to think about what this war is all about it’s two armies standing Toe to Toe trying to kill each other with massive amounts of Firepower and one side has a five to one or a seven to one or a ten to one advantage side that’s on the horror end of that ratio is in the Deep kimchi this is really horrendous and by the way that that country that’s on the downside of that ratio in artillery also is on the downside in the population ratio thank you what are the casualties look like on both sides very hard to get numbers if you press me I could give you an estimate but it would just be suggestive on what the actual numbers are but let’s just talk about what the casualty exchange ratio is likely to be the ukrainians often say and it’s reported frequently in the west that seven Russians die for every one Ukrainian is ludicrous seven Russians die for every one Ukrainian given that artillery imbalance this fails the common sense test I think that the exchange ratio is more like two to one I think that two ukrainians probably die for everyone Russian I have a number of friends who believe the number is higher it’s more like three to one maybe even four to one again just given those artillery figures. It’s gotta be two to one at least so ukrainians are losing lots more people than the Russians are
now let me argue against myself okay one could say John’s wrong because what John is ignoring is that the Russians are on the offensive as you all know the Russians are the aggressor here there’s no question about that it was Putin and Company who invaded Ukraine they are the aggressor they are on the offensive and as you know offenders usually suffer three casualties for every one Casualty that the defender suffers this is the famous three to one rule of thumb you need three attackers you actually need more than three attackers right to overcome one defender on the battlefield because the offender is out in the open and is exposed to fire whereas the defender is down in a foxhole or down in a trench and is protected somewhat okay so the argument against me is that because the Russians are the aggressor or the offender they should be suffering three casualties for everyone that the ukrainians suffer three problems with this argument the first is that the ukrainians have been on the offense almost as much as the Russians have been as I said to you before 2022 was a very good year for the ukrainians because they launched offensives in harkiv and her song and they were launching other offenses of a smaller nature in other places people were talking about the ukrainian’s ability to engage in maneuver Warfare okay so if you look at the course of the war since February 24th 2022 it’s very difficult to make the argument that the Russians have been on the offensive more than the ukrainians have been on the offensive it looks like Awash to me
another problem with this is if you look at the actual battles places like bakmut sorted other places where the Russians and ukrainians have really duked it out what you discover is that the defender often counter-attacks and what that means is that the defender goes on the offense so I spent a lot of time way back when studying Civil War battles and studying World War One battles if you look at those battles and you look at who is the attacker and who is the defender in some cases this is true of Verdun the offender actually suffers less casualties the defender right and that’s because the defender goes on the offense for defensive purposes and the offender becomes the defender and then the offender goes back on the offense right so you have this back and forth look at Civil War battles you look at the 12 biggest Civil War battles the casualty exchange ratios regardless of who initiated the campaign or basically one to one in a good number of those cases it’s really quite interesting so it’s very hard to say that in the battles that have been fought in Ukraine that the Russians have been the
attackers and they therefore have suffered much greater casualties because
even if they were initially the attackers they morphed into Defenders at different points then went back to being offenders and the same basic process was taking place on the Ukrainian side and the end result is it’s a wash third argument you want to keep in mind
is that in Western media you see constant references to the Russians
launching mindless frontal assaults or frontal attacks think of World War One
everybody getting up out of the trenches charging across an open field and getting mowed down and this is the picture that the media wants to give you of what the ukrainians are facing when the Russians come at them and of course they’re just mowing them down and this is why there are seven Russians dying for every one Ukrainian this is a myth it’s just simply not true right this is not to say the Russians may this is not to say the Russians haven’t launched a few frontal attacks here and there but it’s very clear from the news reports that the Russians have become much more sophisticated and they’re using their Infantry in small packets to basically smoke out figure out where Ukrainian forces are and then pouring huge amounts of artillery on those forces they’re not engaging in frontal assaults and amazingly 10 minutes before I came down I was looking at my iPhone and the latest issue of The Economist came across and it’s this is this is one of the lead stories ours tactics, Russia’s tactics are improving but Ukraine can still win what’s happened here is that the economist has got hold of a new report that’s come out from the Royal United Services Institute in Britain which I would suggest you all take a look at it it makes it very clear that the Russians are employing smart tactics they’re not employing front to wave tactics so the end result of this is that large numbers of Russians are not dying right there’s no question Russians are dying but they’re not dying in anywhere near as large a number as the ukrainians are. So I think two to one is a reasonable estimate a casualty exchange ratio of two to one and I think when you marry that to the population size of Ukraine and the population size of Russia Today you can see what’s going on in Ukraine what exactly do I mean by that it’s quite clear that Ukraine is engaged from their point of view in a total war they have mobilized their entire Society they have soldiers who are as old as all of us out there fighting they have old dogs and young dogs lots of untrained people it’s because they’re desperate it’s because they’re desperate and they’re also dragging people off the street right there are all sorts of stories about how they’re out searching for young people who they can commandeer and put in the military. This is not the case with the Russians right in fact lots of people me included wonder why the Russians haven’t really mobilized their society in a larger way okay and by the way this big fight that just took place in bachut it’s clear it’s clear that the ukrainians pushed large numbers of their best troops into bakba to try a whole bakba it was not the Russian army however that was doing most of the fighting in bakbook it was the Boxter group there’s this huge Russian army out there remember those 300 000 people they mobilized that those people were mobilized on top of a foundation soldiers that already were there they have a lot of people in their military but their Mainline forces have not been fighting the Ukrainian forces have been fighting the mainline forces they tried like crazy to hang on to bachbot and they couldn’t do it but it was with Mainline forces all right. all this tells you why I think they’re going to win now let me conclude by talking about the possibility of peace agreement. not going to be a meaningful peace agreement going to happen you’ll get a Frozen conflict why is there not going to be a meaningful peace agreement two main reasons the first is the territory problem the ukrainians want their territory back the Russians have made it clear they’re not going to get their territory back the Russians are not going to give up those four oblas they Annex they’re not going to give up Crimea and the ukrainians insist on getting that back zielinski told gee exactly this there’ll be No peace agreement until we get all our territory back
and the Russians are going to end up taking more territory and they’re not going to give that back either how do you square that Circle. Second big problem is the neutrality problem the Russians insist that Ukraine be neutral right they’ve insisted this from the beginning and their argument is if Ukraine can’t be neutral they’re going to wreck it they’re going to wreck it to keep it out of NATO or if it’s in NATO it’ll be ineffective because it’s wrecked right ukrainians on the other hand they don’t want neutrality ukrainians for completely understandable reasons want a security guarantee from someone well there’s a the question of who is that someone the only someone out there is the United States or the west or NATO and that’s not going to happen right that’s not going to happen in ways that will please the Russians. The Russians will not accept that so how do you square that Circle right go two other quick problems here one is the hypernationalism problem there’s a lot of nationalism in the air before this war started it’s morphed into hyper nationalism which means to hatred on both sides is off the charts it’s going to make a peace agreement very difficult and then the other problem is that a number of leaders have made it clear that they lied to Putin about their commitment to the Minsk agreement uh you remember the Minsk agreement, which was formulated in late 2015 was designed to cut shut down the conflict in the donbass and deeply committed to making the Minsk agreement work because he did not want to invade Ukraine. Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande Petro poroshenko and zielinski himself have all said they never had any interest in making minsk work and all they were doing was buying time to build up Ukraine so be in a better position to fight Russia. Trust there’s no trust on the Russian side because of this so you see you have a problem involving territory a problem involving neutrality hypernationalism and zero trust you’re not going to get a meaningful peace agreement you’re going to get a frozen conflict we conclude by just very briefly saying that what’s remarkable about this case is that there were a significant number of people in the United States who argued that expanding NATO was going to lead to disaster included people like George Kennan it included people like the actual Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and the actual chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Clinton Administration saying this was a disaster in the making it included people like Paul Nitza and Jack Matlock of course they were a panoply of impressive intellects who said that this was a prescription for disaster and you know what they were right and the end result is we are in this situation where enormous damage has already been done to Ukraine most importantly but to the West to Russia and to the United States and with the passage of time I’m sad to say it’s only going to get worse thank you can you put the online people up .
thank you John it was great.
We have a significant amount of people that could not be here physically who want to participate okay I see Ray McGovern there right right I see you there and and Ray uh Ray you want to ask the question about options right go ahead yes
Ray: can you hear me all right clearly I might all right good hi John, two questions really the first one is just a small question and that is you don’t get to Washington DC very much have people in the state department and the CIA and the Pentagon be to consult with you to given your expertise on this or or have you not heard anything from them this time .
J.M: I am 75 years old I have been in this business for a long time I have never once in my entire career been asked by a government official Republican or Democrat for my opinion on anything
Ray: okay okay second question um there’s the conventional wisdom that Vladimir Putin had other options to invading Ukraine this is sort of accepted widely by virtually everyone. No one can tell me what those options are. Do you know what they might be talking about John?
J.M.: no, I don’t think he had any other options I do believe that Putin was deeply committed to finding a negotiated settlement to the problem as I said to you in my formal comments he was deeply committed to the Minsk agreement because what he wanted to do was shut down the conflict and the donbass so he would not have to invade and with regard to Nato expansion EU expansion and the efforts to make Ukraine a western bulwark on Russia’s borders he went to Great lace to explain to the West why that was unacceptable and on December 17 2022 he sent the letter to Biden and to Nato saying that you have to do X Y and Z so we can find a solution to this problem and we refuse to go along and I think that Putin was left in a position where he felt he had no choice because to answer your question there was no other way to deal with the problem so I think he with great reluctance invaded Ukraine!
?: thank you but I want to First make the observation you may recalled in I believe it was 1962 when then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara returned from his first
journey to Vietnam to assess the situation on the battlefield and he responded by every quantitative measure we’re winning I don’t know whether that shakes confidence or analysis but I like your observation but the more important question is you know that cyhurst’s reports have suggested strongly that President Biden was responsible for destroying nordstream one and nordstream two would that be consistent with your evaluation of what the U.S goals are in the Ukraine war
J.M.: yes I think that the United States has been long interested even before the war started and severing the close economic ties between Russia on one side and Europe on the other side especially Germany and we have loathed nordstream for a long time and I if I had to bet I would bet that the United States destroyed Nordstrom I mean there’s much speculation on that at the moment but it’s completely consistent with sort of what America’s overall policy is towards Russia we have a question about.
?: why did Sweden and Finland why did Fina off Finland and Sweden join NATO if they didn’t fear Russia so if you can address NATO expansion.
J.M.: I think that there’s no question that the Finns and the Norwegians fear Russia I mean given the level of russophobia in the west and given all the talk since 2014 and certainly since uh February 2022 about the Russian threat it would make perfect sense for lots of fins to fear the Russians.
Do I believe that they should have feared the Russians? no ! they survived the Cold War perfectly well when the Soviet Union was a heck of a lot more of a formidable adversary than Russia is and furthermore as I’ve emphasized time after time there is zero evidence that Putin ever said he was interested in conquering and absorbing Ukraine into a greater Russia much less that he was interested in conquering any other countries he just never said that the idea that he was going to conquer Finland or take some Finnish territory or Swedish territory is not a serious argument to me but my opinion is that serious arguments don’t carry the day uh in the world that we now live in and you know the Finns and the swedes obviously thought there was a serious threat here and what they think does matter as I said before and this was a good opportunity to sneak into NATO because the Russians are obviously in no position to do anything about it because they’re pinned down in Ukraine uh but I would just and end by saying that anybody who thinks this is all for the good is thinking wrongly this is not good it’s just going to send give the Russians an increased sense of vulnerability an increased sense that they’re being surrounded and it’s going to scare the Russians and it’s going to make them take greater risks I’ve spent my life studying great power politics and one thing you never want to underestimate is when you Corner a great power and you threaten the great power excuse me you do not want to underestimate the risk that it might be willing to take and the Russians are in that category for sure and by the way we all know about the Arctic and we know that there are eight countries, eight countries that are located in the Arctic one is Russia the other seven now are all NATO countries s and Russia’s up there and you know what’s happening to the ice up in that neck of the woods right the ice is melting and you know that has all sorts of consequences of an economic and strategic nature so there’s going to be security competition up there you think it’s good that the fins and the swedes are with those other NATO countries against Russia I don’t think so I think it’s just more evidence of the trouble that lies ahead good question here good Biden Administration have prevented the Ukrainian War. The Biden Administration could have prevented the war by working out a deal with the Russians that would have satisfied Russia’s security concerns we’re simply unwilling to do that very important to understand that Joe Biden handled the Ukraine portfolio during the Obama Administration when he was vice president he handled Ukraine portfolio and he was a Super Hawk on Ukraine and when he came into the White House in January 2021 shortly thereafter that’s when the trouble started because what Biden did was he doubled down right and zielinski who was initially elected to work out a peace deal with the Russians and to shut down the conflict in the donbass zielinski did a flip at the same time that Biden moved into the White House zelenski became deeply anti-russian in early 2021 and he became deeply committed which he hadn’t been in the past to Bringing Ukraine into NATO so Biden and zielinski together right up the ante and what did the Russians do you remember in April 2021 that’s when the Russians mobilized their army and put large forces on Ukraine’s border it’s no accident that that happened in April 2021 given that Joe Biden moved into the White House in January 2021. and then in December 2021 December 17th that’s when Putin sent the letter to Biden and sent the letter to stoltenberg right and then in January 2022 Tony blinken made it very clear in response to the December 17th letter that the United States was not going to change its policy one iota
?: so John here’s a question about U.S support how much is this an American war we’re what 113 billion into this now and running we’re running pretty much through that money and the Europeans are they in for about 10 of this it’s yeah I think the Europeans are anti-ing up
J.M.: I don’t know what the exact numbers are 10 20 oh I’d guess it’s more like 20 that would be my guess so the question then is is if if if we if the West support for Ukraine word stop would their peace demands with that fake change your your forecast on your pessimistic forecasts on diplomacy.
Well if the West stops farming Ukraine Ukraine is doomed right this is just no question about that right I mean the Russians have an indigenous armaments industry that’s actually quite impressive they have an armaments industry that’s designed to fight World War one and since this war looks like World War one they’re in quite good shape the ukrainians on the other hand do not have an industrial base that comes even close to being able to fight this kind of War so they’re heavily dependent on us and by the way we have trouble we have trouble giving the ukrainians what they need. They need artillery give them artillery fast enough that’s that’s a problem that’s that’s why we’re giving them things like tanks and talking about f-16s we don’t have the artillery to give to them okay but the point is John they depend heavily the ukrainians depend heavily on the west for money right to keep their government running and they depend heavily on us for weapons and will rely more and more on us web for weapons moving forward if we cut off the flow of weapons to Ukraine the Russians would be in the driver’s seat there’s just no question about that but we’re not going to do that we’re in this one too deep you remember how long it took us to get out of Afghanistan 20 years 20 years to get out of Afghanistan and a lot of us in this room were old enough to remember the Vietnam War it tore the country apart and it took us a long time to get out of that war and it was only when Congress basically told the executive this war has got to end right and we’re a long way from that point in this country at this point in time so I think we’re in I think the Europeans are in our support May diminish someone but I don’t think it’s going to do
?: they’re kind of two related questions what Putin is Putin apparently is told Bush that Ukraine is not a real country is that is that this is Putin really view how do the Russians view Ukraine is is it totally separate country or part of Russia and there’s that very big history and then then the question is related is assuming you are correct and Ukraine loses and what what comes next and this is the question of whether they have Ambitions outside of this War uh towards Poland or the Baltics, you know other Eastern European countries you know you hear that all the time by people that support the war yeah
J.M.: I’ll take him in reverse order what comes next it what comes next if the Russians were to conquer a former old boss and and basically stop there because that was all the territory they wanted given the demographics I think the Russians would then spend the next 25 to 30 years trying to absorb those eight oblas into Russia understand when you see places like bakmud you see the pictures of Bachman how it’s been totally destroyed well that’s going to be Russian territory right they’re going to have to repair bachwood there’s going to be a huge amount I didn’t talk about this of ethnic cleansing that takes place or population transfers lots of ethnic ukrainians are going to move west in lots of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians are going to move Easttward. Both countries are going to have their hands full trying to absorb those people Russia has economic problems it had economic problems before this war started it has economic problems that are consequence of this war. the last thing the Russians are going to want to do is invade the Baltic states or invade Poland one more point on this if you look at the Russian the Soviet experience in Eastern Europe during the Cold War trying to occupy and manage their so-called allies in Eastern Europe it was actually something of a nightmare in 53 they didn’t have to invade East Germany because they were already there but they had to put down an Insurrection, they had to go into Hungary in 56, they had to go into Czechoslovakia in 68. they almost went into poland in three separate times except the Polish Communists put down the problem right. Then they had to deal with the albanians and the Romanians talk about something that could really give you a headache. The last thing the Russians want to do is conquer those territories with which are filled with people who hate Russians and don’t want to be part of Russia and we’ll put up great resistance it makes no sense at all and this is why Putin has never said he had any interest in creating a greater Russia or incorporating all those ukrainians into a greater Russia porcupine problem it would have been like swallowing a porcupine so my argument is that when it’s all but all said and done what Putin is going to concentrate on or his successor is going to con his successors are going to concentrate on is just absorbing the territory that they now have now with regard to the first question this gets the causes. I often say as I said here tonight there’s no evidence that Putin was interested in conquering Ukraine and the argument that people will turn to is they’ll say he told George W bush that Ukraine is not a real country. Okay you want to say to yourself a piece of evidence that he was bent on conquering Ukraine first of all if he said this it’s the only time he ever said it right it’s the only time he ever said it number two it’s not clear that’s what he said because he was telling George Bush who was telling us and I’m not accusing George Bush of being disingenuous but who knows right but this is the one example but let’s assume he told Bush that and Bush gave us an accurate representation of what Putin says so what he said it’s not a real country he say I want to conquer that country did he say I think it’s feasible to conquer that country did he say that I can do it that’s what I’m gonna do right no there’s no evidence to that and of course what’s the key document they point to you know when I make that offer that response to that quote everybody goes to the July 12 2021 article that Putin wrote right that’s supposed to be the Smoking Gun that he was going to conquer Ukraine.
This is not a serious argument he says exactly the opposite it’s very clear from the peace the July 12 2021 piece that he recognizes Ukrainian nationalism he recognizes it it’s very clear that he recognizes that Ukraine is an independent country and he recognizes that the events of December 1991 are locked in stone that there’s no way right you can go back to the Soviet Union and he ends his article by saying that what Ukraine becomes is what the Ukrainian people will decide it will become so there is no evidence other than this one quote which I don’t think is real evidence that he was bent on conquering Ukraine and by the way if anybody thinks I’m wrong I wish you would send me an email with the evidence that shows I’m wrong I engage on the internet all the time with people who write me who say that he had designs on conquering all of Ukraine and absorbing it into a greater Russia I tell them to send me the evidence and I say I want hard evidence right and none so we’re another question is uh what will be the impact of these f-16s being sent to Ukraine you talked about the artillery ratios but where are the f-16s come in the military balance I think the F-16 will matter very much at all uh for a variety of reasons first of all it takes a lot of time to train Pilots to fly an F-16 you just don’t produce combat Pilots overnight and you know if you go back to the Battle of Midway in World War Two June 1942 that’s six months after Pearl Harbor you remember we sunk four Japanese carriers at Midway and this was seen as a mortal blow to the Japanese Navy actually it wasn’t the carriers that mattered that much it was all the pilots that we killed it just takes you know my brother was a Navy pilot he used to talk about this all the time it just takes a long period of time to train first-rate pilots and so they’re not going to have first grade Pilots for a while they’re talking about you know training them up in four months and then putting them in the cockpit and sending them into combat that’s not going to work very well second point is the Russians by all accounts have the best ground-based air defenses in the world with their s-400s s-300s and all these other systems those f-16s are going to be in real trouble going up against uh the ground-based air defenses the other thing is that the Russians have a formidable Air Force of their own that has lots of combat experiences gaining combat experience and we’ll be ready to engage those f-16s I think the real danger with the f-16s is that ukrainians use them to attack Targets in Russia right this is the escalation scenario right and we apparently President Biden apparently has told the ukrainians in no uncertain terms that they cannot use the f-16s to attack targets inside of Ukraine and inside of Russia thank you yeah inside Russia and apparently they have promised but I wouldn’t Bank on them delivering on that promise because you all know that the ukrainians have a vested interest in dragging us into the war right you understand that if you’re playing Ukraine’s hand you want to suck the Americans in to come to your defense and Biden of course is fully aware of that as are as advisors and they’re trying to protect against it but it’s a very tricky issue because we can’t cut and run what are we going to do if the ukrainians start using their f-16s to attack the Kremlin or attack Targets in in Russia are we going to say all right we quit you’re on your own now of course we’re not we’re going to holler at them tell them don’t do it again but slowly but steadily we’re going to be pulled in because at some point the Russians are going to retaliate you know by the way one point that I didn’t make to you folks it’s a very important point to keep in mind uh I said that I think the Russians are going to win on the battlefield they will end up winning this war if I’m wrong and the Russians lose and that the Biden Administration begins to move in a direction where its goals are being achieved in Ukraine I think the likelihood of nuclear use is high I think the Russians are likely maybe even very likely to turn to nuclear weapons if they’re losing so the fact that the Russians are likely to win this war in my opinion makes the possibility of nuclear war much less likely Russia being incorporate you know Russia being incorporated into Europe what the Russian Federation membership in NATO what went wrong question some Eurasian Union that would include the Russian Federation plus the former Warsaw USSR countries and the European Union is that in the U.S interest or not or you take those yeah I I think that it would have been in the U.S interest to work out some sort of security arrangement with the Russians starting in January of 1992. remember Russia Soviet Union falls apart in December 1991 you know the next month January 1992. I I think we had a deep-seated interest in having good relations with the Russians my theory of great parapolitics tells me that if you’re dealing with a really powerful Russia that’s a pure competitor to us the way China is a pure competitor to us in East Asia you’re going to have significant problems with Russia right just like you had significant problems with the Soviet Union in May of 1945 when Germany was finally defeated you had this huge Russian army in the middle of Europe Germany was destroyed France had been knocked out of the war and was badly weakened Britain was badly weakened by the war we were greatly fearful that the Soviet Union would March all the way to the Atlantic just because it had such a powerful military the Russians today are not the Soviet Union they just aren’t so and they certainly were not the Soviet Union in the 1990s you all remember what a basket case Russia was in the 1990s what we should have done was gone to Great Lengths to work out some sort of modus the vendai in Europe and again this is what people like Ken and Bill Perry General Charlie all these people understood that you know poking the Russians in the eye with a stick which is what we did with NATO expansion it was going to be counterproductive in the end as it turned out to be the case and what we should have done was try to work out some sort of security Arrangement which I actually think could have been done because again the Russians were not likely to go on the prowl so we want to do our online thing facts can you put it take our Founders down and put our online presence we’ll go ahead let you ask a question while we’re waiting [Music]thank you for being here we brought you in my National recession courses so thank you for being here
?: I have technically two questions for you when it’s I remember and one occasion I met with Andrei kasaroff he was talking about um Russia was really to join NATO and certainly things go south can you talk a little bit about [Music] based on your knowledge why is that because is it Us in the west that prevented that from happening or of course it was under what’s his name Yasin and that could be a relationship when Vladimir Putin become president and do you think we should have done anything to fix that problem and maybe bring Russia to Nato would that change things a little bit and secondly you talk a lot about threat from pretty much both sides especially in Eastern Europe versus the Russians if you look at the the United States pretty much I would say the West pretty much sign up some ways to allow Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons uh so that we can protect them if should something like that happen which is what’s happening now can you talk about the interest of the United States specifically for invest that much money and if the United States hanged up or you can end up losing the war how do you think this would affect impact our Prestige and the world stage from the realist perspective thank you
J.M.: yeah just on the whole subject of Russia joining NATO I think that it was never possible because Russia is too big and too powerful right the United States likes NATO because it runs the show it’s very important to understand that it’s like you know President Obama and president Trump both complain barely about the fact that the Europeans don’t pull their weight they don’t spend enough money on defense I actually think we don’t care that much and the reason we don’t care that much is because it gives us leverage over them they’re dependent on us right the Europeans depend on us and we like that and we use NATO for our own selfish purposes if you put the Russians inside of NATO that’s a bunch of the 90s but certainly after 2000 as you know Putin brings them back from the dead right it becomes very difficult to Envision the United States having the kind of Leverage inside the alliance that it otherwise has so I think that was a non-starter with regard to The Budapest memorandum which was issued in conjunction with Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons it’s very important for me to emphasize to you that I was the only person in the West who argued that Ukraine should not give up its nuclear weapons because I said there is a good chance that someday the Russians will come knocking and Ukraine for deterrence purposes will need those weapons but we gave the ukrainians compound fractures of all four limbs to make sure they gave up the nuclear weapons and in fact they gave them back to Russia and in return we gave them the Budapest memorandum which as everybody understood was an empty promise to defend them it was a meaningless piece of paper and the reason is we did not at that point in time want to commit ourselves with a nato-like guarantee an article 5 like guarantee to have to defend Ukraine so the Budapest memo you know last year February when the Russians invade Ukraine is basically meaningless and as you know the Russians signed the Budapest memorandum as well as we did so it really didn’t mean anything the smart thing for Ukraine to have done would have been to keep its nuclear weapons but that simply wasn’t going to happen because Uncle Sam was not going to let it happen the Russians were not going to let it happen and therefore Ukraine was left defenseless and this gets back to an earlier appointed or an earlier question to John rays in the end Ukraine can’t defend itself right that’s why as he was saying if we cut off the flow of weapons to Ukraine wouldn’t Ukraine just lose and John of course is Right Ukraine can’t protect itself at the conventional level that’s why nuclear weapons made sense but again that was a non-starter I was a voice in the wilderness John we we’ve run out of time we’ve got uh an online presence of large online presence and uh I say we have Ben avilo here Ben to you um you’ve just come out with a book right on Ukraine uh sure actually uh Dr mayor schommer his talk was so sobering that it eliminated some of my questions but uh I’ll ask just a couple of quick ones and kind of in series I don’t know if they’re all answerable at once but I’ll just lay out a bunch of things quickly and please ask Dr merchheimer you can respond to anything he wants to um one kind of as a as an add-on to the questions that were just asked about NATO uh Russia joining NATO uh I wonder if drummer could comment on why perhaps partnership the partnership for peace program and also the um the permanent committee that developed out of the nato-russia founding act why those didn’t function in a way that might have stabilized the situation better uh that’s number one number two just as kind of a totally separate issue and a little bit theoretical to start with uh Dr mirsham you’ve mentioned in the past and other presentations I’ve heard of yours that you don’t view realism as a uh comprehensive explanation for how international relations or foreign policy actually works or develops you view it as a model it’s a simplified model that has good predictive power uh and that I think you’ve tossed out the figure that maybe in about 80 percent of the time it predicts the outcome well and 20 it doesn’t I’m wondering what if there’s anything discernible or identifiable that might might be responsible for the 20 of cases where realism doesn’t predict and if some way that can be leveraged to come up with Creative Solutions that would kind of let one break out of this uh trap that we seem to be in that is I think to some extent at least predicted by realism right now thank you okay uh just very quickly on uh Ben’s question about um the pfp uh the pfp was a non-starter because the desire of the East European countries to get into NATO uwas great and the interests of the administration to expand NATO this vibrant institution that we had created in the west and move it Eastward and move the EU Eastward these two great institutions that were left over from the cold war and expand them and expand the zone of peace right this is what motivated NATO expansion up to 2008. remember I told you before 2008 nobody was talking about containing Russia they were talking about creating a zone of peace that included not just Western Europe as was the case during the Cold War but included Eastern Europe as well as one giant zone of peace right and the pfp was not good enough it was kind of a half-baked security arrangement we wanted a real security arrangement we wanted a vibrant Institution at least the Clinton Administration did which was in charge when the ball got rolling and that’s why pfp never went anywhere but I want to be clear there were lots of people who liked pfp I would have taken pfp over NATO expansion in a moment but that was not the prevailing wisdom inside the Clinton administration regard to realism I don’t want to get into this in any great detail I’m a realist as you know I do IR Theory theory is a simplification of reality right there’s this world out there that’s incredibly complicated and the only way we can make sense of it is with simple theories and when you have a simple theory that describes a complicated world that means you leave certain factors on The Cutting Room floor to produce your Simple Theory and that means your theory is sometimes going to be proved wrong does everybody understand that theories are simplifications of a complicated reality and A Simple Theory leaves certain factors on the floor my realist Theory leaves domestic Politics on The Cutting Room floor my theory does not distinguish between democracies and authoritarian States all states are black boxes in my theory now obviously that’s not the case sometimes domestic politics matters and when it matters my theory is wrong now this is why I said to you up front I am not dispensing truth here I may be wrong right this is why you know just a quick story as John knows much to his Chagrin I argued from the early 2000s forward that China could not rise peacefully okay I argue starting in 2001 in print that we would be in the mess that we’re in now today but whenever I talked about it including in China I would always say to people this is based on my theory of how the world Works my theory is far from perfect and I I estimate that my theory is Right 75 of the time and wrong 25 of the time because I loved going to China and I love dealing with the Chinese I used to say I hope I’m wrong I really do I hope I’m wrong that China can rise peacefully but my theory says that’s not true but again theories aren’t not perfect so with regard to the discussion tonight I may be wrong okay and it may be the case in two years you’ll invite me back I’ll have egg roll over my face and we’ll discuss why I was wrong but all I will say is I actually can’t see why I’m going to be wrong there are cases you know I deal with from time to time where you know I’m not too sure that I’m going to be proved right in fact China is one of them I I was not 100 certain but on this one I think we CR we committed a colossal blunder and I just find it hard to see how we figure out how to get out of this mess it just looks like it goes on and on for as far as the Eye Care saying earlier that you thought it was a worse mistake than uh us invading Iraq oh yeah much much worse mistake than ever in Iraq I mean you know I I have a whole section I wrote the speech out and I have a whole section on the consequences right and when you start thinking about the consequences just for European Russian relations moving forward you know talk about Nordstream and what are the consequences of that the Russians are going to be interfering in European politics they’re going to be looking for cleavages in European politics and trying to exploit them the Russians are going to be looking for cleavages in the transatlantic relationship and trying to exploit those cleavages we are going to be going to great ways to undermine Russia economically and politically they’re going to be trying to wreck Ukraine we’re going to be trying to save Ukraine where does this end I as I said before I think we’ll all be dead and it’ll still be going on the Chinese are not going to be the solution to peace no no no it’s what do you can’t just say a word about that the question you know I reviewed not too long ago and the Indian commentator um was saying to me is there a role here for India and you know he thought India could do something because India is quite friendly with the Russians and with the Americans dot dot and now you hear the Chinese being trumpeted as a possible theyase right but problem is there’s no deal right whether it’s the Chinese the Indians or somebody comes in from outer space or they put John Henry on what’s the deal you’re going to work out how are you going to solve the territorial problem how are you going to solve the issue of neutrality unless you’re a magician I just don’t think it’s doable
I mean I hope I’m wrong but John this was terrific we’re way over our time but we still have a whole bunch of questions so please don’t hesitate to come up and and ask them to John but thank you again it’s a voice that needs to be heard.
thank you thank you great job