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Is the West to blame for Ukraine?

Russia-Ukraine crisis

In a recent article at the foreignaffairs.com, John J. Mearsheimer blames the West and the U.S. in the problems in Ukraine. He says that Putin, in this case, isn't so much to blame at all. In the article called "Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault" he says

"U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. "


and

"The United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis."


And, in big part, he could be correct. After all, chances are great that if there wouldn't have been an attempt to turn Ukrain into a Western state, Putin might be still a quiet puppy.

"The West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly."


His main point is that the West put Putin into a defensive position and that's a place where Putin, nor most of the other Russia's past leaders, have never wanted to be in. Which, again is correct. However, you could compare it to a statement, that if you leave the nerds wallets to bullies and don't interfere, the bully will stick to what he knows best, bullying the usual victims and won't cause any other problems. Don't pay attention to the bully and he might not bother you. I agree, it's all kind of correct. But is it really right to let the bully do what he wants, and not take the necessary steps to contain the bully because of what he might do if we did the right thing?

"
Nobody wants a war in the west, so what is Putin defending itself from?
In Europe, the fact is that nobody wants war, so by the end of the day, if Putin says it's protecting Russia from the West, it simply means that he's protecting his own power, nothing more, nothing less. Signs that show how much, or in reality, how little, Europe wants to go to war, can be found pretty much anywhere. Rather, Europe is afraid of Russia in the sense of what it might do if it becomes too powerful, as Russia has never been seen to shy away from war. In all honesty, same goes for U.S., but even U.S. doesn't want a full-blown war with Russia. Nobody wants a war in the west, so what is Putin defending itself from?

What Europe and U.S. have done wrong after it all started, at the same time, is pretty clear as well. Even though I can understand the point of sanctions, and why they have been put into place against Russia, I don't believe these will have a positive impact either. Building an iron curtain between the West and Russia definitely doesn't do anything positive, and rather could have the opposite effect. Of course, considering the West doesn't want to actually fight with Russia, the sanctions are kind of a way of showing Putin that the West is not tolerating Russia's actions.

As for Putin's intentions, besides what can be seen, or imagined, there are legitimate concerns as well. As in the past, even before Putin became the president, he has made some concerning statements about Russia and/or the former Soviet Union.

In August 1999, during the speech as a candidate for prime minister, Putin said that
"Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest abroad in both the former Soviet lands and elsewhere. We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored."

In April 2005, when addressing Russia's political leaders, Putin said that
"Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself."

I agree that both of these statments could be taken in one way or another, but if Putin was the one saying them, they do have the impact on their own.

  "A superpower is a cold war term. When people today say that Russia aspires to have this status, I interpret it in the following way: they want to undermine trust in Russia, to portray Russia as frightening, and create some kind of image of an enemy. … Russia is in favor of a multipolar world, a democratic world order, strengthening the system of international law, and for developing a legal system in which any small country, even a very small country, can feel itself secure, as if behind a stone wall. … Russia is ready to become part of this multipolar world and guarantee that the international community observes these rules. And not as a superpower with special rights, but rather as an equal among equals. " (Putin, 2007)

In other words, believe what I say, never mind what I do.

I remember when the problems in Ukraine started (which, in all honesty, initially might have had nothing to do with Russia or Putin at all), I believed that nobody, including all the superpowers, have no actual idea of Putin's intentions. So I formed my own possibilities:

1. Putin is simply testing the grounds (for any reason), to see how far the West would let him go.
2. He's way too power hungry, and really has intentions (or hallusinations) of restoring the great Soviet Union he so much loved as a child. Maybe it was his childhood utopia he loved so much.
3. He actually believed that Crimea should be part of Russia because people there want to be part of Russia. And he has no other plans. However, if that was the case, why didn't he ever admit to doing what he was doing? If he would have, I believe with it could have all been solved a lot faster. He does great propaganda and he might have been able to keep the West almost happy. Not so much Ukraine, but still.
4. He really has some kind of mental problems, which means that even he himself doesn't know what he's doing or why he's actually doing it. I think this option is a bit far fetched as well.
5. He was actually afraid that if Ukraine becomes part of NATO and EU, Russia is not safe anymore. But like mentioned before, the West is afraid of Russia, and there's no reason to believe it's the other way around.

There's another problem. As much as I have heard from Russian friends as well as friends who have talked to random Russians in Russia, they feel that their leader should be doing whatever he feels is necessary. Some of them even felt Putin was a pussy for not taking stronger action. That's also the belief that keeps him going. It's not just the propaganda Putin has organized in the West and his own country, but it's kind of what Russian people are like, they want or think they need a really strong leader. I'm not saying Russians are bad because of that, it's simply how the culture has been built up and how it for whatever reason is. And Russians are not the only one with similar expectations, in a comment about the recent release of classified FBI torture techniques, someone in one comment (yes, yes, it's not very qualitative not quantitative approach from my part), said that "I think the government should do whatever necessary to protect me and my family." No but's, no depend's on the measures, no nothing, and I don't really think that's the correct way to go either. Yet, I have noticed that there's really a lot of people who think pretty much the same, maybe around 50%. So in this sense Russia and the U.S. aren't too different at all. But that's already another story.

So what could be the solution to solve the current problems which by now doesn't have so much to do just with Ukraine, but the conflict between Russia and the West? Initially, there would have been a number of different ways to solve the crises. However, right now there's not too many options left. The best idea is probably, as stated in the Foreign Affairs article, to agree to make Ukraine a neutral buffer between the West and Russia, a sovereign Ukraine that doesn't fall to either Russian nor the Westerne camp. It's probably not so good for Ukraine, but I believe that in the current situation, it could be the best version even to them.

"The United States and its European allies now face a choice on Ukraine. They can continue their current policy, which will exacerbate hostilities with Russia and devastate Ukraine in the process -- a scenario in which everyone would come out a loser. Or they can switch gears and work to create a prosperous but neutral Ukraine, one that does not threaten Russia and allows the West to repair its relations with Moscow. With that approach, all sides would win." (Foreign Affairs)



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