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Why “Realists” Get Ukraine So Wrong

A 61 minute YouTube publication from May 01, 2022 by Elan Journo, Nikos Sotirakopoulos

YouTube, 2022

Duration 61 mins

Notes none

Primary language: English


Who fundamentally is to blame for the war in Ukraine? John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, insists the principal blame lies not with Putin, but with the West, especially the U.S. This astonishing conclusion flows from Mearsheimer’s championing of a theory called “Realism” in international relations.

In this video, recorded live as part of ARI’s New Ideal Live series, Elan Journo and Nikos Sotirakopoulos analyze the philosophic assumptions and consequences of Mearsheimer’s brand of “Realism.”

Among the topics covered:

  • The main argument in Mearsheimer’s viral video “Why is Ukraine the West’s Fault;”
  • “Realism” as a theory of international relations;
  • How “realism” ignores morality and the causal role of philosophic ideas, whereas Objectivism treats these as central;
  • Why Mearsheimer is wrong to blame the West rather than Putin for the war in Ukraine;
  • The “realists’” claim that NATO expansion is a threat to Russia;
  • The shortsightedness of thinking that the West should allow Putin take Ukraine to avoid protracted war;
  • The eagerness of some in the West to promote ideas that exculpate Putin;
  • Why “realism” leads to a blinkered, amoral understanding of foreign relations;
  • The failure of America’s “realist” policy toward China, starting with Richard Nixon’s diplomatic overtures;
  • Why it’s in America’s interest to support Ukraine morally, even if not militarily;
  • The similarities between “realism” and pragmatism.

Mentioned in this podcast are Ayn Rand’s essay “The Shanghai Gesture,” which is included in the Ayn Rand Letter, and the New Ideal Live episode “Ukraine and the Power of Moral Judgment.”

0:00:00 Introduction
0:00:47 Mearsheimer's main argument
0:05:54 "Realism" as a theory
0:15:44 "Realism" vs. Objectivism
0:25:32 Blame Putin, not the West
0:30:22 Does NATO threaten Russia?
0:35:15 Surrender Ukraine to Russia?
0:42:19 Exculpating Putin
0:46:42 A blinkered, amoral theory
0:49:32 America's "realist" failures
0:54:07 Moral support for Ukraine
0:58:13 "Realism" and pragmatism

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