John Mearsheimer on Putin’s Options on Ukraine

By Ray McGovern, May 24, 2023

When Professor John Mearsheimer spoke on “Where is the Ukraine War Going?” at the Committee for the Republic on May 22, I was able to ask the first question of the Q & A. I referred to the conventional wisdom that Putin had “other options” to invading Ukraine and noted that, so far, no one has able to tell me what those options are. I asked John if he knew what those espousing that conventional wisdom might be talking about. My question and Mearsheimer’s response can be seen beginning at minute 51:30 of the video:

The following is a transcription of John’s comments:

“No, I don’t think he had any 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 to shut down the conflict in the Donbas 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 border, he went to great lengths to explain to the West why that was unacceptable. And on December 17, 2021, he sent a 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 refused 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 that he, with great reluctance, invaded Ukraine.”