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Why ‘Realists’ Get Ukraine So Wrong

In this episode of New Ideal Live, Elan Journo and Nikos Sotirakopoulos discuss the claim by University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, that the West, not Putin, is fundamentally to blame for the war in Ukraine. They also examine the philosophic assumptions and consequences of the “realist” theory of international relations, from which Mearsheimer’s conclusion flows.

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.”

The podcast was recorded on May 11, 2022. Listen to the discussion below. Listen and subscribe from your mobile device on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher. Watch archived podcasts here.

Podcast audio:


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Sam Weaver

Sam Weaver, BA in English, is an associate fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute and a recipient of the Conceptual Education Fellowship.

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