U.S. must acknowledge Russia’s strategic interest and cooperate

‘The Week Ahead’: Putin has handled Ukraine situation ‘brilliantly’ while the U.S. is stuck in the Cold War, expert says

As violence in Ukraine continues to escalate, experts say that the United States and other Western powers have failed to consider Russia’s foreign policy interests in the region for decades and continue to treat the rising power as a Cold War adversary.

John J. Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Steven Fish, a Russia expert at the University of California Berkeley, sat down with Al Jazeera’s Jonathan Betz to discuss how decades of strained relations between Washington and the Kremlin continue to hamper progress in Ukraine. The discussion was part of Al Jazeera America’s regular Sunday night segment “The Week Ahead.”

“The United States and Russia should have sat down actually years ago and hammered out an agreement that really respected Russia’s interests in its own neighborhood,” Fish said. “[But] what Putin has done now makes it less likely to happen than before.”

Mearsheimer added that the Kremlin and Russia must create a sovereign state in Ukraine that serves as a buffer between the East and West.

According to Mearsheimer, efforts to resolve the crisis are being slowed by a lingering Cold War mentality in Washington. He described American leaders as being stuck in 1948 and said they fear Russia’s rise as a “second coming of the Soviet Union.”

The panelists disagreed on the question of whether Putin has handled the situation more effectively.  Fish said that Ukraine will end up being a major blunder for Putin.

“In terms of foreign policy, this move buries his dream of a Eurasian Union,” Fish said. “And it now guarantees the implacable hostility of what’s left of Ukraine after Putin gets done with the southern and eastern parts of it.”

But, Mearsheimer contends that Putin’s foreign policy has actually been quite effective in furthering Russia’s goals.

“I think President Putin has played his hand brilliantly,” the professor said. “I think that he is deeply interested in making sure that Ukraine never becomes part of NATO and furthermore that any government in Kiev is not decidedly anti-Russian.”

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