John Mearsheimer is a proponent of what is called the “realist” school of Geopolitics.
It’s a school of thought that treats international relations as being anarchy by default, and mostly about power maximization. nation trying to increase spheres of influences. It likes the idea of buffer states, and of America only getting involved overseas to act as an “offshore balancer”, to keep peace and status quos intact.
Mearsheimer (circa 2015 here) saw us getting involved with the Ukrainian conflict as a mistake. It galvanized the Russians, it puts us into the middle of an identity conflict in a country that has no clear majority for who it wants to align with, and it makes America devote resources in an area of no strategic value.
All while were trying to concentrate resources in the Far East to counter China.
Ergo, “We have limited resources, shouldn’t we act with a sense of triage?”
He also suggests that we are inherently making the situation more dangerous by making politicians in Kiev think they can take hardliner stances with Russia; when they’d otherwise be compromising.
He overall believes the Ukraine itself would be more stable and prosperous if we pushed for it to be neutral, maintained as a buffer state.
… Personally, I don’t know. I’d hope that closer alignment with the E.U. would have a way of clearing out corruption in the country, but there’s no way to know that.
Taking sides, and pushing Sovereignty and NATO membership does seem to have had the effect of pushing the the two half of the country into implicit civil war.
Overall, I agree with Mearsheimer’s stances, but there are implications I can’t fully work out.
Should we sacrifice a nation’s ability to choose its own domestic policy, trade on its own sovereignty, for peace? Since there’s no strategic value, does that make it a fight not worth involving ourselves, or denying their request to join NATO?
You can find many responses to Mearsheimer’s stances here.
Other than a need to focus resources in Asia, the strongest argument Mearsheimer makes for non-involvement is just imagining the switch in positions: If China had brokered a military alliance with Canada and Mexico, would we bear with them stationing troops along those borders?
Would we stay silent? Would we do nothing?