How we got Putin so wrong

Taking Putin at his word

An influential analysis of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine suggests that it’s NATO’s overreach in the region that’s to blame. Russia is simply defending itself from being encircled by Western power. But, pay attention to what Putin is actually saying, and a very different explanation emerges. Putin thinks his destiny is to restore Russia to its former glory, writes Stathis Kalyvas.


In a widely viewed lecture he gave back in 2015 (it has garnered over ten million views), John J. Mearsheimer, a respected professor of International Relations at the University of Chicago and perhaps the best-known exponent of the so-called Realist school of thought, explained the crisis that broke out in the Ukraine the year before. In essence, he blamed Russia’s aggression in

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