January 11, 2015
Panelists offer closer look at Ukraine crisis in talk at Evanston library
Alice Yin/Daily Senior Staffer
Two scholars warned against the peril of the war in Ukraine during a talk Saturday at the Evanston Public Library.
John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Rick Rozoff, manager of the Stop NATO website, met at EPL, 1703 Orrington Ave., for the event. Neighbors for Peace, an Evanston-based community organization aiming to promote peace throughout the world, hosted the talk, which drew about 40 people. The event featured a speech from both guests and a question-and-answer session from the audience.
The two speakers spoke on the civil unrest in Ukraine. The crisis began in late 2013, amid movement to integrate Ukraine with NATO and the European Union. The removal of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president and Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region sparked further tension in the country — and between the West and Russia.
Discussing the dwindling United States-Russia relationship and the expansion of NATO, the speakers encouraged taking a more critical view of the West’s role in the crisis.
“We continue to encourage (Ukraine) to become part of the West … while doing nothing to help the Ukrainians,” Mearsheimer said. “This is highly irresponsible.”
Mearsheimer, who wrote an article on the Ukrainian crisis published in the magazine Foreign Affairs last fall, said although Putin is not innocent, he is misunderstood. His involvement in Ukraine is a reaction to an increased Western presence near Russian borders, Mearsheimer said.
“Putin is not bent on conquering Ukraine,” Mearsheimer said at the talk. “He is wrecking Ukraine and destroying it as a functioning society. We have two choices: the West backs off or (Russia continues) to try to make Ukraine part of the West by wrecking the country.”
Dale Lehman, a member of Neighbors for Peace, said he felt the event was important to the organization’s mission of establishing peace in the international community. He said both speakers provided insight that the media and general public have not.
“Mearsheimer is a very prominent professor and knowledgeable about U.S. foreign policy,” Lehman said. “We were lucky to get him. Rozoff has all kinds of credentials as an independent researcher who’s followed changes in NATO — things that slip through media without context.”
Rozoff spoke on NATO’s growing threat as a military bloc, especially with talks in recent years to align the organization with Ukraine. The panelist underlined the danger in NATO’s failed promises to stop its expansion.
“Almost half of the countries in the world attended NATO’s last summit in Wales,” Rozoff told The Daily. “In 1991 if anyone had suggested this, they would be accused of being crazy.”
Libby Frank, a Chicago resident who attended the event, said both speakers helped her understand the different actions of the United States and Russia that led to the crisis.
“I don’t feel like I’m getting a real, true picture out of mainstream media so that’s why I came and that was the main takeaway,” Frank said. “This is very serious, and (the United States) had an unfortunately negative role.”
Rozoff said he was glad to come to Evanston and speak on the situation, which could become very “grave and dramatic,” as two nuclear superpowers are involved.
“Either NATO blinks or Russia blinks,” Rozoff said. “Or we may be heading into a warning about nuclear war.”