John Mearsheimer
John Mearsheimer speaking at Chatham House, 2014.

John Mearsheimer on Russia: Insights and Recommendations

September 26, 2019
Thomas Schaffner

This compilation of observations and policy ideas related to Russia by John Mearsheimer is part of Russia Matters’ “Competing Views” rubric, where we share prominent American thinkers’ takes on issues pertaining to Russia, U.S.-Russian relations and broader U.S. policies affecting Russia.  

John Mearsheimer is a leading American international relations scholar and one of the foremost living proponents of an offensive realist model of international relations. According to Mearsheimer, this model posits that states strive to maximize their power in the world and seek hegemony, at least in a given region, to protect themselves against the intrinsic anarchy of the international system. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. In his most recent book, “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities” (2018), he argues that American policy based on the idealistic proselytizing of liberal democratic values has clashed with the national-interest-oriented foreign policies of states like Russia. He has published five other books: “Why Leaders Lie: The Truth about Lying in International Politics” (2011), The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics” (2001), “Liddell Hart and the Weight of History” (1988) and “Conventional Deterrence” (1983), as well as major articles on the former Soviet Union, including "Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin" and "The Case for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent." He is also a frequent contributor to The National Interest and peer-reviewed journals.

This compilation is meant as a sampling of Prof. Mearsheimer’s views. All sections may be updated with new or past statements. The quotes below are divided into categories similar to those in Russia Matters’ news and analysis digests, reflecting the most pertinent topic areas for U.S.-Russian relations broadly and for drivers of the two countries’ policies toward one another.

Bulleted text that is not italicized, bracketed or in parentheses is a direct quote from Prof. Mearsheimer.

I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security and safety:

  • Political turmoil in a nuclear-armed state could in theory allow terrorists to grab a loose nuclear weapon, but the United States already has detailed plans to deal with that highly unlikely contingency. Terrorists might also try to acquire fissile material and build their own bomb. But that scenario is extremely unlikely as well: there are significant obstacles to getting enough material and even bigger obstacles to building a bomb and then delivering it. More generally, virtually every country has a profound interest in making sure no terrorist group acquires a nuclear weapon, because they cannot be sure they will not be the target of a nuclear attack, either by the terrorists or another country the terrorists strike. Nuclear terrorism, in short, is not a serious threat. And to the extent that we should worry about it, the main remedy is to encourage and help other states to place nuclear materials in highly secure custody. (The National Interest, 01.01.14)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons and China will not push North Koreans to do so. The reason is that in international politics, you could never trust anybody because you cannot be certain of what their intentions are.  (Yonhap News Agency, 03.20.18)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • Obama and his advisers—including the military—see things differently [than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]. They do not want Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but they do not believe a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel. After all, Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, and could obliterate Iran if attacked. U.S. intelligence is also confident Tehran has not yet decided to build nuclear weapons. Indeed, U.S. leaders worry that, no matter who does it, an attack would convince Iran it needs its own nuclear deterrent. They are correct. (co-author, The Financial Times, 03.05.12)

New Cold War/saber rattling:

  • One might wonder whether Russia is likely to pose a future challenge to the United States, even if China does not. America’s three principal great power rivals from the twentieth century—Germany, Japan, and Russia—are all depopulating and the United States is likely to become increasingly powerful relative to each of them over the next few decades. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • It seems clear to me that the Trump administration has its gunsights on both China and Russia and will devote an enormous amount of defense resources to dealing with those two countries. Over time, I think this will mean a fundamental change in our foreign policy, and we will end up focusing more on East Asia and less on the greater Middle East. (Interview with LobLog, 01.23.18)
  • The fact that we’re moving toward a multipolar world, where China and Russia are rival great powers, is cause for great concern... In a unipolar world there is no possibility of great power war—the most dangerous form of war one can imagine—because there is only one great power. (Interview with LobLog, 01.23.18)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • When the Cold War was ending, the Soviet Union made it clear that it favored keeping the U.S. military in Europe and maintaining NATO. The Soviet leaders understood that this arrangement had kept Germany pacified since World War II and would continue doing so after the country reunified and became much more powerful. But Moscow was deeply opposed to NATO enlargement. The Russians believed their Western counterparts understood their fears and that the alliance would not expand toward the Soviet Union. But the Clinton administration thought otherwise and in the 1990s began pushing NATO expansion. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018
  • On whether Russian foreign policy is aggressive: Let’s say the Soviet Union, or China at some future point, formed a military alliance with Mexico and Canada on our border. We would never tolerate this… [If the American president reacted] it would be defensive. (TV appearance on VICE News, 07.16.18)
  • Great powers are especially vigilant about their security, and when they feel threatened, they invariably take measures to protect themselves. This wariness explains why Russian leaders have stubbornly opposed NATO enlargement since the mid-1990s and why most American realists opposed it as well. Liberals, however, tend to dismiss balance-of-power logic as irrelevant in the twenty-first century. This kind of thinking helps to make liberals less restrained than realists about using military force. (Interview with LobLog, 01.23.18)
  • Events since the end of the Cold War teach the same lesson. In Europe, once the Soviet Union collapsed, the region no longer had a dominant power. The United States should have steadily reduced its military presence, cultivated amicable relations with Russia, and turned European security over to the Europeans. Instead, it expanded NATO and ignored Russian interests, helping spark the conflict over Ukraine and driving Moscow closer to China. (Foreign Affairs, 08.01.16)
  • So, what I am saying to you is that even if we are able to turn around Western policy and convince Putin that the West has good intentions, the future of NATO is uncertain, which means a lot of trouble ahead. For all these reasons, I'm quite sure you cannot go back to the status quo ante in Eastern Europe. My bottom line is that we had an excellent situation with regard to European security before [floating the idea of Georgian and Ukrainian NATO membership in] 2008. And we, meaning the West, blew it big time. (Military Review, 06. 01.16)
  • To argue that Russia’s reaction to NATO expansion was based on “resentment” … is to trivialize the country’s motives. Fear is at the root of Russia’s opposition to the prospect of Ukraine becoming a Western bastion on its border. Great powers always worry about the balance of power in their neighborhoods and push back when other great powers march up to their doorsteps. (Foreign Affairs, 11.01.14)
  • One might expect the burden of deterring a resurgent Russia to fall to an American-dominated NATO, in effect, bringing back the Cold War order that kept Europe at peace for 45 years. That outcome is not likely, however... The United States is reducing force levels in Europe significantly, which will cause it to lose much of its leverage on the continent. (Foreign Affairs, 06.01.93)

Missile defense:

  • PGMs [precision-guided munitions] and missile defense were around when I first started writing about conventional deterrence. Indeed, the first article I ever published was on PGMs and how they affect conventional war. When it comes to weaponry, militaries operate in a very dynamic environment, and the particular constellation of weapons that states have at their disposal at any particular point in time affects the military calculations that underpin deterrence in important ways. What is crucial, however, is how militaries employ the different weapons in their arsenals. Doctrine and strategy matter greatly for both deterrence and war fighting. This has always been the case and always will be. (Strategic Studies Quarterly, 10.01.18)

Nuclear arms control:

  • One might argue that nuclear weapons greatly diminish the importance of land power, either by rendering great power war obsolete or by making the nuclear balance the essential component of military power in a competitive world. There is no question that great power war is less likely in a nuclear world, but great powers still compete for security even under the nuclear shadow. (The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” 2001)
  • Nuclear proliferation does not axiomatically promote peace and can in some cases even cause war. For example, smaller European powers might lack the resources needed to make their nuclear force survivable, and vulnerable nuclear forces would invite a first strike in a crisis. Moreover, widespread proliferation would increase the number of fingers on the nuclear trigger, which in turn would increase the likelihood that nuclear weapons could be fired due to accident, unauthorized use, terrorist seizure or irrational decision making. Nevertheless, nuclear proliferation sometimes promotes peace. Overall, the best formula for maintaining stability in post-Cold War Europe is for all the great powers—including Germany and Ukraine—to have secure nuclear deterrents and for all the minor powers to be non-nuclear. (Foreign Affairs, 06.01.93)
  • Vilifying nuclear weapons is a fashionable sport in the West. Many believe they are a major source of tension between states and that their deterrent value is quite limited. Given these beliefs and the horrible consequences of nuclear war, it is hardly surprising that many people want to rid the world of these weapons. This view of nuclear weapons is simplistic and flies in the face of the inherent logic of nuclear deterrence, as well as the history of the Cold War. In fact, nuclear weapons often diminish international violence, and Ukrainian nuclear weapons would be an effective deterrent against a Russian conventional attack or nuclear blackmail. (Foreign Affairs, 06.01.93)


  • Interfering in countries like Egypt and Syria and turning the world into one big battlefield has significant costs for the United States. The strategic costs are actually not great precisely because the United States is such an extraordinarily secure country. It can pursue foolish policies and still remain the most powerful state on the planet. (This is not to deny that America’s interventionist policies are the main cause of its terrorism problem. Nevertheless, terrorism is a minor threat, which is why Washington is free to continue pursuing the policies that helped cause the problem in the first place.) (The National Interest, 01.01.14) 
  • Am I overlooking the obvious threat that strikes fear into the hearts of so many Americans, which is terrorism? Not at all. Sure, the United States has a terrorism problem. But it is a minor threat. There is no question we fell victim to a spectacular attack on Sept. 11, but it did not cripple the United States in any meaningful way and another attack of that magnitude is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. Indeed, there has not been a single instance over the past 12 years of a terrorist organization exploding a primitive bomb on American soil, much less striking a major blow. Terrorism—most of it arising from domestic groups—was a much bigger problem in the United States during the 1970s than it has been since the Twin Towers were toppled. (The National Interest, 01.01.14)

Conflict in Syria:

  • The Syrian government is not likely to fall … because Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have directly intervened to keep [Bashar al-]Assad in power. The civil war will probably drag on for several years, wreaking more havoc and destruction. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • In Syria, the United States should let Russia take the lead. A Syria stabilized under Assad’s control, or divided into competing ministates, would pose little danger to U.S. interests. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have a rich history of working with the Assad regime, and a divided and weak Syria would not threaten the regional balance of power. If the civil war continues, it will be largely Moscow’s problem, although Washington should be willing to help broker a political settlement. (Foreign Affairs, 08.01.16)
  • Given these significant costs, and given that the United States has no vital interests at stake in Egypt and Syria, let alone the capacity for fixing the problems afflicting those countries, it should adopt a hands-off policy toward them. American leaders would do well to honor the principle of self-determination when dealing with Cairo and Damascus, and with many other countries around the world as well. (The National Interest, 02.01.14)

Cyber security:

  • It seems likely … that two large armies facing off against each other in a crisis will be heavily dependent on communications networks that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Does this create a situation where the side that strikes first wins because it effectively paralyzes the other side’s armies, thus weakening conventional deterrence? Or does it create a situation where it does not matter who strikes first, because the victim will retain the capability to wreck the attacker’s command and control? Thus, there is no difference between first strike and second strike, which strengthens deterrence. … [Q]uestions of this sort are of central importance for understanding conventional deterrence in the contemporary world. (Strategic Studies Quarterly, 10.01.18)

Elections interference:

  • Americans abhor the idea of foreign interference in their politics, as the huge controversy about Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election makes clear. When they find themselves the target nation, Americans become deeply committed to the principle of self-determination. Not surprisingly, so do the Russians. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)

Energy exports:

  • To be updated.

Bilateral economic ties:

  • To be updated.

Other bilateral issues:

  • The United States has also hinted that it would like to encourage a color revolution in Russia itself. ... When Michael McFaul was the American ambassador in Moscow, from January 2012 to February 2014, he made clear by both actions and words his longstanding commitment to promoting democracy in Russia. Predictably, the Russian political establishment recoiled at McFaul’s behavior, which helped poison relations between Moscow and Washington. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • Russia … was deeply suspicious of the American-led effort to promote democracy in Eastern Europe through the so-called color revolutions. The Feb. 22, 2014, coup in Ukraine, which the Americans helped facilitate and which toppled a pro-Russian leader, precipitated a major crisis between Moscow and the West. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • In essence, the two sides have been operating with different playbooks: [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his compatriots have been thinking and acting according to realist dictates, whereas their Western counterparts have been adhering to liberal ideas about international politics. The result is that the United States and its allies unknowingly provoked a major crisis over Ukraine. (Foreign Affairs, 09.01.14)
  • I think that Putin, and the Russians more generally, do not trust the West anymore. And, any promises that we make will be hard to sell in Moscow. I think the waters have been so thoroughly poisoned in recent years that convincing the Russians that the West has good will and wants to work with them will be difficult. (Military Review, 06.01.16.)
  • My view is that today relations between Russia and the United States dominate the headlines ... and it appears that those are the two central players in the story. I think that is only true for the present and the immediate future. I think that over the long term the defining relationship in international politics will be the competition between China and the United States. (Interview with Valdai Discussion Club, 01.18.17)
  • I think that most people in Washington believe that the United States is so powerful, and can be so effective in the world, that it can deal with Russia and China and these other problems all at the same time. I don’t think that the American foreign policy establishment has a good sense of the limits of power.  (Interview with LobLog, 01.23.18)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • We came to find out that not everyone in the world likes democracy. You and I may think that it is the best system, but the fact is that there are all sorts of other people in the world, especially if you go to a place like Russia today, who would prefer an alternative system, and in this case, it is soft authoritarianism. (Interview with “Between the Lines", 06.20.19)
  • Russia’s strong preference for order over rights and democracy today is hardly surprising given what happened there in the 1990s, when its attempt to embrace Western style democracy failed miserably, creating corruption and disorder on a grand scale. Since the early 2000s, Russia has become steadily more authoritarian, largely restoring order in the process. A March 2014 poll conducted by the All Russian Public Opinion Center showed that “71 percent of Russians say they are ready to sacrifice civil freedoms to maintain stability, order and personal well-being.” (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • [The failure of sanctions as a tool of coercion is caused by] nationalism, which invariably causes the people in the targeted state to rally around their leaders, not to revolt against them. Britain and the United States discovered this in World War II, when their bombing campaigns against German and Japanese cities failed to spur uprisings by the target populations.  It is no surprise that the Russian people have responded to the West’s sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis by rallying around Vladimir Putin. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)

Defense and aerospace:

  • To be updated.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • To be updated.

Russian history:

  • The Soviet Union was the quintessential communist country in the twentieth century. But it contained many distinct nations, which remained firmly intact despite government efforts to weaken them, and nationalism ultimately played a key role in the unraveling of the Soviet Union. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • The influence of sovereignty was probably at its height in the late 1980s, as the Cold War was coming to an end. States all around the globe embraced it, and it definitely resonated with the Eastern European countries trying to free themselves from the Soviet yoke. And once the Cold War ended, many of the republics that comprised the Soviet Union began talking about gaining their own sovereignty, which they eventually did. But the norm was eroding by the mid-1990s, mainly because the United States took to interfering in the politics of other countries even more than it had in the past. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • The Soviet Union and its empire disappeared in a large part because its smokestack economy could no longer keep up with the technological progress of the world’s major economic powers. Unless something drastic was done to reverse this economic decline, the Soviet Union’s years as a superpower were numbered. To fix the problem, Soviet leaders sought to gain access to Western technology by greatly reducing East-West security competition in Europe, liberalizing their political system at home and cutting their losses in the Third World. But that approach backfired because political liberalization unleashed the long-dormant forces of nationalism, causing the Soviet Union to fall apart ... [T]he conventional wisdom from the initial wave of scholarship on the end of the Cold War had it backwards: far from abandoning realist principles, the behavior and thinking of Soviet leaders reinforce the pattern of history that states seek to maximize their power in order to remain secure from international rivals. (“The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” 2001)
  • There was a deep-seated and long-standing fear among Russia’s rulers that their country was vulnerable to invasion, and that the best way to deal with that problem was to expand Russia’s borders. Not surprisingly, Russian thinking about foreign policy before and after the Bolshevik Revolution was motivated largely by realist logic... Soviet foreign policy behavior over time was driven mainly by calculations about relative power, not by communist ideology. (The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” 2001)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

  • To be updated.


  • On the possibility of a Sino-Russian alliance: The Russians can ally themselves with China, and given the state of relations between Russia and China today, one might think that that’s where we’re headed... Russia can ally itself with the United States, and join the balancing coalition that we’re already beginning to put together... Russia can try to remain neutral just to sit on the sidelines. My view is that with the passage of time, assuming that China continues to grow economically, it will become a serious enough threat to the Russians that the Russians and Americans will find themselves allies. (Interview with Valdai Discussion Club, 01.18.17)
  • [I]f China continues to grow economically, it will attempt to dominate Asia the way the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere. The United States, however, will go to enormous lengths to prevent China from achieving regional hegemony. Most of Beijing’s neighbors, including India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam, will join with the United States to contain Chinese power. The result will be an intense security competition with considerable potential for war. In short, China’s rise is unlikely to be tranquil. (“The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” 2014 edition)


  • I think it is somewhat dangerous to say that Ukraine has the right to self-determination. I don’t think it makes sense to speak in those terms, because the Russians do not think that Ukraine has the right to self-determination. When it comes to foreign policy, the Russians don’t think that Ukraine can just choose any foreign policy it wants, and when you encourage Ukraine to think that it has the right to pursue a foreign policy that leads to it becoming a member of NATO or the EU, you’re basically signing a death warrant for Ukraine. (Interview on “Between The Lines”, 12.06.18)
  • American policy toward Ukraine, motivated by liberal logic, is principally responsible for the ongoing crisis between Russia and the West. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018) 
  • The strategy for making Ukraine part of the West consists of three linked components: NATO enlargement, EU expansion and the Orange Revolution, which aimed at fostering democracy and Western values in Ukraine and thus presumably produce pro-Western leaders in Kyiv. From Moscow’s perspective, the most threatening aspect of that strategy is NATO’s movement eastward. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • [I]t all came to a head with the coup in Kyiv on Feb. 22, 2014. We then had a major crisis that we still face and which shows no signs of going away. What is the solution to this problem? I think the only possible solution is to go back to the situation that existed before 2008. Otherwise, there is no hope of settling this matter. What in particular has to be done? Ukraine has to be turned into a neutral buffer state. The West has to recognize that there is no way it can continue to pursue a set of policies that are designed to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border. (Military Review, 06.01.16)
  • If you want to end this crisis, and you care greatly about the Ukrainian people, and you don’t want to see their country destroyed, then it’s imperative that we back off and give up on the idea of making Ukraine part of the West. Instead, we must work to make Ukraine a neutral buffer state, which it was effectively between 1991 and 2014. (Military Review, 06.01.16)
  • It is too soon to know how this saga will end, but there is good reason to think that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will achieve his primary aim—preventing Ukraine from becoming a Western bulwark. (Foreign Affairs, 11.01.14)
  • [T]he United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia's orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU's expansion eastward and the West's backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine—beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004—were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine's democratically elected and pro-Russian president—which he rightly labeled a "coup"—was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. (Foreign Affairs, 09.01.14)
  • Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics. They tend to believe that the logic of realism holds little relevance in the twenty-first century and that Europe can be kept whole and free on the basis of such liberal principles as the rule of law, economic interdependence and democracy. But this grand scheme went awry in Ukraine. The crisis there shows that realpolitik remains relevant—and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia's border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy. (Foreign Affairs, 09.01.14)
  • Putin's actions should be easy to comprehend. A huge expanse of flat land that Napoleonic France, imperial Germany and Nazi Germany all crossed to strike at Russia itself, Ukraine serves as a buffer state of enormous strategic importance to Russia. No Russian leader would tolerate a military alliance that was Moscow's mortal enemy until recently moving into Ukraine. Nor would any Russian leader stand by while the West helped install a government there that was determined to integrate Ukraine into the West. (Foreign Affairs, 09.01.14)
  • One need only consider the Soviet and U.S. experiences in Afghanistan, the U.S. experiences in Vietnam and Iraq and the Russian experience in Chechnya to be reminded that military occupations usually end badly. Putin surely understands that trying to subdue Ukraine would be like swallowing a porcupine. His response to events there has been defensive, not offensive. (Foreign Affairs, 09.01.14)
  • There is a solution to the crisis in Ukraine, however—although it would require the West to think about the country in a fundamentally new way. The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to Westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer between NATO and Russia, akin to Austria’s position during the Cold War. (Foreign Affairs, 09.01.14)
  • A conventional war between Russia and Ukraine would entail vast military casualties and the possible murder of many thousands of civilians. Russians and Ukrainians have a history of mutual enmity; this hostility, combined with the intermixing of their populations, raises the possibility that war between them could entail Bosnian style ethnic cleansing and mass murder. (Foreign Affairs, 06.01.93)
  • A Ukrainian conventional deterrent is not a viable option because Ukraine cannot build an army powerful enough to stop a Russian attack. Ukraine's army might put up dogged resistance, but it would eventually be defeated. Russia is simply too powerful. The best indicators of latent military power—population, gross national product, industrial output—show Russia to be about three times more powerful than Ukraine. Even if Ukraine had a stalwart conventional deterrent, a nuclear-free Ukraine would still be vulnerable to Russian nuclear blackmail. (Foreign Affairs, 06.01.93)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Washington vigorously promoted so called color revolutions in Georgia (Rose Revolution), Ukraine (Orange Revolution) and elsewhere, in the hope of turning them into liberal democracies. Those countries, of course, are of great strategic importance to Moscow because they share borders with Russia. The United States has also hinted that it would like to encourage a color revolution in Russia itself. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • Any doubts about Russia’s determination to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO should have been dispelled by the Russia-Georgia war in August 2008. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was deeply committed to bringing his country into NATO, decided after the Budapest summit to reincorporate two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which together make up about 20 percent of Georgia’s territory. NATO membership required that these outstanding territorial disputes be resolved, but Putin was not about to let that happen. He preferred to keep Georgia weak and divided and decided to humiliate Saakashvili. (“The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities,” 2018)
  • See also "Other bilateral issues" above.

Thomas Schaffner

Thomas Schaffner is a student web assistant with Russia Matters and a graduate of American University.

Photo by Chatham House shared under a CC BY 2.0 license.