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Getting Drunk While Discussing Ukraine, Propaganda, and Public Facing Scholarship

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Taras Kovalchuk’s apartment is located near a regional administration building that was hit in a Russian military attack [Taras Kovalchuk/Al Jazeera]

I recently released a “special” episode of Whiskey and IR Theory. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and I reflect on the curious case of John Mearsheimer and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We discuss the ethics of public-facing scholarship; we also cover some of the specifics of Mearsheimer’s article and talk on the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Isaac Chotiner’s interview, which Scott already blogged about, makes a brief appearance. It runs two hours, so it really does have a niche appeal.

I’ve been wavering about how much to criticize him. I’ve almost always found John to be pleasant. He’s admirably dedicated to undergraduate and graduate education.

The substance of his 2015 talk, unfortunately, makes clear that he’s become a conduit for Russian disinformation; the timeline that he presents as “just the facts” is riddled with minor errors and major misrepresentations. It’s been viewed millions of times, and I’ve seen members of the anti-imperialist left use exactly the same language as Mearsheimer.

Of course, we’re also talking about a case of fascist aggression. So there are things that need saying.

ETA: I misread my notes and mischaracterized two elements of Mearsheimer’s talk. First, Mearsheimer does mention Putin’s coercive diplomacy. He says that Putin “put enormous pressure” on Yanukovych.  Second, Mearsheimer does mention the anti-corruption implications of an agreement with the EU. He says that “the Ukrainians” didn’t want the deal because the “Ukrainians” are “corrupt.”

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