NED President Carl Gershman’s counterargument to Mearsheimer article

NED President Carl Gershman rejects the argument put forth in by John Mearsheimer (“Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault” September/October 2014) in a article as it appeared in Foreign Affairs.

John Mearsheimer (“Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” September/October 2014) fails to properly consider the Ukrainian people themselves. In his telling, the Ukrainians are passive pawns in the struggle between an aggressive West and a reactive Vladimir Putin. But polls have shown that a majority of Ukrainians would vote to join the European Union in a referendum, and an overwhelming majority oppose Russian interference.

In describing how Western powers provoked Russia, Mearsheimer targets the National Endowment for Democracy as an example of Western social engineering in Ukraine. For proof, he quotes from a Washington Post op-ed I wrote last fall in which I called Ukraine “the biggest prize.” It should be clear to any fair reader, however, what I meant: that Ukraine was the biggest prize for Russia, not for the United States or for the NED, which is publicly funded but entirely independent of the U.S. government. The NED’s objectives in Ukraine, as everywhere, have been and continue to be to support nongovernmental organizations working to strengthen democracy. We supported democratic groups in Ukraine before President Viktor Yanukovych was elected, and we continued to support them afterward. To assert, as Mearsheimer does, that the NED “stepped up its efforts” after Yanukovych’s election because we felt the new president was undermining us misrepresents our philosophy and approach: to help indigenous democratic groups achieve their goals, not ours.