US was trying to make Ukraine into "a de facto member of NATO,"according to John Mearsheimer
"They [the Russians] aren't interested in negotiating anymore. They're interested in altering the status quo."
He said the genesis of this conflict was 2008, the decision to try to make Ukraine part of NATO. The crisis breakout was Feb 22, 2014 end of what he calls the 'unipolar moment'). It was then put on the backburner, and then all of a sudden it broke out again.
The obvious solution is perhaps politically impossible, M said. Because America unwilling to make any concessions on NATO. ... Turning Ukraine into an effective buffer, a neutral state, between Russia and NATO, which is what Ukraine was since independence in 1991 until 2014.
Before the problem, the problem has to be solved of the lack of agreement between the pro-Russian Donbas and the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
He said the Russians don't want to negotiate with the UK or Germany or NATO, because they all just do what the Americans ask them to do. So Russia only wants to talk to the US president.
He (speaking a few days before the actual invasion) said Putin probably had no intention of invading, because that would mean 'owning' Ukraine, being an unwanted occupying force, which in the modern world just comes with so much trouble of all sorts. He said Putin must surely understand that. Also that the West would go to great lengths to cripple the Russian economy. Also, without invading, Putin was 'winning.' He had everyone's attention and everyone was trying to talk to him, and that it was now understood in the West that Ukraine was not going to be possible to bring into NATO.
He thinks eventually US and Russia become allies against China, and that China is a bigger threat to Russia than the US is. He didn't, however, see an offramp for the Ukraine crisis (speaking before the invasion).
He said Trump, who wanted to be closer with Putin and pivot to Asia, didn't get his way, but then started to arm Ukraine, 'much tot he chagrin of Russia.'
He noted the contemporary superhigh anti-Putin, anti-Russian sentiment in the US (both parties, and popularly). He didn't know why, except some guesses like remnant associations to do with the Cold War, Putin's always standing up to the US, that Putin heads an authoritarian state and his stance on homosexuality and other social issues. The invention of the Democrat's story that Hillary lost the election because the Russians manipulated the system and caused Trump to win the vote.
He said NATO needs the Russian threat to exist. He said that as to the question of getting European nations to spend 2% on military, "Don't hold your breath." They're basically free-riders. Why spend that if the US is going to take care of you anyway? However, if the US pivots to Asia and 'leaves' Europe, and if Europe perceives Russia as a threat, then EU States would spend more on military. If they have to provide for their own defense. He drew a parallel to Japan, which free rode off the US until China grew to a size where it became a real threat. Japan now faces what they perceive to be an existential threat, and has started to talk more like a 'realist.'
Talking about nuclear weapons, he said that although they have been a force for peace, a deterrent, they weren't much of a factor in Putin's then-possible invasion of Ukraine because the US (Biden) already said if Russia invaded US wouldn't do anything, and even if Americans IN Ukraine were threatened he wouldn't, so they're not really a deterrent in that case. He said what would keep Putin from invading was the costs (invasion, occupation) and the benefits of keeping on without invading (Russia doing well).