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How Obama Can Avert Another Cold War | The Nation

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How Obama Can Avert Another Cold War

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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state-of-the-nation address in December. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.)

Editor’s Note: This excerpt is cross-posted from the Washington Post. Read the full text of Cohen's column here.

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Stephen F. Cohen
Stephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University. His ...

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In a wide-ranging conversation, he discusses the surveillance state, the American political system and the price he’s paid for his understanding of patriotism.

We recently met with the courageous whistleblower for over three hours in Moscow for a wide-ranging conversation on surveillance, technology and politics.

The domestic problems facing President Obama have obscured an equally grave crisis: the unfolding Cold War-like relationship between Washington and Moscow. The recent spate of punitive legislation and abrogated agreements on both sides reflects a larger, and growing, antagonism. A new Cold War would further diminish, if not end, Russia’s cooperation in vital areas of U.S. national security—including not just North Korea, China, Afghanistan and the Middle East but also the prevention of international terrorism and nuclear proliferation. It would also almost certainly trigger a renewed nuclear arms race—instead of the deeper cuts that Obama wants—with the attendant dangers and budgetary burdens.

Why is another Cold War possible two decades after the Soviet Union ended? The U.S. policy establishment dates the causes to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power 10 years ago, blaming his policies. A more historical analysis, however, would date the primary factors from the 1990s and locate them in Washington.

Moscow has bitterly resented four components of U.S. policy since they were initiated by the Clinton administration: NATO’s expansion (now including European missile-defense installations) to Russia’s borders; “selective cooperation,” which has meant obtaining concessions from the Kremlin without meaningful White House reciprocity; “democracy promotion” in Russia’s domestic politics, which is viewed by Russian leaders as interference; and the general sense, repeatedly voiced in high-level Moscow circles, that “the Americans do not care about our national security.”

Editor’s Note: This excerpt is cross-posted from the Washington Post. Read the full text of Cohen's column here.

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