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Web Letter

I encountered a link to this article while reading some of the recent posts on European websites about the war in South Ossetia. What a great find! My thanks to Professor Cohen! Below are some reflections of a Russian-Ukrainian who immigrated to the US in the mid 1990s and deeply felt the changes described in your paper.

Stephen Cohen's article sums up in writing a lot of feelings I have had over the years since my 20s in Moscow as a student through my immigration to the US, up until the last week's war in South Ossetia.

It all began in the late 1980s with high expectations of better relationship between Russia and the US and a safer world for all of us. Gorbachev sold it to everyone as a better alternative to nuclear standoff. But gradually it changed, especially in the desperate '90s when it seemed that the US (and the rest of the Western countries) couldn't care less what happened to Russia--if they could just prolong the agony long enough to have time to grab something from the "garden" while the guard (Yeltsin) is drunk. I recall that I felt at these times that everyone was spitting in Russia's face and the country couldn't do nothing else but to wipe it off and keep stupidly smiling.

I used to listen to the Voice of America when I was in high school in the 1980s, when its brodcasst were barely audible due to jamming. As a student in Moscow in the late '80s, early '90s I used to read The Economist and to watch CNN, which had just been allowed "in," and I trusted what they said. I do not trust Western media anymore. When it comes to reporting about geopolitics, Russia, foreign policy etc., I take it with a big grain of salt. I feel very disappointed and betrayed by the course taken by the US with respect to Russia.

In the last five days of the war in Georgia, there was once again a show put up by the media, a biased and one-sided anti-Russian propaganda of Soviet style, but this is in the US now in 2008! I am disgusted by the fact that the Bush Administration supports and encourages leaders such as Saakashvili to advance "US interesets" at the expense of lives of innocent people in South Ossetia and Georgia. I am disgusted by the fact that America assisted Saakashvili's government in acquiring (and perhaps paying for) bombs and shells dropped on Tskhinvali and on South Ossetian villages. We used to be brainwashed in the USSR that "American imperialists want war and to wipe our free country off the planet." It turns out that not all of this brainwashing was a lie.

I was hoping that a new administration in Washington would change the course regarding Russia, but it is hard to expect it from John McCain, and recently Barack Obama seems to have made statements that conform to the old policies well described in Professor Cohen's article. This sort of "change" apparently and unfortunately is not on the table.

Valery Polkovnichenko

Assistant Professor<br />University of Texas<br />Dallas, TX

Aug 13 2008 - 4:51pm

Web Letter

In a knowledge-based global economy, the US could have made Russia a true friend and partner, but missed the chance. Now, as resource constraints re-emerge, the things are back to a zero-sum game: it's either your oil or mine. Under this new old dispensation, the US has precious little to offer Russia by way of a carrot. So it is increasingly turning to the big stick. I just hope our countries don't annihilate each other for some foolish reason for the next decade or so. Later, as the US cedes its dominance to China, first economically and then militarily, it will truly need Russia for more than oil and gas, and will see Russia, geopolitically, for what it really is: a battleground, not an enemy. It might be too late, however, because the West's actions today are bound to push Russia east. Among other things, this may affect Russia's pipeline route choices. Once its pipes run eastwards, Russia will have locked itself into an uneasy alliance with China, and the lines of Orwell's Oceania-Eurasia conflict will have been drawn.

Anatoly Panov

Moscow, Russia

Aug 13 2008 - 11:19am

Web Letter

I had no problem with the US fighting the cold war before the fall of the Berlin Wall. What we're left with now is a multi-polar world, and not everyone is receptive to liberal Western-style democracy.

Present day Russia and China are gray zones. They're far from the threat to our security posed by Islamic extremism, even though their governments are authoritarian and lack the human rights we take for granted in the West. Yes, we can pay lip service to Western values all we want, but we need to be realists and set priorities. Because we're bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we lack the resources and the will to involve ourselves militarily in Russia.

Anyone who studies Russian history will see it has an authoritarian history going back to the tsars. When societies change, more often than not it's through evolution rather than abrupt change. The best way we can handle Russia is with carrots and sticks. Our policy can be, "Act less belligerent towards your neighbors, and we will trade more freely with you. Act more like one of us, and you can join us."

Steven Kalka

East Rockaway, NY

Aug 13 2008 - 9:47am

Web Letter

Having lived through most of the Cold War, I looked upon it, especially my young adulthood in the 1980s as a time we survived rather than some triumph. The deification of Reagan since the Cold War's end always seemed predicated on the frame that we "won" the Cold War, which didn't make sense to me in the '90s, even allowing that we came out better than Russia. Yet it seemed until I read Mr. Cohen's article that I was the only one that thought so. Unfortunately, what we have to do in the US is more than just our own badly needed regime change, but we have to change our frame of understanding the Cold War's end and the (briefly) unipolar world, and somehow stop taking Reagan as a model.

Eric Ferguson

Minneapolis, MN

Jul 2 2007 - 4:30pm

Web Letter

I was a US military intelligence analyst in West Berlin during the late 1960s, the height of the Cold War. I personally witnessed the grinding and sometimes screeching wheels of that war on both sides. We all lived then in an atmosphere of foreboding and constant fear of nuclear annihilation, a global state of mind that is being tragically revisited in the current world environment. Classic films like Failsafe, Dr. Strangelove and Seven Days in May, among many others, capture the zeitgeist of that era.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union, I for one, given my Berlin experience decades before, felt a deep sense of satisfaction, and fatherly relief for my toddler sons, that the Cold War was apparently ending, and that the civilized world seemed to be moving in a less hysterical, more positive direction. I could actually imagine a direct link between the work I'd performed years before and the eventual outcome of a more peaceful world for my kids.

After reading Dr. Cohen's article, I'm angry, albeit depressingly resigned to the apparent resurgence of the same old provocations, tensions and stupid military "playground" posturing that characterized the Soviet-US relationship of forty years ago, and either directly or indirectly displaced or cost the lives of countless Cold War "pawns" in various hotspots around the world.

By the time this mortal combat again spins out of control--and unless there's some brilliant diplomacy based on innovative new foreign policy (that's bound to happen)--I'll probably be long gone, but my children and their children will have to live with the consequences in a world rejuiced with the insane apocalyptic images of nuclear paranoia. Given the proliferation of nuclear capability in India, Pakistan, North Korea, China and of course Russia, which never lost it, as well as the wild card of potential nuclear terrorism, the stakes will again be "no limit", and the threat of MAD (mutually assured destruction) a white noise in the background of daily life.

9/11, and Bush's exploitation of that horrific terrorist event to mass market the corrupt neocon fantasy of global American hegemony, bannered by the misdirected, pre-emptive war on Iraq, has laid the foundation for a return to nuclear gamesmanship on several international fronts. We see it happening in front of our eyes, vis à vis saber-rattling toward Iran, the resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the deterioration of our "trusted" relationship with Putin's Russia that Mr. Cohen so sharply describes.

It seems to me that the self-aggrandizing, supremely arrogant, amoral leaders of my time in Berlin, best exemplified by the "Prince of Darkness" Henry Kissinger, among many others, have given sick birth to a new crop of similar warmongers, a k a Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Abrams or Feith, intent on re-inventing the Cold War for the perpetual benefit of the fefense industry and the neocon "crusade." George Santayana was and still is prophetic when he wrote, "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them." We're at the head of that class.

Stewart Braunstein

Port Washington , NY

Jul 1 2007 - 9:29am

Web Letter

Bush has given me fits, since his Axis of Evil speech. Bad manners, confrontation and temper tandrums are what passes for diplomacy with this Administration. Bush behaves that way toward everyone. I was pleased to read that at least Dr.Cohen has a good reputation in Russia.

I was also pleased to hear that Putin had an FDR style program going on in Russia. Hopefully , he also has tariffs in place, because development only occurs behind trade barriers. Kick the multinationals out and develop a Russian internal market first. This is how the U.S. became a major industrial power. Russia for the Russians. As a bonus, it will give Bush fits.

In my small way, I have complained about Bush's confrontational attitude toward Russia. It was stupid to push into Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe should have been neutral ground. They could have made their own little common market. The Missile Defense System is worthless and is mainly corporate welfare. The EU is wasting their money. It is just stupid.

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Jun 29 2007 - 1:56pm

Web Letter

What is really being discussed here is political dominance, or who shall rule, mankind's bane throughout all of history. The Russians want to control their sphere, the US wants to control their sphere. The spheres overlap. Foolish people accept control and belonging to a sphere. Our ancestors solved this problem and many more. Fact and reason determines final outcomes, independent of contrary opinions or force applied. Fasten your seat belts while this farce plays out.

The "rule of law" is a precisely defined law. It is the highest law of mankind, stated below:

"the suppression of forceful and fraudulent methods of goal seeking"

"all are treated equally by the law". This means ALL, including king and judges

"absolute property rights"

This in turn is based on the fact that human behavior (the topic of law) is about goal seeking. In the seeking of any goal, there are only three possible methods: force, fraud and honest trade. Any transaction that is not an honest, mutually agreed trade will cause a self-defensive response (conflict) from the victim whose survival has been affected.

"The Rule of Law" is the glue that keeps all of mankind acting together in common interest, tied together by mutual dependence of trade, on an evolutionary path to excellence. Force and fraud creates conflict and destroys civilizations. Mankind is now on a devolutionary path to extinction because the co-operation once forced by "the rule of law" has been replaced by legitimizing force and fraud for those who incorrectly believe they wield power.

Rule of Law: Defined; Purpose of, Reasons for.

Bill Ross

Ottawa, Ontraio, Canada

Jun 9 2007 - 4:19pm

Web Letter

Amazing article. Truthful analysis. I am very glad that in the USA there are people capable of soberly thinking and stating a real estimation of American policy relative to Russia. The article--in a gold frame and to hang up on a wall of the Oval Office...Greetings from Russia!

Vladimir Bolshakov

Moscow, Russia

May 10 2007 - 6:45pm

Web Letter

My dad served 4 years in the Russian army. He always said the cold war would never end and that Russia would revert to communism. He even owned the world's largest soup spoon to hammer his point home (on my head and my brothers). As a result I wrestled pro as a Russian villain for 3 years and endured every threat imaginable from the audience in Canada, England and the U.S.

The recent deportation of a spy from Canada and poisoning in England adds fuel to the fire. Here's something you may enjoy. It's a cold war analogy for a cold formula(Buckley's). I wrote it specifically for the most patriotic nation on the planet.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COl-MqpydaE

Kudos on your article and I hope you enjoy my clip. Hopefully a brand may see its potential.

Richard Krupa

Brantford , Ontario, Canada

Feb 17 2007 - 1:57pm

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