TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.
A meeting of senior diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union concluded last week in Geneva with a one-page agreement requiring all sides to disarm and vacate occupied buildings and public squares. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. But, as Stephen Cohen cautions, “it would be a mistake to think that the diplomats who sat down in Geneva this week control the situation.” Cohen, a Russian studies scholar and a regular contributor to The Nation, joins Shona Murray on Newstalk to gauge the significance of the accord and other recent events. “There have been mixed developments,” Cohen says, noting that the worst-case scenario—a widespread civil war drawing in both Russia and the United Sates—has so far been averted, but that armed militants on both sides have yet to lay down their arms.
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Shortly after the interview aired, Reuters revealed that a fatal gunfight broke out Sunday morning near Slavyansk, a city in Eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. For more on the situation in Ukraine, listen to Cohen on KQED Radio.
What is Vladimir Putin’s plan in Ukraine? This key question has reverberated around newsrooms in the weeks since Russia officially annexed Crimea in late March. According to Nation contributor and Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Putin’s political thinking is profoundly influenced by “the moment he came to power, with Russia in collapse and disintegration and his self-perceived mission…to save Russia.” For Putin, reclaiming influence in former Soviet territories is a reflexive reaction against the encroaching power of the West, led by the United States. “No matter all of the good things we say about democracy and sovereignty and prosperity, American military, economic and political power has been coming at Russia for twenty years.”
“For the first time in my lifetime, since the Cuban missile crisis, hot war with Russia is imaginable,” Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman on Thursday. Cohen, a Russia historian and expert on US-Russia relations, slammed the Obama administration for suggesting that the crisis in Ukraine was exclusively due to “Putin’s meddling,” and warned against a build-up of NATO forces near Russia’s borders. In an effort to end the crisis, Russia, Ukraine, the US and the European Union will begin talks today in Geneva. “Putin will compromise at these negotiations,” Cohen warned, “but he will not back off if confronted militarily.”
Russia scholar and longtime Nation contributor Stephen Cohen joins John Batchelor to discuss the deepening crisis in Ukraine. He says that as the conflict escalates, so too does the possibility of a military confrontation between the United States–NATO and Russia: “It’s hard to imagine a civil war in Ukraine without the United States and NATO intervening on one side [and] Russia [intervening] on the other.” Cohen considers what it will take to avoid this worst-case scenario.
Friction between Russia and the West remains high as Ukrainians prepare for a presidential election scheduled for May 25. Russia has mobilized as many as 40,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border and NATO is making moves along Ukraine’s western border. Pro-Russian demonstrators have seized government buildings in several towns in Eastern Ukraine—Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk—and de facto government in Kiev is calling for United Nations peacekeepers to intervene. The Nation’s editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel joined Sonali Kolhatkar on Uprising Radio to discuss this unfolding crisis.
“We are witnessing civil war,” vanden Heuvel says, one that was “triggered by the European Union’s reckless ultimatum—despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer of a tripartite agreement—which compelled an elected president of a deeply divided country to choose economically between the West and Russia.” She says that a cooling of tensions is still very much within the realm of possibilities, but cautions that peace has its preconditions. First, diplomacy between Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU needs to proceed in good faith. Additionally, all Ukrainians must be fairly represented in the upcoming presidential elections—and Kiev must take seriously the idea of granting more autonomy to regional administrations.
For more on the US’s role in the crisis, read vanden Heuvel’s post, “Thanks to Republicans, the World Just Got a Little More Dangerous.”
Could next week’s meeting with leaders from the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine de-escalate regional tensions and reduce the likelihood of war? Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen appears on the John Batchelor Show to weigh in on the implications of diplomatic talks, Western media coverage of the crisis and Ukraine’s identity issues. “If in fact you have an ultranationalist movement taking over Western Ukraine, a pro-Russian movement taking over Eastern Ukraine, that is a kind of de facto partition of the country already,” which means, says Cohen, “the government in Kiev doesn’t control anything, neither west nor east.”
Last month the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a series of proposals for mediating the international confrontation over Ukraine. Controversially, the Russian plan includes the creation of a negotiating group that would exclude the government in Kiev. Russia also wants Ukraine to adopt a federal model of government with vast regional autonomy, as well as to commit to never joining NATO. Longtime Nation contributor Stephen Cohen joins Pacifica Radio’s Beneath The Surface with Suzi Weissman to discuss Russia’s “diplomatic overture,” which Western diplomats and media have largely disregarded. “I think the Russians are right about this,” says Cohen. “You need to have a constitution and a state that reflects the reality of the two Ukraines.”
After being released on bail following a 115-day detention, Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah sat down for an exclusive interview with Nation Institute fellow and Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo on Sunday. Kouddous, who has chronicled Alaa’s persecution by Egyptian leadership for The Nation, spoke to the activist about his most recent arrest, his experience in solitary confinement and the military government's ongoing crackdown on dissent. Alaa still faces charges and tells Kouddous it's "quite likely" that he’ll be convicted and imprisoned again. "They are on a sentencing frenzy," he says, explaining that Egypt’s new protest law makes it easier to charge protesters. "It’s almost as if it’s a war on a whole generation."
Editor’s note: The interview starts at 14:43
Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, President Obama criticized Russia for running “roughshod over its neighbors” and reaffirmed Washington’s endorsement of the de facto government in Kiev. He acknowledged that the West was not prepared to use military force to retrieve Crimea, but assured the anxious Baltic States bordering Russia that they are safe under NATO's auspices. Russia scholar and longtime Nation contributor Stephen Cohen joined Bloomberg Radio’s The Hays Advantage to give his take on the situation in Ukraine. Cohen says the provocations coming from all sides—Moscow, Washington, Brussels and Kiev—are fueling “the worst crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis internationally between the United States and Russia.” Presently some 20,000 Russian troops have been assembled on the Russian border with Eastern Ukraine, and NATO commanders and ministers in Washington and Brussels are discussing the possibility of moving NATO troops into Western Ukraine. “A lot of this is bluster and show, but we can’t be sure,” Cohen says. “We need immediately to demilitarize everything—the rhetoric, the troop movements and the rest—because there is a diplomatic way out.” Indeed, there has to be, for the alternative to a negotiated settlement between the US and Russia is, as Cohen puts it, “unthinkable.”
"It's tough for me to imagine The Nation without his thoughtful, humane, powerful voice," said Nation Editor and Publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, remembering journalist Jonathan Schell—who passed away this week. Vanden Heuvel appeared on As it Happens with Carol Off & Jeff Douglas (segment begins at 9:05 into the clip) on Thursday, where she paid tribute to a writer whose lifelong commitment to peace and justice found him reporting from Vietnam in 1967, advocating nuclear disarmament and harshly criticizing the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. In the last years of his life, Schell had started work on a book addressing the ecological crisis. "He was a man of conviction," says vanden Heuvel, sustained by a deep belief in the "power of the people."