TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.
“We’re losing Russia, we’re creating a new cold war, we’re rushing toward hot war,” is how Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen summed up the effect of current US foreign policy in Ukraine and Russia. Appearing on the John Batchelor Show to discuss his latest piece for The Nation, co-written with editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, Cohen cited the major media outlets as complicit in this rush to war, acting as “cheerleaders” for US policy. Cohen says there is a need for debate, but that debate isn’t possible unless there is agreement that, by virtually every measure, “Ukraine is profoundly divided.”
The New York Times reported last week that President Obama and his national security team are forging “a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.” Hawks in the State and Defense Departments are pushing for more comprehensive sanctions and the White House has already drafted a new list of Russian political figures and institutions to target. Speaking on The Thom Hartmann Program, Russia scholar and Nation contributor Stephen Cohen stressed the gravity of this development: “I think future historians are going to look back and say…this is the week that the United States officially declared Cold War on Russia.”
“It is one hand—the hand of war—clapping,” said Nation contributing editor and Russia historian Stephen Cohen during an appearance on the John Batchelor Show Tuesday. With US troops headed to the Baltic states, Cold War rhetoric spewing from the mouths of US officials, and Obama effectively abandoning Vladimir Putin as a negotiating partner, Cohen suggests that a prolonged Cold War–style conflict between Russia and the West is all but inevitable. And if this new Cold War turns hot, says Cohen, American journalists and our “spineless” political class are partially to blame. The absence of a substantive debate—in the media or Congress—over the prudence of the administration’s Russia policy, Cohen said, “is a crushing defeat for democracy.” He added, “I don’t understand how these people are going to explain themselves to history.”
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.
Visit Newstalk for the second part of this conversation.
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.”