Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. Cohen begins by emphasizing that in the aftermath of terror attacks on Paris and on a Russian passenger jetliner, the US-led West must decide whether to continue its unnecessary cold war against Russia or join Moscow in a “grand coalition” against the Islamic State and kin terrorist movements in the Middle East, as called for both by Russian President Putin and French President Hollande.
During the two weeks since the attacks on Paris, Cohen points out, the proponents and opponents of rapprochement with Russia are becoming clear. Much of Europe, led now by Hollande, favors a coalition and is already working with Moscow. The foes of an alliance with Russia have also clearly emerged in different ways, from editorialists at The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal to the shadowy forces in Ukraine re-escalating conflict between Kiev and Moscow and the plotters behind the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian fighter plane, possibly over Syria, not Turkey. Though a few American political influentials have come out for coalition with Russia, most of the mainstream media appear to be opposed, as does the Obama administration and Congress.
Specific issues discussed include events in Crimea; the new cold war between NATO-member Turkey and Russia; the efficacy of Moscow’s air war against terrorists in Syria; President Obama’s dismissive comments about Putin’s leadership; and the issue that seems most to divide them—whether Syrian President Assad must be part of the struggle against the Islamic State. Cohen also points out that Assad’s army is currently the most effective “boots on the ground” fighting ISIS; and that US presidential candidates calling for an imposed no-fly zone over Syria are recklessly courting actual war with Russia, whose war planes fly there daily.