A Letter to ‘The New York Times’

A Letter to ‘The New York Times’

The Grey Lady’s recent editorial on Ukraine and Vladimir Putin was one-dimensional and ideological.


On November 20, The New York Times published an editorial urging—or perhaps warning—Ukraine to resist "Moscow's bullying" and sign an association agreement with the European Union. The editorial was in the spirit of virtually all US media coverage of Ukraine's "strategic decision" and "civilizational choice"—its last chance for democracy and economic prosperity and the West's best hope to stop Putin's attempt, as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton misrepresented his Eurasian Customs Union, "to re-Sovietize the region." All this is another example of the US media's generally one-dimensional and ideological coverage of post-Soviet developments in Russia and other former Soviet republics since 1992. Not surprisingly, when the Ukrainian leadership announced its decision last week against signing the agreement with the European Union, US media commentators, with no factual analysis in mind and egg on their collective face, could only again rage over Putin's "bullying."

The New York Times declined to print my letter pointing out the lack of objective analysis in its editorial. It is posted below.

To the editors:

According to a New York Times editorial,  "The Cold War should be over, " but "not, it appears, for Mr. Putin," who is trying to keep former Soviet republics, particularly Ukraine, from signing binding economic agreements with the European Union. This is the one-eyed axiom of the US political -media establishment, passing for analysis, when it comes to Putin  and to U.S. -Russian relations:

Washington and its European allies ended the cold war nearly 22 years ago, but Putin continues to wage it.

But have the U.S. and Europe really done nothing to provoke Putin's reactions? During these years,  who, for example, expanded the West's cold-war military organization, NATO, to Russia's borders, and still covets Ukraine and Georgia as members; bombed or invaded three of Russia's international partners (Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya) and now threatens a fourth (Iran); and is currently ringing Russia with missile-defense installations? And then there is the editorial's venerable Cold War double standard: "Europe's use of trade leverage … is constructive and reasonable"; but when Putin uses similar carrots—financial loans, discounted energy supplies, access to markets—to persuade Ukraine to join instead his fledgling Eurasian Customs Union, those are "attempts to bludgeon."

Evidently, the Times is unwilling see what the Kremlin sees: the US-led West 's two-decade march toward Russia—political, military, economic—with Ukraine as the biggest prize of all, as its American and European proponents readily acknowledge. Moreover, independent  editorial analysis would ask whether signing with Europe is really in Ukraine's best interests. Ukraine is not "economically robust" but near  default. Will  crisis-ridden Europe bail it out with tens of billions of dollars? Will Ukrainian goods flourish on Western markets? Will Europe open its arms to migrant Ukrainian workers?

Not a word about any of this or about the real issue: the West's ongoing campaign to move the new cold-war divide further East, to the heart of Slavic civilization. Nothing could be more de-stabilizing or more detrimental to the real security of Europe or America.

Read Stephen Cohen's interview with Novaya Gazeta, Russia's leading opposition paper.

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