Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments are at TheNation.com.) For nearly three years, Cohen has lamented the absence any pro-détente movement or leader in the US political-media establishment as the new Cold War grows more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor. In his own elliptical and often crude (or non-wonkish) way, Trump has been proposing a new détente-like relationship with Putin’s Russia, as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s longstanding hawkish and anti-Putin stances. Instead of engaging Trump on these issues, political-media elites, including the Clinton campaign itself, have assailed him with McCarthyite allegations of being Putin’s “puppet,” “agent,” “Manchurian candidate,” and “Kremlin client.”
Whatever their feelings about the rest of Trump’s campaign, Cohen and Batchelor explore the important détente-like stands he has expressed on vital issues of the new Cold War, from the role of NATO and the Ukrainian crisis to Western sanctions and Syria. Whatever the validity of Trump’s positions, some of them actually coincide with Obama administration policy and proposals by factions inside the administration. All of these issues have long been discussed by Cohen and Bachelor, but Trump’s apparent willingness to offer a new Russia policy—one that breaks with 25 years of bipartisan consensus—gives them an opportunity to revisit the issues in a more urgent political way.
The installment ends with a discussion of ongoing developments in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, where Russian and Syrian government forces have opened four safe-conduct routes from the embattled city still held by jihadists and their allies. This appears to be prelude to a major Russian-Syrian military campaign to retake this major city, which would be a turning point in the war and open the way to the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa, and onward to the Turkish border. Cohen recalls that Putin had asked Obama to join in the campaign, but opposition in his own administration apparently prevented Obama from agreeing, though that could still change. In any event, the taking of Aleppo could well be the end of the Islamic State in Syria.