Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and John Batchelor continue their (usually) weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fourth year, are at TheNation.com.)
Cohen has been warning about the danger of an American–post–Soviet Cold War for nearly 20 years. During those years, representatives of the US political-media establishment have insisted that such a recapitulation was impossible because Russia was too weak; any US-Russian conflicts were regional, not global, and limited; and because the two countries now had the same social-economic system, capitalism, there was no ideological conflict between them. Any attentive observer of relations between Washington and Moscow at least since the early 2000s could have seen the unfolding reality, but only recently have authoritative representatives of the bipartisan American establishment acknowledged the new Cold War or “second Cold War with Russia.” It was openly declared by the highly influential and fully bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations. It is implicit in the US Department of Defense’s February Nuclear Posture Review, which specifies Russia as a global threat. And it underlies daily Russiagate allegations that “the Kremlin attacked American democracy” in 2016 and is now attacking democracies around the world. Indeed, these hyperbolic accounts often make “Putin’s Russia” appear to be more menacing, invidious, and looming than was the Soviet Union.
Which, Cohen continues, if “American won the Cold War” that began in the late 1940s, as has long been almost universally asserted in the United States, how to explain today’s “second Cold War with Russia”? This raises two large historical questions little discussed today, certainly in the mainstream mass media. How and when did the preceding long Cold War end? And when and where did the new Cold War begin? There are two conflicting explanatory narratives regarding both questions.