Nation Contributing Editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions, now in their fourth year, of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments are at TheNation.com.) This installment is, however, different. Batchelor and Cohen are joined by renowned filmmaker Oliver Stone, and their discussion focuses on Stone’s four hours of interviews with Putin now being broadcast on Showtime.
As do The Putin Interviews, the discussion, led by Batchelor, ranges very widely, from Putin’s childhood and upbringing in the Soviet Union to the problems he faced at home and the many conflicts in US-Russian relations during his nearly 17 years as Russia’s leader. Some of the events discussed will be familiar to Americans, others will not. Some of Putin’s statements and attitudes may come as a surprise. Among the subjects are, of course, Putin’s thinking about President Donald Trump and the Russia-related scandals now wracking Washington. But if, as Cohen argues, Putin is the most consequential national leader of the early 21st century, the importance of encountering him firsthand, so to speak, can hardly be exaggerated.
Cohen’s main point is one that he has often made in his weekly discussions with Batchelor: The United States is fully in a new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia, while at the same time having vital national-security interests that fully coincide with Russia’s—first and foremost, the existential danger to both nations, and to the world, represented by a new kind of international terrorist movements that are in search of radioactive materials to make their bombings incalculably more lethal. A US-Russian anti-terrorism alliance is the only hope of diminishing this looming threat. Each time such an alliance has seemed politically within reach, beginning in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it has been thwarted, not the least by the US political-media establishment’s demonizing of Putin as an unworthy partner for America. This is now happening again in the conflict between President Trump’s stated wish “to cooperate with Russia,” beginning in Syria, and the purported scandal known as “Russiagate.” Given Oliver Stone’s very up-close interviews with Russia’s leader, Americans can now decide for themselves—apart from the mainstream media—about Putin, about where real threats lie, and about what should be their nation’s priorities.