Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian cold war. American Secretary of State Kerry’s meeting with Russian President Putin, on December 15, frames the discussion.
Cohen interprets Kerry’s public remark that when Washington and Moscow work together, good things happen, as a call for a partnership in resolving the Ukrainian conflict and for a coalition against the Islamic State in Syria—in effect, a major departure from current Obama administration policy of cold war and “isolating Russia.” But will Kerry be backed by the White House, Cohen asks, recalling that a similar initiative by Kerry in May was torpedoed by Vice President Biden and his allies in the State Department and Senate.
Cohen and Bachelor then discuss the mounting crises in Ukraine and Syria, the main topics of the Kerry-Putin meeting, and how the United States and Russia might cooperate in coping with them. In this connection, Cohen points to the decision the European Union will make later this week about whether or not to end its economic sanctions against Russia, noting that several European governments, led by Italy, want the sanctions ended, but that under US pressure they will probably be extended, however incongruously.
Cohen also notes a series of recent anti-Russian provocations, including the Turkish shooting-down of a Russian warplane and a more recent incident at sea, that seem to be a coordinated political war against Russia. He asks, are the people behind these provocations—in Washington, Brussels and elsewhere—aware that they are risking actual war with Russia, or do they actually seek it?