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.) With Kiev sinking into political and economic crisis, Washington is pushing for the American Natalie Jaresko, currently Ukraine’s finance minister, to replace the immensely unpopular Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk as prime minister. Cohen asks why a country of 40 million citizens has to appoint so many foreigners to high-level government positions. As a result, Kiev increasingly resembles an American colony or dependency. That the Western-backed “Maidan Revolution” for “independence,” in February 2014, may be in its death agony, with Ukraine mired in civil war and in economic ruin, was dramatized, Cohen reports, by a top European Union official’s recent statement that the country could not even aspire to EU membership, the professed goal of the Maidan leadership, “in the next 20 to 25 years.” Nearly 10,000 people have died and millions been displaced for a purpose that was ill-fated and unwise from the outset. In the United States, only “Putin’s Russia” is blamed for the tragedy, but Cohen argues that the Obama administration and EU leadership are equally, if not more, responsible.
Batchelor asks if longstanding Russophobia is driving Washington’s fervent opposition to cooperation with Moscow both on Ukraine and now, in regard to the partial ceasefire, on Syria. Cohen thinks that Russophobia, which can be traced to czarist pogroms and the arrival of many Jews in America before the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the revival and intensification of such sentiments during the 40-year Cold War clearly play a role. But, he adds, the current US demonization of Putin is an even more important, virulent, and largely unprecedented factor.
Meanwhile, the Russian Communist Party, long a minority opposition in the post-Soviet parliament, or Duma, is showing new strength among voters as a result of the economic hardships due to the collapse of world prices for Russia’s energy and, to a lesser extent, Western economic sanctions imposed in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. The extent to which this might affect Russian politics and the role of the new parliament to be elected in September remains to be seen. But how seriously Putin takes this potential challenge was indicated by his scathing public attack on the historical role of Lenin, the founder of the Communist Party, in January, essentially for the first time. Cohen and Batchelor discuss various aspects of this new development in domestic Russian politics, especially now, as the 25th anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union and 100th anniversary of the Revolution approach.