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.) In this installment, the discussion takes a broad view of the ongoing and expanding Cold War with Cohen making the following points:
§ Many American policymakers and leading pundits continue to deny there is a new Cold War, apparently because they would have to explain their complicity in the policies that led to it since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, instead of simply blaming Russian President Putin. The possibility that Finland—whose neutrality during the preceding Cold War benefited both sides and Finland itself, and has been suggested as a model for present-day Ukraine—may join the new Cold War against Russia through a bilateral security treaty with the United States, indicates, as Cohen has long argued, that the new rendition may be even more dangerous.
§ Obama’s proposal for US-Russian military cooperation against the Islamic State in Syria, discussed in recent weeks by Cohen and Batchelor, seems to have been suspended or killed by powerful opposition in Washington and in the Obama administration itself. The establishment media have played a significant role in preventing even this mini-détente. Since Obama’s proposal and Putin’s agreement became known, leading newspapers have filled with denunciations of US-Russian cooperation in Syria with scarcely a printed word favoring any rapprochement anywhere. During the preceding Cold War, leading media regularly featured both points of view, but not now.
§ Batchelor asks if there will be any chance of détente if Hillary Clinton becomes president. Cohen agrees that her Russia policies are much more hawkish than are those of Donald Trump, but points to two precedents. Both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan came to the presidency as ardent cold warriors, but both enacted major episodes of détente. Nixon’s, with Soviet leader Brezhnev, failed; but Reagan’s, with Gorbachev, in 1985–88, was so successful that both men thought they had ended the Cold War. However unlikely that Clinton would replicate such a change of thinking and policy, in politics—and especially in regard to Russia, Cohen adds—never say never.
§ Driven by Kiev’s desperation—as the Ukrainian economy tanks, the IMF has again refused billions of dollars of assistance previously promised; Europe increasingly is withdrawing its support, unpersuaded by Kiev’s denial of having sent commandos to Russia’s Crimean peninsula; and Ukrainian President Poroshenko has been excluded from September’s G20 meeting—the government is frantically trying to regain unconditional Western support. (Even Vice President Biden, the overseer of Washington’s “Ukrainian project,” appears to be worried about Kiev’s recklessness.) Kiev will not or cannot negotiate an end to the Ukrainian civil/proxy war and thus seems determined to provoke a larger war with Russia to regain Western support; but its repeated claims that Putin is preparing a “new invasion” lack logic and no longer seem credible to Kiev’s former unconditional Western supporters. Cohen asks, “Can this tail again wag the dog, with dire consequences?”