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.) The focus is on the Obama administration’s termination of months-long negotiations with Moscow for a joint US-Russian campaign against jihad terrorist forces in Syria. The discussion ranges from Syria to other fronts in the new Cold War, with Cohen making the following points:
§ Cooperation in Syria would have been the first major episode of détente in the new Cold War, indeed the first US-Russian military alliance since World War II, whose spirit might have spread to the dangerous conflicts in Ukraine and on Russia’s border with Eastern Europe, where NATO continues to build up its forces. The long-negotiated Syrian agreement was sabotaged not by Russia, as is alleged in Washington and by the mainstream media, but by American enemies of détente, first and foremost in the Department of Defense. DOD’s opposition was so intense that one of its spokesmen told the press it might disobey a presidential order to share intelligence with Moscow, as called for by the agreement, in flagrant violation of the US constitution. (A New York Times editorial not only failed to protest this threat but seemed to endorse it. Other major media seemed not even to notice the possibility of such a constitutional crisis, another indication of how badly the new Cold War, and the demonization of Russian President Putin, has degraded the US political-media establishment.)
§ The consequences of failed diplomacy in Syria are already evident. American politicians and media are calling for military action against Russian-Syrian forces, in particular, imposition of a “no-fly zone,” which would almost certainly lead to war with Russia. Others call for more economic sanctions against Russia, perhaps to ward off growing West European attitudes favoring an end to existing sanctions. In any event, developments in Syria have now deepened the new Cold War in words and deeds, and this is the case in Moscow as well. Putin, who has long pursued negotiations with the West over the objections of his own high-level hardliners, now seems resolved to destroy the jihadist forces encamped in Aleppo without the American partner he had hoped for. Meanwhile, talk of war also fills Russian media, and the Putin government has just began a highly unusual nation-wide “civil defense” exercise to prepare the country for that eventuality.
§ In short, the collapse of diplomacy in Syria has fully remilitarized US-Russian relations and brought the countries closer to war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Unlike during the preceding Cold War, none of this is being discussed critically in establishment American media. The Times and The Washington Post, for example, publish articles and editorials, one after the other, declaring Putin to be an “outlaw” and “rogue” leader unfit to be an American partner on any front. In the mainstream, no one proposes § or is permitted to propose—any rethinking of US policies that may have contributed to this dire situation. No one asks, for example, if the Kremlin might be right in insisting that the overthrow of the Assad government, the primary US goal, would only strengthen terrorist forces in Syria, whose defeat is Moscow’s primary objective. In this connection, Moscow charges that détente in Syria failed in large part because Washington and its allies continue to arm and coddle, directly or indirectly, Syrian terrorists and their “moderate” anti-Assad abettors. This factor, for which there is considerable evidence, also is not explored or discussed in the US media, even in a presidential election year. Instead, CBS News’s 60 Minutes, which, like the Times, was once a gold standard of professional American journalism, recently broadcast a nuclear warmongering segment giddily marveling that the United States would soon have more “usable” nuclear weapons to deploy against Russia.
§ Cohen and Batchelor end by wondering, yet again, where was the publicly silent President Obama while his proposed détente was being killed by members of his own administration? Russians and West Europeans are also asking this question.