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.) By regaining control of Palmyra, a major and ancient city, Cohen argues, the Syrian army and its ground allies, backed by Russian air power, have dealt ISIS its most important military defeat. The victory belies the US political-media establishment’s allegations that Putin’s six-month military intervention was a sinister move designed to thwart the West’s fight against terrorism. Instead, it has gravely wounded the Islamic State, whose agents were behind the terrorist assaults on Paris and Brussels. Indeed, Cohen points out, US–Russian cooperation in Syria, which includes the Geneva peace negotiations, is the result of a kind of mini-détente brokered by Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Not surprisingly, these positive developments are being assailed by the American-led war party, which has redoubled its vilification of Russian President Putin, preposterously accusing him, for example, of “weaponizing the migration crisis” in Europe, even though the crisis began long before Russia’s intervention in Syria. Putin clearly backs Lavrov’s initiatives, even meeting with Kerry several times. Obama’s stance, it seems to Cohen, remains unclear. Neither he nor the American commander of NATO congratulated or otherwise applauded the Syrian-Russian victory in Palmyra, and Obama again went out of his way to insult Putin (twice).
With US backing, the Kerry-Lavrov mini-détente might extend to the political epicenter of the new Cold War, Ukraine. Instead, Cohen explains, Washington is seeking to make the US-born Natalie Jeresko prime minister of Ukraine, putting an American face on the ongoing Western colonization of the Kiev government. Jaresko is also the candidate of the US-controlled IMF, on which Kiev is financially dependent but whose demands for economic austerity measures and “privatization” of state enterprises will almost certainly further diminish the government’s sharply declining popular support and further abet the rise of ultra-right-wing Ukrainian forces and Kiev’s conflict with Russia.
Meanwhile, in recent interviews, Donald Trump has emerged as the only US presidential candidate to challenge Washington’s bipartisan foreign policies that contributed greatly to the new Cold War. As Cohen predicted last week, the American national security establishment has reacted to Trump as an “anti-Christ,” along with the equivalent of the preceding Cold War’s redbaiting. Thus, Hillary Clinton charged that Trump’s less militarized proposals would be like “Christmas in the Kremlin.” The mainstream media has taken the same approach to Trump, thereby continuing to deprive America of the foreign policy debate it urgently needs.