Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at NYU and Princeton, and John Batchelor continue their (usually) weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fifth year, are at TheNation.com.) Cohen’s contribution follows:
For nearly two years, mostly vacuous (though malignant) Russiagate allegations have drowned out truly significant news directly affecting America’s place in the world. In recent days, for example. French President Emmanuel Macron declared “Europe can no longer rely on the United States to provide its security,” calling for instead a broader kind of security “and particularly doing it in cooperation with Russia.” About the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin met to expand and solidify an essential energy partnership by agreeing to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, despite US attempts to abort it. Earlier, on August 22, the Afghan Taliban announced it would attend its first ever major peace conference—in Moscow, without US participation.
Thus does the world turn, and not to the wishes of Washington. Such news would, one might think, elicit extensive reporting and analysis in the American mainstream media. But amid all this, on August 25, the ever-eager New York Times published yet another front-page Russiagate story—one that if true would be sensational, though hardly anyone seemed to notice. According to the Times’ regular Intel leakers, US intelligence agencies, presumably the CIA, has had multiple “informants close to…Putin and in the Kremlin who provided crucial details” about Russiagate for two years. Now, however, “the vital Kremlin informants have largely gone silent.” The Times laces the story with misdeeds questionably attributed to Putin and equally untrustworthy commentators, as well as a mistranslated Putin statement that incorrectly has him saying all “traitors” should be killed. Standard US media fare these days when fact-checkers seem not to be required for Russia coverage. But the sensation of the article is that the US had moles in Putin’s office.
Skeptical or credulous readers will react to the Times story as they might. Actually, an initial, lesser version of it first appeared in The Washington Post, an equally hospitable Intel platform, on December 15, 2017. I found it implausible for much the same reasons I had previously found Christopher Steele’s “dossier,” also purportedly based on “Kremlin sources,” implausible. But the Times’ new, expanded version of the mole story raises more and larger questions.