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. (You can find previous installments of these conversations, now in their fifth year, at TheNation.com.)
On May 9, at a public event jointly sponsored by Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and NYU’s Jordan Center for Advanced Russian Studies, Cohen and McFaul—a Stanford University professor and previously President Obama’s top Russia adviser in the White House and then his ambassador to Moscow—debated a crucial historical but also urgent contemporary subject: “The New US-Russian Cold War—Who Is to Blame?” Cohen argues that unwise American policies since the 1990s have been largely responsible. McFaul, drawing on themes in his new book, From Cold War to Hot Peace, argues that Russia’s leader since 2000, Vladimir Putin, is to blame. (A video of the full debate can be seen here.)
Batchelor plays several statements by Cohen and McFaul at the event, which he and Cohen discuss. Among the main points made by Cohen are the following:
— The new Cold War has unfolded for more than twenty years without any substantive mainstream debate—not in elections, Congress, the media, think tanks, or universities. In a democracy, such debates are the only way to challenge and change official policy. As a result, Washington’s unwise policies toward Moscow have been guided by the same underlying assumptions and principles since the 1990s. This situation is dramatically unlike the preceding 40-year Cold War, when US policy was regularly debated both at high and grassroots levels from the 1960s through the 1980s. And this lack of public debate is one reason why the new Cold War is more dangerous than was its predecessor. Therefore, Cohen emphasizes, if this event sets a precedent, inspires more such debates between representatives of fundamentally opposing American views, as he and McFaul are, there will be no loser only winners in the making of subsequent US policy toward Russia.