Must-See TV: America's Leading Russia Specialist Blasts US Policy

"NATO expansion into Eastern Europe could lead to nuclear war"

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For Russia watchers, this is must-see TV.  

Stephen Cohen is the most authoritative American voice criticizing US policy towards Russia, which he thinks is a disaster.  Cohen has an illustrious academic career covering Russia at Princeton University and is very highly regarded, despite withering attacks on him from neo-con publications like The New Republic, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of Cohen's criticism.  He combines the reputational heft, the insight, the delivery style, and a platform (The Nation magazine, published by his wife), to administer devastating criticism.  He is one of the few in the US who are able to do this.  In this interview he is remarkably successful in scoring some serious hits.

This is really good TV, and RT's Sofia Shevardnadze does a good job dialoging with the formidable Cohen, not an easy feat.

While discussion ranged from Ukraine to the disgraceful state of American journalism, Cohen's overarching message was that NATO expansion to Russia's doorstep has a created a new cold war, one in which nuclear war is a very real possibility, especially if the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine collapses. 

Cohen cited the late George Kennan, "considered the wisest man in America about Russian-American relations", who once warned that NATO expansion into Eastern Europe was "a terrible, reckless, stupid decision and it will lead to a new cold war." Going even further, Cohen remarked that the eastward expansion of NATO has effectively ended constructive diplomatic relations between Eastern Europe and Russia, pointing out that former Soviet bloc nations can now "punch Russia in the nose and hide behind NATO." 

The West's "new" cold war posturing and rhetoric is best exemplified by the US Senate, where "the War Party...has been drafting a very harsh, cold war law to punish Russia in many ways and moreover make it possible to send weapons to countries that are not part of NATO but were former parts of the Soviet Union."

Furthermone, Cohen argued that sanctions against Russia are a dangerous, short-term solution to problems which require real diplomacy: "Look what's happening in Europe. The European economy is down. Italian and French farmers are furious at their governments in the EU because the Russian market is closed to them...sanctions cut both ways. " 

Cohen observed that mainstream American political thought is largely shaped by sensational television networks and the three major American dailies - The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, creating a warped, hostile attitude towards Russia. 

Although lamenting the fact that Obama appears to be woefully misinformed about Russia, and that "we don't even know who advises [him]... In the past, we always knew to whom the president listened," Cohen is still confident that a peaceful, diplomatic solution to NATO-Russian tensions and the conflict in Ukraine is still possible. 


This post first appeared on Russia Insider

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