Friday, January 14, 2005

Stephen F. Cohen's Yearning for Stalin

For your daily dose of insanity, head on over to The Nation to read Stephen F. Cohen latest descent into madness: The Media's New Cold War

In this piece Cohen castigates nearly every western news outlet for preferring the pro-western faction in the recent political troubles in Ukraine. Russia, so says Cohen, has lots of geopolitical reasons for interfering with the internal workings of Ukraine. The west doesn't. So there. The notion that Ukraine, as a sovereign nation, should be free to sort her own politics out is out of the question for Cohen. Seemingly, Ukraine can only exist by Russia's indulgence. As a result Cohen has no problem with the possibility of Russia being involved in the assassination attempt on Viktor Yushchenko. Hell, the dioxin poisoning is not even mentioned in the lengthy article.

At its heart Cohen's article seems to express a deep and unreserved longing for the Soviet Union. Cohen even claims that half of Ukrainians long for just such a return of communist hegemony over their lives. Cohen thinks that would be just swell. Obviously, the more slave-like Ukrainians need to be told what to do by the more masterly Russians. Maybe if we had a repeat of the Soviets forced "migration" and starvation campaigns against Ukrainians we could reach near unanimity in support for Russia in Ukraine. Why not? What's a genocide between neighbors?

What amazes me is that Cohen so readily buys into the "isolation" fantasy. Russia today sounds a little like Germany pre-WWI, so paranoid that an all out coalitional war was inevitable. But there is one big difference today; no one is competing with Russia as they were with Germany. Russia, if it ever can break free from its phobic paranoia, can just as readily join with the western nations as Ukraine is attempting to, or as places like Poland and the Czech Republic already have. No one is competing with Russia because it represents nothing, unless you think their strange oligarchic anarchy is something anyone would want to emulate. What does Russia have that the EU or the US could possibly want enough to isolate and destroy them for? The answer is of course nothing. The west does not want an isolated Russia, they want a Russia fully integrated and engaged with the west. Yes, the goal is a future where Russia is in NATO, and a part of the economic vitality of Europe.

Russian isolation can only happen through Russian actions. It is just strange to see people like Cohen wanting to help Russia in this self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Memo to Stephen F. Cohen: Uncle Joe is dead and likely to remain so. In case you didn't know, that's a very good thing.


Basket said...

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Chercher le temps et quelques comment terrien ici.

Blog agréable.

Je devrai revenir plus tard.

from Russia said...

Cohen words is true, in view of majority of russians, Putin is to much patient to "west". Here all wait when Russia start defend itself.

JFK said...

Cohen is totally right. In contrary to the New York Times and Washington Post, lobbying the interests of the Anti-Russian wing in the White House, this article is the first I have seen with such a deep going analysis. For the first time I see a variety of facts which are, although known, never presented to a large public. Unfortunatelly, the comment above shows that there is no real desire to understand and correctly evaluate the situation in Russia. Hats off, Mr. Cohen.

worker bee said...

Wanting a return of Uncle Joe is like now wanting a return of Uncle Saddam. While neither of these rulers were good from our western perspective the alternative could be much worse. We see this now in Iraq- well, as little as the western pro-government media will allow. Some day we may see the same from Russia and its anti-NATO allies, can you say North Korea? Does this mean isolation? I don't think so. But it does mean approaching world problems from a Cohen-like analysis instead of fantasy wishing like Russia joining NATO! The military industrial complex REQUIRES an enemy and western profits REQUIRE the military industrial complex. Globalization means that enemy camps become global as well. The economy wasn't even that global during the first cold war. I can only hope that, at the least, there is a detente in the worlds future because the barbarism to come could destroy us all. A better alternative would be a whole new way- oh but then you'd attack me with Uncle Leon, Aunt Rosa and Uncle Valdmir...

worker bee said...

Ooops forgot the most important alternative of all, Grandpa Karl!

Researcher said...

Well, I am afraid this posting has shown in the first hand your lack of undertanding of economical factors behids those politics.

First of all, Russia still seems to have a lot that EU or US would like to isolate: all the R&D know-how. Knowledge is still an extremely valuable weapon.

Secondly, you are comparing Russia with countries like Poland or Czech Republic, but such comparison is not legitimate if you would look at the historical backgrounds of those countries.

Finally, you are indeed lacking facts supporting many of your statements (e.g. dioxin poisoning statement). This already can be read as a disclaimer saying "Sorry, but I have no idea what am I talking about".

I definitely respect the fact that you are expressing yourself, but I have an advice to you. You might enjoy checking the facts presented by both sides instead of just accepting the information given to you (BTW, this is exactly that what propaganda is about - making people forgetting the critical process).

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The Iconic Midwesterner said...

It is strange how popular this old post is. It gets read 10 or 12 times a week...but I haven't been noticing the comments until now. And I didn't want to let other get the last word if I can help it.

"Well, I am afraid this posting has shown in the first hand your lack of undertanding of economical factors behids those politics."

Funny, when you say 'economical factors' all I hear is Russian imperial hubris. Russia already has every "economical" advantage over places like Ukraine (or Latvia, or Lithuania, or Estonia, or Georgia, or anywhere else they feel like throwing their weight around.)

But, in the larger sense, I don't give a fig about Russia's economic concerns, if following them entails destroying the sovreignty of her neighbors. Call him Tsar Putin or Comrade Putin, the drive for Imperial dominion is the same.

"Finally, you are indeed lacking facts supporting many of your statements (e.g. dioxin poisoning statement)."

There is not a government in the western world that doesn't believe this happened. Maybe they don't think it happened on Tverskaya
street, but that is not my problem (or my delusion.)

"First of all, Russia still seems to have a lot that EU or US would like to isolate: all the R&D know-how. Knowledge is still an extremely valuable weapon."

This misses my point. The point is if Russia doesn't attempt to rebuild their lost empire there wont be anything to isolate. And the onus would be squarely on the Russians. They would isolate themselves.

And so what if Russian history is differnt from Poland and the Czech Republic. The difference between Russian and Polish histories for the last 75 years are much closer than the history of Poland compared to France or England, and yet Poland is making a go of it.

You are using Russian history not as a reason but as an excuse.

As for the rest of the commentators, thanks but no thanks. My penile function seems to be just fine.

Anonymous said...

I think your brief editorial keeps getting read because it addresses (if indirectly) a topic that is becoming more current all the time: the baffling appearance of Putin apologists among u.s. academics. Cohen leads the pack in the bizarre theses he is willing to entertain, like open nostalgia for the "stability" of the old Soviet Union (one wonders if he has talked to any Estonians about this), but he is far from alone. Their numbers are growing apace with Gazprom's profits, and took a sharp climb about 2 years ago, when the Kremlin started talking about the need to burnish Russia's image by hiring -- openly or otherwise -- some P.R. help in the West.

Anonymous said...

I have the impression the post is written for those with zero knowledge of history of Europe, International Relations, Sovietology, etc. Stephen Cohen was one of the very few to have seen the fall of the Soviets. He was also one of the few to dare to confront the horrendous US establishement which brught so much havoc and poverty over the European post-communist countries. At least for that, the oh so very iconic Midwhatever could put this article on Cohen in the broader picture of his writings - I know, to deal with a writer who respects his object of study (in this case Russia, no I am not Russian) is unusual in the US

les meilleurs salutations,

A European citizen

who would like to see the Chicago School idiots and Prof. Jeffrey Sachs in front of some international tribunal from crimes against humanity

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

With all due respect 'European citizen', you strike me as a moral degenerate. Russian/Soviet history is not some arcane field of study which only the specially initiated may venture. Its varied impacts upon world history, art, literature and my own field of political philosophy is simply too vast to be cornered by a cabal of russophiles who play nursemaid to Russian fantasies of myraid secret plots out to do them in.

Besides, the idea that Russia is being "encircled" is patently absurd, and always has been.

Also yopu seem to be completely ignorant of the image of the United States in Eastern Europe (which doesn't surprise me as you seem to be some kind of Marxist - and Marxists are never ones to let reality get in the way of a good fairy story.) The US gets very high favorable ratings in Eastern Europe (hell...57% of Russians viewed us favorably in 2010 according to PEW, though that pales in comparison to the 74% of Poles that view the US favorably. Just think of all the people you'd have to put in the firing line with Dr. Sachs!)

Besides, had you given my blog an even cursory search you would have discovered this was not the only time I wrote about Cohen.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

From 2007:

What is striking about the thrust of the argument here is that every U.S. action in "New Europe" must be subservient to placating Russia. Indeed, Applebaum only mentions Putin's criticisms in the piece and says nothing about how the governments in Poland or the Czech Republic view the matter. Why, in a piece ostensibly about these Eastern European countries, does Applebaum basically ignore them?

The answer is that they are not important, at least to [Anne] Applebaum and her ilk. For them, the U.S. can have no real interest in these countries [Easter Europe] because the pundits feel they properly belong to Russia's sphere of influence. The classical expression of this view can be seen in Stephen F. Cohen's The New American Cold War. In this view every whim of Russia to be involved in the internal workings of the countries that used to make up her empire, including the satellite nations, must be given priority. Thus, to these zealots the U.S. being involved politically and militarily with countries that were brutally repressed by Russia in the not so distant past is really:

"A growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by US and NATO bases, which are already ensconced or being planned in at least half the fourteen other former Soviet republics, from the Baltics and Ukraine to Georgia, Azerbaijan and the new states of Central Asia. The result is a US-built reverse iron curtain and the remilitarization of American-Russian relations."

For Cohen, the desires of the actual nations involved are immaterial. He doesn't mention them because he doesn't care about them. That tens of millions might look for friendship from a powerful U.S. because of the historical abuse they received from the imperial ambitions of Russia doesn't register to Cohen in the least. And folks like Applebaum and Fred Kaplan seem to be along with that point of view as well.

I once accused Cohen of "yearning for Stalin." I may have jumped the gun there. Cohen doesn't need Stalin. Putin suits him just fine.

What Cohen really seem to yearn for is a new Yalta. He wants Europe divided into spheres of influence, and where Russia is given sway all U.S. influence is, by definition, illegitimate. I suppose Cohen thinks of himself as a frustrated Metternich, but he doesn't realize Metternichs only work in an autocratic world. Or maybe Cohen does realize that, which might explain why the democratic aspirations of Eastern Europe matter to him not at all.

Cohen might retort that the choice is between his hard bitten "realism" and some idealistic pie in the sky vision of democracy.

I'd reply that the people of Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia and all the other places that wish to determine their own fate seem real enough to me.

Of course, for the likes of you "European Citizen" the fate of Hungary in 1956 is something you would evidently like to revisit on all of the countries in Eastern Europe today. Whether that is from ideological fervor or sheer stupidity (but I'm being redundant), it marks you as a moral pygmy if ever there were one.