Democracy Now has the interview “We Are Not Beginning a New Cold War, We are Well into It”: Stephen Cohen on Russia-Ukraine Crisis.
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, I think you’ve emphasized the absolute flaw in at least the American—because I don’t follow the European press that closely—the American media and political narrative. As a historian, I would say that this conflict began 300 years ago, but we can’t do that. As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.
In my previous post Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors, I admitted to the possibility that the speaker was going overboard in his analysis. What I have been reading since then, and this interview seems to strengthen the case that the previous speaker was far from alone in his analysis.
Your assessment as to who is giving you the straight poop and who is just giving you poop, depends somewhat on which media you trust. However, there are certain things you can assess for yourself.
STEPHEN COHEN: You left out one thing that he said which I consider to be unwise and possibly reckless. He went on to say that Russia wouldn’t go to war with us because our conventional weapons are superior. That is an exceedingly provocative thing to say. And he seems to be unaware, President Obama, that Russian military doctrine says that when confronted by overwhelming conventional forces, we can use nuclear weapons. They mean tactical nuclear weapons. I don’t think any informed president, his handlers, would have permitted him to make such a statement. In fact, depending on how far you want to take this conversation about the Obama administration, I don’t recall in my lifetime, in confrontations with Russia, an administration—I speak now of the president and his secretary of state—who seem in their public statements to be so misinformed, even uninformed, both about Ukraine and Russia.
In my own judgment, I think that a lot of the statements from Obama are extremely reckless. Earlier I heard Obama dismisses Russia as ‘regional power’ acting out of weakness. Why would you go out of your way to tweak the nose of your adversary who has major economic powers over Europe because of the amount of energy that Russia supplies to Europe? I don’t need anybody to point out to me that such talk is reckless.
It wouldn’t surprise me if I have to headline a post in the next few days, “Obama has gone completely bonkers”. He is rapidly going in that direction. Who will save us?