September 2, 2017


Putin's Pal : Stephen Cohen was once considered a top Russia historian. Now he publishes odd defenses of Vladimir Putin. The Nation just published his most outrageous one yet. (Cathy Young, 7/24/14, Slate)

A few months ago, at the height of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict over Crimea, Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, acquired a certain notoriety as the Kremlin's No. 1 American apologist. As Cohen made Russia's case and lamented the American media's meanness to Vladimir Putin in print and on the airwaves, he was mocked as a "patsy" and a "dupe" everywhere from the conservative Free Beacon to the liberal New York and New Republic. Now, as the hostilities in eastern Ukraine have turned to the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Cohen is at it again--this time, with a long article in the current issue of The Nation indicting "Kiev's atrocities" in eastern Ukraine and America's collusion therein. The timing is rather unfortunate for Cohen and The Nation, since the piece is also unabashedly sympathetic to the Russian-backed militants who appear responsible for the murder of 298 innocent civilians. [...]

s Cohen the one person in the world who puts stock in the results of the Donetsk and Luhansk "referendums," which even Russia did not formally recognize? Pre-referendum polls in both regions found that most residents opposed secession; they were also, as a U.N. report confirms, kept from voting in the presidential election by violence and intimidation from the insurgents. Nor does Cohen ever acknowledge the known fact that a substantial percentage of the "resisters" are not locals but citizens of the Russian Federation--particularly their leaders, many of whom have ties to Russian "special security services." Their ranks also include quite a few Russian ultranationalists and even neo-Nazis--a highly relevant fact, given that much of Cohen's article is devoted to claims that Ukrainian "neo-fascists" play a key role both in the Kiev government and in the counterinsurgency operation.

On this subject, Cohen's narrative is so error-riddled that one has to wonder if The Nation employs fact-checkers. (According to The Nation's publicity director, Caitlin Graf, "All of The Nation's print pieces are rigorously fact-checked by our research department.") Cohen asserts that after the fall of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, the far-right Svoboda party, and the paramilitary nationalist group Right Sector got a large share of Cabinet posts, including ones for national security and the military, because Ukraine's new leaders were "obliged to both movements for their violence-driven ascent to power, and perhaps for their personal safety." In fact, Svoboda (which has tried to reinvent itself as a moderate nationalist party, despite a genuinely troubling history of bigotry and extremism) got its Cabinet posts as part of a European Union-brokered agreement between Yanukovych and opposition leaders, made shortly before Yanukovych skipped town. Right Sector has no such posts--early reports that its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, got appointed deputy minister for national security were wrong--and the government actually moved to crack down on the group in April. Cohen also neglects to mention that the Svoboda-affiliated acting defense minister, Ihor Tenyukh, was sacked in late March and replaced with a nonpartisan career military man.

Cohen's claims about the "mainstreaming of fascism's dehumanizing ethos" in Ukraine are equally spurious--and rely heavily on Russian propaganda canards. Thus, he asserts that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the rebels "subhumans"; in fact, even the pro-government Russian newspaper Vzglyad admits this was an English mistranslation of nelyudi, literally "inhumans" or "monsters." (The word also exists in Russian, and Russian officials have freely used it toward their own "resisters" in the Caucasus.) He reports that a regional governor (Yuri Odarchenko of the Kherson region) "praised Hitler for his 'slogan of liberating the people' in occupied Ukraine" in his speech at a Victory Day event on May 9. In fact, as a transcript and a video show, Odarchenko said that Hitler used "slogans about alleged liberation of nations" to justify invading sovereign countries and "the aggressor" today was using similar slogans about "alleged oppressions" to justify aggression against Ukraine. And, in Cohen's extremely tendentious retelling, the May 2 tragedy in Odessa, where clashes between separatists and Kiev supporters led to a deadly fire that killed some 40 separatists, becomes a deliberate holocaust reminiscent of "Nazi German extermination squads."

In a downright surreal passage, Cohen argues that Putin has shown "remarkable restraint" so far but faces mounting public pressure due to "vivid accounts" in the Russian state-run media of Kiev's barbarities against ethnic Russians. Can he really be unaware that the hysteria is being whipped up by lurid fictions, such as the recent TV1 story about a 3-year-old boy crucified in Slovyansk's main square in front of a large crowd and his own mother? Does Cohen not know that Russian disinformation and fakery, including old footage from Dagestan or Syria passed off as evidence of horrors in Ukraine, has been extensively documented? Is he unaware that top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin himself, have publicly repeated allegations of war crimes that were quickly exposed as false, such as white phosphorus use by Ukrainian troops or a slaughter of the wounded in a hospital? But Cohen manages to take the surrealism a notch higher, earnestly citing the unnamed "dean of Moscow State University's School of Television" (that's Vitaly Tretyakov, inter alia a 9/11 "truther") who thinks the Kremlin may be colluding with the West to hush up the extent of carnage in Ukraine.

Putin Bootlickers Assemble in D.C. : The World Russia Forum was once a respectable affair. Now it's just a nest of Putin apologists and has-beens and both. Dead Souls indeed. (James Kirchick, 03.31.15, Daily Beast)

Offering introductory remarks was Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who, over the course of a three-decade career in Washington, has made the improbable journey from Cold Warrior to slavish defender of the Russian regime. Rohrabacher, who came to Washington as speechwriter for the Reagan White House, is now doing the same sort of legwork for his old nemeses in the Kremlin, who, in his view, are worthy allies in our shared struggle against militant Islam. "We could not have done it without them," is how he described Russian cooperation in our overthrowing the Taliban, apparently laboring under the belief that granting the United States overflight rights to bring down a radical Islamist regime on its southern flank somehow represented a concession on the part of Moscow.

Rohrabacher told the audience how, following the 2004 Beslan school massacre, in which nearly 200 children were killed after being taken hostage by Chechen terrorists, he called a "high-level person" in the George W. Bush administration to propose that the president "go to Beslan and stand shoulder to shoulder with Putin." Tying America's struggle against Islamist terrorism with Russia's would be inadvisable on several levels, not the least of which is that Russia's way of dealing with the problem largely consists of leveling entire cities. Indeed, this is a tried-and-true Russian strategy dating back to their war in Afghanistan--a war that Rohrabacher himself took part in as a fighter with the mujahideen--when the Russians inflicted nearly a million deaths. As for Beslan, to this day, parents of the victims criticize Putin for his handling of the crisis, alleging that their children lost their lives as a result of the botched rescue effort, as was the case when Putin ordered his security services to pump poison gas into a Moscow theater seized by Chechen terrorists. Thankfully, wiser heads within the White House prevailed, and the Bush-Putin photo op never happened. (Rohrabacher was the only elected official who turned up at the event. Lozansky said that Sen. Amy Klobuchar reserved the room, revealing a strange Minnesota connection: At last year's World Russia Forum, which took place just months after the annexation of Crimea, the Minnesota secretary of state spoke in opposition to sanctions, complaining about how a "U.S.-Russia Innovation Forum" scheduled to take place in St. Paul had to be canceled on orders from the State Department.)

Next up was the redoubtable Stephen Cohen, America's most notorious Kremlin apologist. Falsely labeling the conflict in Ukraine a "civil war," Cohen called for a "new détente" between Russia and the United States. This would suit Cohen well, as the old détente effectively conceded Soviet mastery over Eastern Europe, which is exactly what Cohen wants the West to do today. Cohen lamented how, not long ago, "both sides had legitimate spheres of influence," (or what he prefers to call "zones of national security") yet after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America and its allies disregarded the "conception of parity" and "treated Russia as a defeated nation." Washington's relationship to Moscow has since been characterized by "constant meddling in Russia's internal affairs," and the problem has only gotten worse. "This vilification of a Russian leader is unprecedented," constituting nothing less than "an illness." Cohen would presumably prefer all those gays, journalists, and other liberals--in the true sense of the word, not the form in which Cohen and other "progressives" of his ilk have perverted it--would just shut the hell up. [...]

It says something about your intellectual credibility as a scholar of Russia when the only outlets to feature your work are Russia Today and The Nation, the magazine edited by your spouse. Addressing the confab, Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel praised her publication as one that "repeatedly champions ideas labeled 'heretical' only to see them championed as conventional wisdom later." People who challenge the conventional wisdom on the situation in Ukraine are "marginalized and vilified" here in these United States, she complained (as opposed to those who express "heretical" ideas in Russia, who--if they're not shot in the back four times like opposition leader Boris Nemtsov--are thrown in jail). Like her husband, vanden Heuvel criticized the "demonization" of Putin, as if the man's critics needed to invent facts about his horrible record, and took a surprising swipe at The Washington Post, where she writes a column, calling it "Pravda on the Potomac. A regime change newspaper." (Which is more than can be said of The Nation. It's just Pravda, in English).

Vanden Heuvel introduced a panel of has-bens, "formers" all around: former AP reporter Robert Parry, former UPI editor Martin Sieff, former International Herald Tribune Asia bureau chief Patrick Smith, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, now the proprietor of the internationally renowned news source Like all regular guests of RT, the men channeled embitterment over their flailing careers into critiques of the "mainstream media." Parry, who accused the U.S. government of withholding information about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, complained about how no one in the State Department returns his calls. McGovern spoke of Russia's "so-called aggression" in Ukraine before asking, "How can Russia trust a serial liar? And by that I mean John Kerry." It was at some point in the midst of Sieff's spiel about how the Western powers were leading us back to the carnage of World War that I decided I had better things to do.

Posted by at September 2, 2017 1:07 PM