The character of events from week to week, and as discussed by both Batchelor and Cohen, is manifestly worsening. While the proxy wars are stabilizing to some little extent, we see the political wars in governments as fall out of the New Cold War in a constant state of escalation. Cohen notes a New York Times piece by Charles Blow that coined a name for what is happening as an ‘Era of Suspicion’ and the author considered this a positive thing for the country – where all the interest groups are being forced by the hate and fear campaign to align with the anti-Russian narrative whether it serves their interests or not. This past week Batchelor brings up the news about the Estonian Ambassador, Eerik Marmei and the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin who spoke to a Senate subcommittee about Russia disrupting elections in Europe, and the danger of cyber warfare by Russia. Also mentioned were the Trump charges that Obama had his Trump Tower ‘bugged’. Cohen then launched into what the consequences of this new ‘Era of Suspicion’ and the professor describes how the pressure to conform has influenced all the politicos (Flynn debacle) and the masters of industry in the United States, who want to have business dealings with Russia, into remaining cautiously silent. These and other efforts are being used to isolate Trump and neuter or redirect any chance of dtente or even honest discussion of serious geopolitical events. It is working too – with Republicans also becoming divided. Some Republicans are looking at Vice President Pence for the president’s position. Cohen also discusses the role of ‘expert consultants on Russia’ in the media and their efforts to vilify Putin and the Kremlin. All interviews using these people are factually untrue. The most egregious of these, for example, maintained that Putin was ‘deliriously happy that Washington was in complete chaos over Russian policies’. Batchelor exclaims that this is ‘complete rubbish’. It was also Batchelor’s opinion that it was serious that Trump did not mention Russia in his address to Congress. What this indicates is that dtente is getting much less likely. Cohen also mentions the resurrection of McCarthyism with a Committee of Un-American Activity being formed and concludes that disorder is the contrived tenure of modern Western diplomacy. In my opinion Trump has to decide whether folding to the will of his opposition will stop this campaign to remove him or will it show weakness that will lead to escalation. His reticence to talk about Russia may be testing the waters, or be showing weakness. Senator Graham, who talked with the president, seems to think the latter and the US will ‘push back’ against Russia. I think Trump is folding too. The push back will see more support for NATO and perhaps more military help for Ukraine. Cohen discusses the quasi NATO presence now in Ukraine, and he also brings up a potential increase in US troop presence in Syria. He discusses the dangers of a combined military presence of US and Russian assets in Syria. Cohen then discusses the simple solution to ease the danger, and it really is simple. Disengagement. But Putin needs Washington (Trump) to cooperate. But Cohen now considers this as unlikely as he thinks Trump is folding to his opposition in Washington. In Ukraine the political and economic situation is worse and where President Poroshenko is having no control over the ukronazis – who are now embargoing coal imports from the Donbass. This hurts Kiev, but also illuminates the reality of a failing central government. A personal question: Will NATO continue to base troops there? It would mean contending with or working with nazis in a failed state environment? But would most of the West hear about it? That’s where we are, living behind a virtual information wall that George Orwell would immediately recognize. From my point of view the Military Industrial Complex has shown no sense of danger in supporting a ‘confrontation for profit’ policy against Russia, and now the people of the West are effectively ‘walled off’ from learning about critical realities by a systemic corruption of the MSM. Washington is creating its own “Iron Curtain”. Not even discussions at the highest levels of Washington are tolerated unless they support the narrative. One wonders how long this can go on with the Military Industries dependent on tax dollars, and the financial sector and other interests looting the economy and destroying that same tax base. This becomes another reason to impose that ‘Era of Suspicion’ on the whole country; if one cannot advise or discuss an argument against war dangers (or government policies) without censure, then war becomes more inevitable in spite of the fundamentals that work against it. One could say, ‘unleash the dogs of war’ but first hugely increase the fiscal deficit.
Hillary supporters claimed that the Clinton Foundation was an innocent, ‘charitable’ organization. On his proposed first day to ‘Drain the Swamp,’ Trump will impose a LIFETIME BAN ON LOBBYING FOR FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS. Numerous foreign governments handed money to the Clintons purely for ‘influence.’ The corruption with Norway’s link to the Clinton Foundation extended to Obama. This was the reason Obama was given the Noble Peace Prize, and Jens Stoltenberg, who approved the half-billion donation from Norway to the Clintons, was made the head of NATO in Europe. The Norwegian newspaper Hegnar reports that Norway is expected to slash their contributions to the Clinton Foundation now that Hillary has lost the presidency. Norway’s pay-off to the Clinton Foundation was strategic. According to local press, during the period 2007 to 2015, Norway sent 584 million to the Clinton Foundation. For the next three years, they promised the Clintons a further 92 million.
Mustafa Denktas had twin sons. One of them, a Kurdish militant, was killed fighting the Turkish army in 2012. Denktas was still in mourning when news arrived three weeks later that the other son had met the same fate. Back then Turkey’s war with separatist Kurds, however bloody and protracted, was essentially a domestic issue. Now it’s an international conflict. When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent his army into Syria last month, he wasn’t just striking a blow against Islamic State: a second goal was to stop Kurds from creating a de facto state. That’s the element of Erdogan’s Syrian gambit that poses the biggest political risks. It threatens to ensnare his soldiers in a civil war that’s already lasted 5 1/2 years, and drive a wedge between Turkey and its NATO allies – especially the U. S., which considers the Syrian Kurds an ally against Islamic extremists. When Moody’s Investors Service cut Turkey’s rating to junk last week, it cited ‘the persistence of geopolitical threats’ among other reasons. Erdogan is trying to stem a tide that turned more than two decades ago, when war in Iraq left Kurds in charge of that country’s oil-rich north. Since 2011, civil war has given a similar opportunity to Syrian Kurds, who now control of much of the territory along the 900-kilometer border with Turkey. Among the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state of their own, the Kurds can now glimpse a viable one.
Arguably, the nuttiest neoconservative idea – among a long list of nutty ideas – has been to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia by weakening its economy, isolating it from Europe, pushing NATO up to its borders, demonizing its leadership, and sponsoring anti-government political activists inside Russia to promote ‘regime change.’ This breathtakingly dangerous strategy has been formulated and implemented with little serious debate inside the United States as the major mainstream news media and the neocons’ liberal-interventionist sidekicks have fallen in line much as they did during the run-up to the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Except with Russia, the risks are even greater – conceivably, a nuclear war that could exterminate life on the planet. Yet, despite those stakes, there has been a cavalier – even goofy – attitude in the U. S. political/media mainstream about undertaking this new ‘regime change’ project aimed at Moscow. There is also little appreciation of how lucky the world was when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 without some Russian extremists seizing control of the nuclear codes and taking humanity to the brink of extinction. Back then, there was a mix of luck and restrained leadership, especially on the Soviet side.
Traditional U. S. journalism and the American people are facing a crisis as the preeminent American newspaper, The New York Times, has fully lost its professional bearings, transforming itself into a neoconservative propaganda sheet eager for a New Cold War with Russia and imposing a New McCarthyism on public debate. The crisis is particularly acute because another top national newspaper, The Washington Post, is also deeply inside the neocon camp. The Times’ abandonment of journalistic principles has become most noticeable with its recurring tirades about Russia, as the Times offers up story after story that would have embarrassed Sen. Joe McCarthy and his 1950s Red-baiters. Operating without any actual evidence, a recent Times article by Neil MacFarquhar sought to trace public challenges to official U. S. government narratives on world events to a massive ‘disinformation’ campaign by Russian intelligence. Apparently, it is inconceivable to the Times that independent-minded people might simply question some of the dubious claims made by Official Washington. Perhaps most stunningly, the Times sought to prove its point by citing the slogan of Russia’s English-language television network, saying: ‘RT trumpets the slogan ‘Question More.” So, now, presumably if someone suggests questioning a claim from the U. S. government or from the NATO alliance, that person is automatically a ‘Russian agent of influence.’ For a major newspaper to adopt such a position is antithetical to the tenets of journalism which call on us journalists to question everything.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most right-wing presidential candidate of all? The answer used to be Donald Trump, famous for his naked bigotry toward Mexicans and Muslims. But that was before Hillary Clinton supporters took a page from the old Joe McCarthy handbook and began denouncing their Republican opponent as ‘an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation’ or arguing that criticism of Clinton and NATO somehow emanates out of Moscow. Now comes Clinton’s speech at an American Legion convention in Cincinnati, her most bellicose to date, in which she savages Trump for failing to embrace the ultra-imperialist doctrine of ‘American exceptionalism.’ ‘My opponent in this race has said very clearly that he thinks American exceptionalism is insulting to the rest of the world,’ she said Wednesday. ‘In fact, when Vladimir Putin, of all people, criticized American exceptionalism, my opponent agreed with him, saying, and I quote, ‘if you’re in Russia, you don’t want to hear that America is exceptional.’ Well maybe you don’t want to hear it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.’ Good people, she went on, do not take exception to the doctrine – only enemies do:
VIOLENTLY INTERVENING IN the affairs of other countries has brought the United States much grief over the last century. We are hardly the only ones who do it. The club of interventionist nations has a shifting membership. During the current round of Middle East conflict, two new countries have joined: Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both have succumbed to the imperial temptation. Both are paying a high price. They are learning a lesson that Americans struggle to accept: Interventions have unexpected consequences and often end up weakening rather than strengthening the countries that carry them out. Turkey’s long intervention in Syria has failed to bring about its intended result, the fall of President Bashar Assad. Instead it has intensified the Syrian conflict, fed a regional refugee crisis, set off terrorist backlash, and deeply strained relations between Turkey and its NATO allies. As this blunder has unfolded, Saudi Arabia has also been waging war outside its territory. Its bombing of neighboring Yemen was supposed to be a way of asserting regional hegemony, but it has aroused indignant condemnation. The bombing campaign has placed Saudi Arabia under new scrutiny, including more intense focus on its role in promoting global terror, which the Saudi royal family has managed to keep half-hidden for years. Turkey and Saudi Arabia intervened in foreign conflicts hoping to establish themselves as regional kingmakers. Both miscalculated. They overestimated their ability to secure quick victory and failed to weigh the strategic costs of failure or stalemate. If the Turks and Saudis had studied the history of American interventions, they would have been more prudent. We know the sorrows of empire. From Iran to Cuba to Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, the legacy of our interventions continues to haunt us. Ambitious powers, however, continue to ignore the stark lesson that American history teaches. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the latest to repeat our mistake. It is the same mistake that has undermined many nations and empires. They overestimated their ability to shape events in foreign lands. Now they are paying for their delusional overreach.
Isolationists must not prevail in this new debate over foreign policy,’ warns Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘The consequences of a lasting American retreat from the world would be dire.’ To make his case against the ‘Isolationist Temptation,’ Haass creates a caricature, a cartoon, of America First patriots, then thunders that we cannot become ‘a giant gated community.’ Understandably, Haass is upset. For the CFR has lost the country. Why? It colluded in the blunders that have bled and near bankrupted America and that cost this country its unrivaled global preeminence at the end of the Cold War. No, it was not ‘isolationists’ who failed America. None came near to power. The guilty parties are the CFR crowd and their neocon collaborators, and liberal interventionists who set off to play empire after the Cold War and create a New World Order with themselves as Masters of the Universe. Consider just a few of the decisions taken in those years that most Americans wish we could take back. After the Soviet Union withdrew the Red Army from Europe and split into 15 nations, and Russia held out its hand to us, we slapped it away and rolled NATO right up onto her front porch.
With Democrats howling that Vladimir Putin hacked into and leaked those 19,000 DNC emails to help Trump, the Donald had a brainstorm: Maybe the Russians can retrieve Hillary Clinton’s lost emails. Not funny, and close to ‘treasonous,’ came the shocked cry. Trump then told The New York Times that a Russian incursion into Estonia need not trigger a U. S. military response. Even more shocking. By suggesting the U. S. might not honor its NATO commitment, under Article 5, to fight Russia for Estonia, our foreign policy elites declaimed, Trump has undermined the security architecture that has kept the peace for 65 years. More interesting, however, was the reaction of Middle America. Or, to be more exact, the nonreaction. Americans seem neither shocked nor horrified. What does this suggest? Behind the war guarantees America has issued to scores of nations in Europe, the Mideast and Asia since 1949, the bedrock of public support that existed during the Cold War has crumbled. We got a hint of this in 2013. Barack Obama, claiming his ‘red line’ against any use of poison gas in Syria had been crossed, found he had no public backing for air and missile strikes on the Assad regime. The country rose up as one and told him to forget it. He did.
This article appeared in Forbes on July 18, 2016. Turkey was convulsed by an attempted coup last week. Nominally democratic but in practice increasingly authoritarian, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has initiated a broad crackdown that goes well beyond the military. He has the makings of becoming another Vladimir Putin – except supposedly on America’s side, but even that is up for debate. Turkey’s dubious evolution should remind Americans how hard it is for U. S. officials to play social engineers to the world. Instead of constantly meddling in hopes of ‘fixing’ other nations, Washington should step back when its interests are not vitally affected, which is most of the time. The physicians’ injunction, ‘First do no harm,’ would be a good principle for American foreign policy. Ankara joined NATO during the Cold War. The U. S. was not much concerned about whether Turkey was a democracy. Washington wanted to secure the Balkans and project U. S. power into the Middle East. Containment of the Evil Empire was the principal objective. That policy should have expired with the collapse of the Soviet Union and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Friendship rather than alliance should have become America’s objective. By then Turkey was nominally a parliamentary democracy, but the military still wielded extraordinary power, overthrowing an elected government as late as 1997. Unfortunately, Washington decided to use its new ‘unipower’ status to attempt to micro-manage the Middle East. Consecutive administrations launched a succession of ill-considered interventions.
It’s unnerving to realize that the NATO alliance – bristling with an unprecedented array of weapons including a vast nuclear arsenal – has lost its collective mind. Perhaps it’s more reassuring to think that NATO simply feels compelled to publicly embrace its deceptive ‘strategic communications’ so gullible Western citizens will be kept believing its lies are truth. But here were the leaders of major Western ‘democracies’ lining up to endorse a Warsaw Summit Communiqu condemning ‘Russia’s aggressive actions’ while knowing that these claims were unsupported by their own intelligence agencies. The leaders – at least the key ones – know that there is no credible intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the Ukraine crisis in 2014 or that he has any plans to invade the Baltic states, despite the fact that nearly every ‘important person’ in Official Washington and other Western capitals declares the opposite of this to be reality. But there have been a few moments when the truth has surfaced. For instance, in the days leading up to the just-completed NATO summit in Warsaw, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, divulged that the deployment of NATO military battalions in the Baltic states was a political, rather than military, act. ‘It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,’ Pavel told a news conference.
Actually, the Nice horror was the demented suicide of a wretch who recently got fired, divorced and arrested for road rage, not a planned jihadi terrorist attack. Beyond that, the real jihadi threat is rooted in blowback, and combatting it is a domestic police function. Enough militatistic bellicosity already! The inconvenient truth is, Washington and its NATO vassals have brought bombs, drones, occupations and slaughter to towns and villages throughout the greater middle east for upwards of three decades. It is that senseless intervention and aggression that has fueled the rise of vengeful barbarians who operate under the ideological cover of a twisted Sunni jihaddism. In fact, it was the Bush/Clinton/Obama wars which gave rise first to al-Qaeda and then to ISIS. In very substantial degree Washington trained them, armed them and then incited them to their anti-western rampages. The Imperial City’s insidious doctrine of ‘regime change’ also destroyed the states of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan, thereby giving the jihadi vast lawless territories from which to operate and to even establish a murderous medieval caliphate in the desert backwaters of western Iraq and northern Syria.. The frightful violence that has been episodically erupting in France owing to internal cadres and in the US owing to copycats does not originate in the religion of Islam. The latter confession is 1384 years old, but it was only 25 years ago that meaningful jihadi terrorism first impinged on the west.
Whenever the subject of American foreign-policy catastrophes comes up, the word ‘Iraq’ immediately comes to mind. But George W. Bush’s ill-fated invasion of that hapless land in reality did not do irreparable damage to the United States. That is not to trivialize the costs, including trillions of dollars and the deaths of thousands of Americans plus hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, but the reality is that the U. S. homeland was not attacked and the economy has not collapsed, making Iraq a war that should never have been fought but not a defeat in historic terms. One thinks of Russia less frequently when U. S. policy failures are examined. In 1991, Russia was a superpower. Today it is a convenience, a straw man fortuitously produced whenever someone in power wants to justify weapons expenditures or the initiation of new military interventions in faraway places. Much of the negative interaction between Washington and Moscow is driven by the consensus among policymakers, the Western media, and the inside-the-beltway crowd that Russia is again – or perhaps is still and always will be – the enemy du jour. But frequently forgotten or ignored is the fact that Moscow, even in its much-reduced state, continues to control the only military resource on the planet that can destroy the United States, suggesting caution should be in order when one goes about goading the bear. Truly, the unwillingness to takes steps after 1991 to assist Russia in its post-communism transformation into a stable, prosperous, and secure state modeled on the West is the most significant foreign-policy failure by both Democratic and Republican administrations over the past 30 years. The spoliation of Russia’s natural resources carried out by Western carpetbaggers working with local grifters-turned-oligarchs under Boris Yeltsin, the expansion of NATO to Russia’s doorstep initiated by Bill Clinton, and the interference in Russia’s internal affairs by the U. S. government (including the Magnitsky Act) have exploited Russian vulnerability and have produced a series of governments in Moscow that have become increasingly paranoid and disinclined to cooperate with what they see as a threatening Washington.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in deconfliction mode with the West after a wild ride of two and a half years of military and diplomatic tensions. In a wide ranging policy speech at a biannual meeting of Russian ambassadors on July 1, Putin did not just go through the regular litany of complaints over the West ignoring Russia’s interests, NATO expansion, U. S. unilateralism, missile defense and overthrowing regimes in ‘color revolutions.’ He eschewed saber-rattling over NATO’s decisions to deploy additional forces in the Baltics, called Western countries partners in creating a ‘broad anti-terrorist front,’ and emphasized Russia’s interest in ‘close cooperation with the United States on international affairs.’ Only two weeks before, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin said Russia accepted the United States as the ‘only superpower’ and wanted to work with it, provided the United States kept its democracy lectures to itself. On a visit to Finland a few days ago, Putin agreed to hold a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council after NATO’s Warsaw summit this week, accepted NATO’s proposal for preventing military air and sea incidents and instructed Russia’s defense minister to fly Russian military planes over the Baltic Sea with their transponders on.
‘ July 7, 2016 What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering… Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken. .. We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation… (It would be) fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, commenting on NATO’s recent military exercises in Poland and the Baltics. Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s cry of distress is that of a man watching a tidal wave of destruction gathering force, similar to ones that have engulfed his country twice in the 20th Century. His dread is not to be dismissed since it comes from a man who is in a position to know what the U. S. is up to. His words reflect the fears of ever more people across all of the Eurasia from France in the West to Japan in the East. Under the euphemism of ‘containment,’ the U. S. is relentlessly advancing its new Cold War on Russia and China. Its instrument in the West is NATO and in the East, Japan and whatever other worthies can be sharked up. It is a Cold War that grows increasingly hotter, with proxy wars now raging in Eastern Ukraine and Syria and with confrontations in the South China Sea. There is an ever-growing likelihood that these points of tension will flare up into an all-out military conflict.
The Roman republic began its descent into empire as victorious generals – starting with one Julius Caesar – returned to claim the fruits of their victories, their final conquest being the republic itself. ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ has today become a phrase meaning an event that cannot be undone, usually of ominous portent, and surely this applies to the machinations of one General Philip Breedlove, former Supreme Commander of NATO. Revealed by hackers who broke into his email accounts, Breedlove’s plot to start World War III with Russia recalls the recklessness of Dr. Strangelove in a movie of the same name – except this isn’t a movie, it’s reality. Coordinating with sympathetic retired military personnel, such as Wesley Clark, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Harlan Ullman, a top official of the Atlantic Council, the idea was – as Ullman put it – to ‘leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U. S. to react’ to an alleged Russian threat in Europe. Another academic contact, one Phillip Karber, head of the neoconservative Potomac Foundation, was involved in disseminating a crude forgery supposed to have depicted Russian tanks in Ukraine. Naturally, theWashington Free Beacon fell for it, as did Sen. James Inhofe. Confirmation bias is pandemic in these circles. Breedlove has himself been at the center of similar hoaxes, claiming that tens of thousands of Russian troops are present in Ukraine, armed to the teeth with the latest advanced weaponry: this was an outright lie, as the German intelligence agency, the BND, pointed out.
A significant crack has been unexpectedly opened in the wall of Europe’s disciplined obedience to the United States. I’m not only referring to the possible long-term consequences for U. S.-European relations in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, but the unlikely blow against Washington’s information war on Moscow delivered by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who a week ago shockingly accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of ‘war-mongering’ against Russia. Since the Bush administration’s twisting of events in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, which the E. U. blamed on Georgia, Western populations have been subjected to the steady message that Russia is a ‘threat’ to the West and is guilty of ‘aggression.’ This reached a peak with the false narrative of events in Ukraine, in which blatant evidence of the West’s complicity in a violent coups d’tat was omitted from corporate media accounts, while Russia’s assistance to eastern Ukrainians resisting thecoup has been framed as a Russian ‘invasion.’ The disinformation campaign has reached the depths of popular culture, including the EuroVision song contest and sports doping scandals, to ensure widespread popular support for U. S. hostile intentions against Russia. The Russian ‘aggression’ narrative, based largely on lies of omission, has prepared the way for the U. S. to install a missile-shield in Romania with offensive capabilities and to stage significant NATO war games with 31,000 troops on Russia’s borders. For the first time in 75 years, German troops retraced the steps of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
In its reporting on Brexit, the New York Times asks an interesting question: ‘Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?’ Hopefully, it will mean the unraveling of two of the most powerful and destructive governmental apparatuses that came out of the postwar era: NATO and the U. S. national-security state. In fact, although the mainstream media and the political establishment elites will never acknowledge it, the irony is that it is these two apparatuses that ultimately led to the Brexit vote: The Times points out: Refugees have poured out of Syria and Iraq. Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have absorbed several million refugees. But it is the flow of people into the European Union that has had the greatest geopolitical impact, and helped to precipitate the British vote. But what was it that gave rise to that massive refugee crisis? The answer: It was the U. S. national-security state’s regime change operations in the Middle East, including NATO’s bombing campaign as part of its regime-change operation in Syria. What did U. S. and NATO officials think – that people would simply remain where they were so that they could get blown to bits with the bombs that were being dropped on them, by the U. S. assassination program, or by the massive civil-war violence that came as a result of the U. S. and NATO regime-change operations?
A foreign army consisting of 31,000 soldiers from an anti-American alliance are conducting military ‘exercises’ a few miles from San Diego. Hundreds of tanks converge on the Rio Grande, while jets from 24 countries converge in attack formation, darting through Mexican skies. It isn’t hard to imagine Washington’s response. Yet that’s precisely what has been happening on Russia’s border with the NATO alliance, as the cold war returns. Economic sanctions aimed at sinking Russia’s fragile economy, plus a propaganda campaign designed to characterize Russian President Vladimir Putin as the second coming of Stalin – or, in Hillary Clinton’s view, Hitler – have history running in reverse. Once again, an iron curtain is descending across Europe – only this time it’s the West’s doing. The European Union renewed sanctions against Crimea on Friday: their ‘crime’ – holding a referendum in which the overwhelming majority of voters opted for union with Russia, restoring what had been the status quo since the days of Catherine the Great. And the EU is slated to extend sanctions against the Russian Federation later this week. Yet dissent against this revival of the cold war is rising in Europe, notably in Germany, where Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is calling for the ‘gradual’ lifting of sanctions to reflect progress in the implementation of theMinsk accords, which call for the demilitarization of Ukraine and elections in rebel-held territory. This reflects a division within Germany’s left-right coalition government: Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are holding out for ‘full’ implementation of the accords. Yet it is the government in Kiev – held hostage by far-right crazies – that has been dragging its feet over Minsk, refusing to grant autonomy to east Ukraine and vowing to continue the war against the rebels in spite of Kiev’s lack of success in pacifying the rebellious region.
The title of this episode is the ‘Return of Stalinism’ but in actual fact the discussion is more about the rise of nationalism that is occurring both in the West and in Russia. Cohen notes that in the United States it is an integral part of the election process (and perhaps less significantly about Washington’s foreign adventures); in the EU it is about the failures of the EU, especially the refugee crisis, and in Russia it is tied to the increasing threat of NATO on its borders. The latter now includes the so called ‘missile shield’ that has, with ribbon cutting fanfare, just seen Rumania added as the newest such missile site and newest threat to Russia. Putin, during his recent visit to Greece, has finally spoken out against these missile sites saying that as a threat to Russia they become targets of attack for Russia. That message is now clearly Russian policy should hostilities commence with NATO. Expect the obvious to be ignored. But as a symbol of foreign policy success, for Russians Stalin has some credibility and now that Russians feel threatened the Russian Communist Party is planning to use his image during the coming election for the Dumas. He was a terrible despot, who killed millions, but as a military leader he had great success and Russians still debate his status. Cohen discusses how post Stalin Kremlin leaders dealt with the question until Gorbachev virtually defined himself as an anti-Stalinist. But now Russians are threatened again and Stalin is seen in a more positive way – ‘as an attitude of the people’, not as a regressive trend. Cohen reminisces about how Russians would use Stalin’s image under post Stalin Soviet leaders as a quiet protest about failures of domestic government policies. And one can see the same today in Russia although ‘it is now commercialized and politicised’. This makes it a problem for Putin because the comparison is there to live up to when things go wrong and to defend against when the ‘Stalin label’ is compared to the present Putin regime. But Putin’s regime in today’s Russia, Cohen argues, does not in any way resemble Stalin’s state – nor a Soviet one -but, as Cohen points out, Russians know that the West did not put missiles on the borders of Stalin’s Russia. In the last segment Cohen discusses the level of corruption in all areas of Russian society and how the perception of Stalinism has created myths about that leader. It is Putin’s domestic headache to address the corruption, but Stalin is seen, incorrectly, as a corruption fighter. Similarly Stalin’s collectivization efforts can be compared to the transformations under Putin, and while pro Stalin elements in the population proclaim Stalin’s efforts successful, the reality was very much more debatable. Putin’s successes, however, are far less debatable; they are very real. Putin has chosen the role of an anti-Stalinist leader. However, he is not seen as a leader who has taken a very hard line against provocative western interests (NGOs and media) within Russia and to an enemy NATO outside – as Stalin surely would have. This reality may have changed this past week with Putin’s warning to NATO that missile sites along Russian borders are now targets, and now the New Cold War is one more step closer to the military response.