At a time when liberal values are being obliterated in Russia, liberals ought to be unifying against the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union, especially given the ire they direct at President George Bush, who is as responsible as any non-Russian for that odious development. But it turns out that, once again, we can’t count on them for any real conviction — or for that matter even coherence.
Senile has-been Professor Stephen Cohen has published an article in the sick partisan screed Nation magazine, edited by his wife, in which he unilaterally blames the United States for creating a new cold war with Russia. In a post about the article, Sean Guillory states: “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cohen has targeted his intellectual ire on how American policy toward Russia in the 1990s exacerbated its economic collapse, social dislocation, and political instability.”
So, let La Russophobe see if she understands: If only American policy had been different in the 1990s, then Russians wouldn’t have freely elected a proud KGB spy as their president. They wouldn’t have turned a blind eye as he recreated the Soviet Union. Their economy, always one of the world’s most inefficient and comical, would have suddenly and miraculously become a dynamo capable of supporting the nation. Russians would have abandoned the military draft, they would have generated real political parties and real elections, and they would have won the respect of the former Soviet slave states. Is it really possible that so much sheer gibberish can be spewed out by American academia in the 21st Century, so soon after the fall of the USSR?
This is exactly the kind of insane American arrogance that Cohen hypocritically purports to stand against. Quite simply, it’s ridiculous to suggest that America has this kind of influence over what Russia does, that Russia is some sort of helpless child subject to the bad parenting of America. It’s the pathetic rationalization of a cowardly little man who makes himself feel better by attributing Russia’s failings to causes he imagines he can control, those in America, rather than those in Russia far beyond his reach. It’s Psych 101 rationalization.
Even Guillory, who seems to admire Cohen as a fellow academic with an international reputation, admits: “One could easily dismiss, (and many will), Cohen’s arguments as too biased since Putin carries no blame in the article for the current situation. But charges of bias are too often wielded as a rhetorical device for dismissing otherwise much needed discussion.” But Guillory, blinded apparently by academic stars in his eyes, ignores Cohen’s blatant hypocrisy, as well as his own: Apparently, it’s just fine for Cohen to tell only part of the story because he’s just promoting “much needed discussion,” but when Vice President Dick Cheney does exactly the same thing, but with the opposite viewpoint, he is dismissed by the haughty Cohen as an ignorant and dangerous cold-war monger. And Guillory also ignores the larger and much more important point: leave aside Cohen’s failure to attribute blame to Putin, what about the Russian people themselves??? Are American policymakers really more to blame for Russia’s current situation than the Russian people? That idea is not only insane, its offensive enough to Russians that even La Russophobe blanches at it, which is saying something.
Give La Russophobe a break! Could it possibly be that Professor Cohen is looking for some time in the limelight, possibly seeking to ingratiate himself with the Kremlin so as to score some face time with the regime? What, La Russophobe asks, is Professor Cohen doing (or even recommending) about rampant race violence in Russia, or any of the other massive social atrocities going on there?
Guillory summarizes Cohen’s attack on so-called American hypocrisy towards Russia as follows:
When NATO expands to Russia’s front and back doorsteps, gobbling up former Soviet-bloc members and republics, it is “fighting terrorism” and “protecting new states”; when Moscow protests, it is engaging in “cold war thinking.” When Washington meddles in the politics of Georgia and Ukraine, it is “promoting democracy”; when the Kremlin does so, it is “neoimperialism.” And not to forget the historical background: When in the 1990s the US-supported Yeltsin overthrew Russia’s elected Parliament and Constitutional Court by force, gave its national wealth and television networks to Kremlin insiders, imposed a constitution without real constraints on executive power and rigged elections, it was “democratic reform”; when Putin continues that process, it is “authoritarianism.”
So, let La Russophobe try to understand the complex workings of the Ivy League genius: President Putin isn’t “authoritarian,” right? Gee, I guess it must be true what they say about the smoking habits of “professors” at big-time universities. (Then again, Cohen got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Indiana and right now he’s teaching at New York University, neither one exactly to be considered top-ten institutions of higher learning; he did teach courses at Princeton, but they never offered him tenure — gee, La Russophobe dares to wonder why . . . ).
This is nothing, of course, but regurgitated Russophile propaganda. One hears Russophile maniacs arguing that America approaching Ukraine and Georgia for military alliance would be like Russia approaching Canada and Mexico, but one hopes for something at least a little better from an Ivy League professor. Neither Canada nor Mexico have ever been slave states of the U.S.; to the contrary, they’ve been slave states of England and Spain and both in that capacity have been used as staging areas for invasions of the United States, most spectacularly in the War of 1812. Neither country has the least to fear from U.S. invasion, while Georgia and Ukraine have every right to panic. The free election by Russians of a proud KGB spy who spent his whole life devoted to Communist propaganda and the destruction of the United States, whose resume is secret and who is creating a Neo-Soviet Union in Russia, has no parallel in U.S.-Canadian or -Mexican relations.
And did Professor Cohen really say that Putin is “continuing the process” begun by Boris Yeltsin? Yeltsin urged regional leaders to take all the power they could grab, Putin has systemmatically destroyed those regional leaders. Yeltsin was the living embodiment of antipathy to the USSR and its failed system; Putin has launched the creation of a Neo-Soviet Union at breakneck speed.
But what is worse, Cohen ignores the whole point, that the U.S. tolerated the abuses of the Yeltsin regime specifically because it was following exactly the policy Cohen now attacks the U.S. for not following, namely cooperation and tolerance rather than confrontation and Cold War. Had the U.S. been more confrontational in the 1990s, Cohen’s “analysis” implies, it could have prevented Yeltsin from going down the wrong path; but when it tries to do so now, it is engaging in war-mongering and must be stopped.
In other words, the man is quite senile, annoyed that he’s lost his name recognition and trying desperately to get back in the game. He doesn’t even try to be scholarly, but engaged in a hysterical partisan diatribe even while attacking others for doing the same, and he offers no meaningful solutions to the rise of totalitarianism in Russia. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! Putin is playing the anthem of the USSR, written to glorify Josef Stalin, and Cohen is blaming it ion Bill Clinton and George Bush.