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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is The U.S. Media Missing The Story On Russia?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on February 18, 2014 . (Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on February 18, 2014 . (Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s been a lot of coverage of the Sochi Olympics, drawing attention to everything from infrastructure problems involving hotel accommodations to Russia’s new anti-gay law.

But Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, says there has been a “tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines” portraying Russia in a narrow-minded way, missing some larger things happening in the region.

He joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to explain.

Guest

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Well, this week, Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Russian President Putin for enabling Syria's president to stay in power by providing aid and military support to him. Forbes had this headline this week: Putin's Olympic dreams reeling amid chaos in Ukraine.

As the Olympics launched, a Washington Post headline read: Journalists At Sochi Are Live-Tweeting Their Hilarious And Gross Hotel Experiences. And we recently reported on the poverty in the villages surrounding Sochi and the detention of protesters, to which Betty Ann Roberts(ph) in Portland, Ore., wrote: I hope your negative and mean-spirited comments about Russia will soon come to an end.

Well, our next guest concurs. Stephen F. Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton. He cites what he calls a tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles and media malpractice that he says dangerously overlooks President Putin's role in stabilizing Russia and helping the U.S. out in tight corners.

His article in The Nation is "Distorting Russia." It's provoked a lot of response, including from readers who said are you kidding, Putin is a thug who's urging Ukraine's president to attack his own people, and he's inciting violence against gays with his anti-homosexual legislation.

We'll get to that, but first Stephen Cohen's thinking. He joins us by Skype from New York. Stephen, you also say Russia has some serious problems and repugnant policies. But what? Make your case.

STEPHEN F. COHEN: The world has become even more dangerous than it was during the Cold War. Whether we look at the Middle East, or we look at Boston or we look at what's happening in the Caucus or in Afghanistan, we live in an exceedingly dangerous world. And I believe that the best potential partner we have for increasing our national security is Russia.

And President Vladimir Putin is the head of Russia. But for nearly a decade, the American media has so demonized Putin that we've lost sight of him, and we've obscured the possibilities that are there and that he's offered to enhance, through some kind of steady, calm cooperation, American national security.

It was Putin who compelled the president of Syria, Assad, who we don't like, none of us like him, but compelled him to destroy his chemical weapons at the very moment when it looked like Obama, against his will, was going to have to attack Syria.

YOUNG: Well, you ask: Was any Soviet leader after Stalin ever so personally villainized? You take us back to the early 1990s, the end of the Soviet Union. You say the U.S. media adopted Washington's narrative that anything Boris Yeltsin did, going from communism to democracy, was good, sort of the polar opposite of what you see happening with Putin.

COHEN: Well think what Yeltsin did, and this was during the Clinton administration. And he was supported in everything he did. He used tanks against a popularly elected parliament. When did that last happen in Europe? He looted, he plundered the precious natural resources that Russia needed to rebuild to create a kind of democratic capitalism and gave it to a group of oligarchs who created the corrupt system that we see in Russia today.

And then Yeltsin imposed on the country a new constitution, which gave virtually all power to the president. And that a few years later empowered Putin. And yet Yeltsin remains, in the media account, kind of the ideal president. After Yeltsin, after a short interval of welcoming Putin, people said he's great, he's a sober Yeltsin, he's a democrat.

YOUNG: Bush said he looked into his eyes.

COHEN: I don't know what he saw there. I'm not good at seeing souls from people's eyes. But look, the New York Times said Putin was a democrat. The Washington Post said he was a democrat when he came to power. I think a lot of this began - when the media perceived that Putin was not Yeltsin, it was disappointed, and that disappointment led to a kind of interpretation of everything that happened in Russia, which was not based on analysis but on this kind of growing vilification.

I can't remember any Soviet communist leader being so personally villainized, that is we wrote bad things about Kruschev, about Brezhnev, about Andropov, but we disliked them because they represented an evil system. We didn't say them themselves were thugs, murderers, assassins, which are words that we attach to Putin.

YOUNG: Howard Dean, one of many who called Vladimir Putin a thug. Well, let's take some of the more recent criticism, maybe the least serious of the recent criticism, the games. And you attack those who say President Putin is squandering money there. We spoke with reporters like David Filipov from the Globe who said that the $50-or-so billion is not filtering to villages in the region.

You excoriate the press, who focus so much attention on hotel rooms. But people really can't see where that money was worth the investment, and they saw hotel rooms that really weren't ready.

COHEN: Look, I would have not given Russia the Winter Olympics, not for political reasons but because Sochi, which is a sub-tropical city, isn't a logical place. All big public works incite corruption. The figure normally given $51 billion, some of it was stolen, no doubt about that. But Putin had an idea, and it wasn't the first time an Olympic host country had this idea.

We are going to invest a lot of money so that when the Olympics are over, we will have built an infrastructure that will profit our country for decades to come. Now according to the people who actually sat down and studied this, about $44 billion of the $51 billion went to rehabilitate the crumbling infrastructure of the entire Sochi region.

Now part of that was Putin's dream to create a world-class ski resort. That may not come about. But until this Olympic investment was made, you couldn't drink the water in Sochi. Trains didn't run. So maybe they spent too much, but Russia should get a lot out of it for decades to come. We'll see.

YOUNG: Well, and you mention those who studied the money spent on Sochi. They include Ben Aris of Business New Europe, who observed as much as $44 billion of that $50-plus billion was probably spent to develop the infrastructure of the entire region, investment, quote, "the entire country needs."

That's Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton. He's written a pretty inflammatory article in "The Nation," accusing the U.S. media of, quote, "distorting Russia and vilifying its leader, President Putin." Now Stephen again says he's no fan of President Putin's but thinks that vilifying him overlooks the important role Putin can and has played in global security. We'll have more in one minute, HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YOUNG: It's HERE AND NOW, and we're talking with Russian scholar Stephen F. Cohen, who writes a provocative article in The Nation accusing the U.S. media of distorting Russia, demonizing President Putin. For instance he says the American media gave terrorists an early victory by tainting Putin's games, frightening away foreign spectators.

Stephen, start there. The U.S. media did not make up the fact that two alleged terrorists released a video saying they would attack Sochi. They didn't make up the Black Widow suicide bomber scare days before the games. Didn't the U.S. media have to report those things?

COHEN: Of course you report that Sochi is 300 miles or so from a festering area where terrorists commit crimes, assassinations, murders against Russian citizens almost daily. But the story was presented in the American media in such a way that virtually equated Putin and the terrorists as co-evils, even calling the terrorists, not terrorists, but insurgents, so that you put the paper down saying hey, who am I supposed to be cheering for, Putin or the terrorists.

Look, if Sochi passes without an act of terrorism, Putin has carried this off. But we don't want Putin to win because he's an evil man. So maybe we want a terrorist act that doesn't kill anybody, something like that. This is obscene. This is pornographic. This is wrong. And it's not the kind of thing that we would've applied to any other country in a dangerous region unless we had this vilification of a leader.

Remember there was an Olympics in China, and very little was said about the atrocities, human rights and other kids, that are committed in China during those Olympics. This is really quite special.

YOUNG: Well, then there's Ukraine. Where do you see the U.S. press reporting the terrible conflict there through what you see as this distorted, Putin-bashing prism?

COHEN: The American media coverage of Ukraine is wrong and inflammatory from beginning to end. The media refers to The Ukraine and The Ukrainian people striving for Western democracy and capitalism. That's false. Everybody knows that at a minimum, there are two Ukraines. One part of it, mostly in the west, wants to attach to Europe. The other part of it in the east, and partly in the south, wants to remain close to Russia.

And this is caused by ethnicity, language, religion, politics, culture. So now we come to the second thing: Who precipitated this crisis? People say Putin did it, or the Ukrainian president, democratically elected, by the way, Yanukovych. But I say no. Why did the European Union tell the democratically elected of such a profoundly divided country, two Ukraines, in November, that he must decide either/or, you're either with Europe, or you're with Russia?

That's a provocation, and that's where this began. And here's what's not reported. At that moment, in November and December, what was Putin's reply? He said hey, guys, why does Ukraine have to decide? Why can't the European Union and Russia help Ukraine out of its terrible economic crisis?

And the answer was, in Washington and in Brussels, no way. Ukraine must decide.

YOUNG: Well, you also point to that leaked conversation between the top State Department Official Victoria Nuland and the U.S. ambassador in Kiev when she dismissed the EU with the F-word as further proof that this is the U.S. wanting to midwife a new anti-Russian Ukrainian government and pretty much participate in a coup.

COHEN: Stop and think how that story was covered in the American media. The first lead was oh my gosh, she said F the EU. The second lead was who leaked this story? Oh, it must've been the Russians. Look at those horrible Russians. But that wasn't the story. The story is what the top State Department official said to the American ambassador in Kiev.

And what she said is you and I are empowered to form a new Ukrainian government. And they're actually discussing who should be in this government. And the new government is going to get rid of the democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

Now we may hate Yanukovych. He may be a rat of the first magnitude. But in plain language, they were plotting a coup d'etat against a democratically elected president. And we know that in countries with fragile democratic traditions, when you overthrow an elected president, you are setting back democracy maybe decades.

YOUNG: Well Stephen Cohen, what else do you think is going on here? I think of the NFL football player who said that Vladimir Putin pocketed his Super Bowl ring. And there's fascination every time he jumps shirtless into a body of water. Or what else is going on here?

COHEN: You know what this is? This is media trivia. Let me direct your attention to what I think we're witnessing. What may be happening is the erection of a new Cold War divide in Europe, right through the heart of Ukraine. And this time, the division of Europe will not be as it was for 40 years in faraway Berlin but right on Russia's borders.

If that happens, I guarantee you that is going to be instability and the potential of war for decades to come. It will transform the landscape of international politics, and it will be a turning point for the worse for decades. Why isn't that being discussed except right now between you and me?

YOUNG: But what I was meaning in the question about Putin is, is there something else going on here? There seems to be such a fascination. And you ask, is it the U.S. policy following the media, or is the media following U.S. policy? But is it also something among Americans? There seems to be a fascination with Putin.

COHEN: It's a terrific question. First of all, when you ask the question, drop the word Americans. This is the political media elite of America. And it's possible you and I are part of that. So you've got to ask: Why does the American political media elite have this obsession with Putin? Well, one explanation may be that when he came to power in 1999, he was embraced as a democrat, that is the media got it wrong.

And since the media never takes responsibility for its errors, it just changed the narrative. I'm not entirely sure that's the answer, but some people think it might be. Here's something else, though, to think about. We in America have had three successive presidents who were by and large failures as foreign policy presidents. Nobody's going to write a history of Clinton and say he was a great foreign policy president.

Bush's war in Iraq has tainted his foreign policy reputation forever. And Obama is not admired as a foreign policy president, whatever you think of him. Putin on the other hand has been an exceedingly successful national leader of Russia in foreign policy for 13 years. Mitt Romney said the other day in the Washington Post, that when it comes to representing a nation's interest in international affairs, Putin has been a better president than Obama.

OK, that's politics, but it's a plausible thesis. And you sense sometimes that Putin's success has brought upon him this kind of vilification by the American media in particular. Now that's a thesis. I don't know. But we ought to think about it.

YOUNG: Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, also author of "Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War," it's now out in paperback, giving us a lot to think about. Stephen, professor, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thank you.

YOUNG: And there's been a lot of response, too. One Atlantic reader says Putin lost all respect because of his anti-gay law that unleashed thugs on gay Russians. Others note his jailing of dissidents, wealthy Russians like Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Do you think the U.S. press demonizes President Putin? Weigh in at hereandnow.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • btrus

    The American media is fascinated by Putin? What about the Christian right? They have put Putin in the news with their support for his discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Some of the Christian right would like to see someone like Putin in charge in the US.

    • Yep

      It’s funny you say that, a very conservative friend of mine just said to me the other day that he would prefer Putin to Obama. I was amazed at that comment.

    • it_disqus

      What does the Q stand for?

  • antoinepgrew

    GREAT INTERVIEW! Thank you Steven Cohen.

  • L Karamazov

    That might have been the first truly interesting story that this show has ever had. If not the first, certainly the best from the standpoint of journalistic fairness.For my two cents, I think the US is mad because we preferred Medvedev, who was a puppet. We were very close to controlling Russia, Putin stopped all that.

  • Hmmmm

    I found Mr. Cohen’s comments very interesting. I am a young history teacher and see the media’s treatment of Mr. Putin and Russia’s emergence from China’s shadow plays subversively on antiquated Cold War fears.

  • Kate Riley

    I very much agree with the professor.The Olympics coverage has had a very negative spin about Russia in general which has been very frustrating for me.

    • J .K

      This is second troop-contributing states to other country in the Olympics onRussian

  • Hmmmm

    Spell Check: I found Mr. Cohen’s comments very interesting. I am a young history
    teacher and see the media’s treatment of Mr. Putin and Russia’s
    emergence from China’s shadow as playing subversively on antiquated Cold War
    fears.

  • MarianTheLibrarian

    Prof. Cohen is wonderful. Great guest. I wonder if he once taught at SFU? His face looks familiar but I don’t see that gig in his bio. If it is the same person, thanks Prof. Cohen.

  • Acme

    Unimpressed with Cohen’s arguments, especially his starting assumptions. Basically what he considers “unfair media” are pathetically weak even as hypotheses.

    > The world is much more dangerous so a strongman is needed.
    Conservatives often start with their own perceptions of fear — those who dont share his fear dont accept his justifications

    > There were previous strongman Russians who werent so criticized
    Again, not only a selective interpretation, but compared with a modern global expectation for developed (developing) countries, Putins view are anachrnoistic

    > Sochi needed the infrastructure
    No, the point was that Putin alone drove the decision. Every country claims the olympics will bring improvement, and every economic study shows that is false. No one believe that Sochi’s infrastructure in any way would have been the best use of 50, 40, 30, 20 or even 10 billion dollars. They may want the improvement, but the governments should be spending more responsibly.

    If his claim is that the media is being unfair. he did a lousy job supporting it.

  • RK

    Great and patient commentary by Stephen Cohen. As a person who grew-up in the Soviet Union and then lived in the West and in the new Russia – I agree with many of Dr. Cohen’s insights. Our Western media is completely misreading/misunderstanding the situation in the Ukraine; and, as a result all the wrong conclusions and policies are being pursued. Dr. Cohen thank you for patiently trying to elucidate on the topic from a balanced and appropriate perspective that respects all the historical, social and psychological points of view on the matter.

  • Jay Arr

    As a Russian who came to the US on asylum, I have to say that the real issue with regard to the US media’s coverage of Russia and its affairs is the complete lack of understanding with regard to the average Russian citizens. People don’t understand why exactly Putin has been so popular because they don’t understand what he has done right for the Russian people and our economy.
    In many ways, Russian citizens, especially those living in Moscow, have been softened to politics because of our climbing economy. Just like in the United States, people are softened and distracted with the availability of goods and services. Russia now has H&M’s, McDonalds, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, MTV, even Ikea all because of what Putin and his colleagues and administration have done over the last 15 or so years. The citizens living in more rural parts of the country have benefited with our partial capitalist system or they simply haven’t been touched by it at all. Really, unless you are a vocal political protestor or publicly gay, Russia is a relatively great place to be.
    Additionally, many people in our country have a great deal of respect for the Christian Orthodox church. Every Russian I know owns a cross, but few step into a church unless there is a crisis, wedding or a funeral. The people for the most part truly believe that being homosexual is deviant behavior. Over time, with our younger generations coming into their own voice, this societal outlook *will* change, but it may take another 10 or so years before homosexuality is seen as a non-issue like in the states (even though America still battles the legality and “morality” of gay marriage, so let’s stop calling the kettle black on this issue).
    Overall I think the US coverage of every country in general is hypocritical. But I’m sure everyone has put together by now that this is strategic. Even though the negative coverage has been entirely overblown, Putin is definitely an intelligent, conservative, misogynistic, homophobic business man, and Obama is a sketchy centrist President trying to stay alive in one of the most embattled, unresponsive and unhelpful governments in American history.

  • S David H de Lorge

    The focus on personality seems to be about as deep as the public dialogue can get in discussing international relations.

    Many Russians feel “European,” at least inasmuch as they participate in the Indo-European language family and its daughter cultures. But they also feel distinctively Russian, and have often felt under assault by their European neighbors, as well as establishing their own sphere of interest.

    Historically, their borders have been open to easy invasion. Thus they have long had a history of trying to ensure the presence of bordering countries which share Russian interests and thereby serve as a buffer against invasion. History makes clear why they have this concern, apart from periods of Russia’s own imperialistic ambitions.

    Why the US and the EU wanted to convert bordering countries to the EU zone of membership has been worth asking from the start. Any comprehension of the Russian fears was ignored. It has not had substantive discussion in the American media, and therefore hostile Russian responses have been treated as more evil empire stuff.

    Why haven’t the perceived provocations in American and European actions received attention in the media reporting? Would Putin have been able to become such a strongman politician if we had acted less aggressively against Russia’s buffer zone?

    • TrainedHistorian

      The much bigger problem was not pushing the EU east (if a European country qualifies on economic & political grounds no reason why they should not join the EU). The huge, unconscionable provocation was pushing NATO into the Baltic states. That indeed was a deliberate, short-sighted trashing of a promise to Russia that NATO would not incorporate any former Soviet state without Russia’s agreement. Cohen and Basevich have been right one thing (if not everything): the push to keep trying to extend a general “Western” influence–whether by NATO or other means–into former Soviet republics is a power grab by our foreign policy establishment. NATO was the worst instrument for this power grab because it is a MILITARY alliance, and there is no way expanding it to Russia’s borders sends any other message than that we consider Russia an enemy. The thinking among the foreign policy elite (e.g. Nuland) is: grab as much as you can out of Russian sphere of influence now while Russia is still relatively weak, because the chance may not come again–and damn the consequences.
      Unfortunately, those people in Ukraine (and here) who are mainly interested in better living standards and more political accountability have been and will be the victims of this kind of sphere-of-influence rivalry between Great Powers, since it will not help improve the economy and political system for non-elites.

      • S David H de Lorge

        Thank you. You captured my point and more. The Baltic States were central, and unknown to Americans. Taking NATO military interest right up to (and past) Russian borders was indescribably foolish provocation. It’s been incredibly irresponsible reincarnation of “The Great Game,” to no end but increased risk without prospect of gain.

        I would recommend your professional analysis to anyone, and hope to see more of it. Journalists should pay attention.

  • Karen Porter

    I totally agree with Prof. Cohen. Having spent a lot of time in Russia recently, I have a totally different spin from that of the US government and media – thank you, Prof. Cohen!! I couldn’t have said it better!!

  • ii

    Apparently neither professor, nor commentators here understand that Putin never condemned communist rule and atrocities committed toward those nations which do share boarder with Russia. Its unbelievable what professor and others here say. What a shame this view is for all have suffered under former Soviet Union brutal rule, whose enheritant Russia is and does not shy away,starting with Putin. I am sorry I turned the program on.

    • http://Nexus7Forum.com/ Babyfacemagee

      Actually, Putin has condemned Communism and Stalin. If you have followed his speeches through the years he just believes that Russia should act as a counterbalance to U.S. leadership. and that a world with only one ‘superpower’ becomes more a world of smaller nations serving the wants and needs of that one. Better to have two poles of power to act as checks and balances on each other. He has a point if you think about it.

  • RG111

    I agree thoroughly with Dr. Cohen. It’s time we have this conversation on how trustworthy the press is in their portrayal of world leaders. Demonizing leaders and people because they have cultural and societal differences that we don’t like only undermines our own message.

  • Judy Glazier

    Thank you for raising and discussing this issue. I personally have become so ashamed of the denigrating attitude of US media and politicians that I chose to boycott the Olympics. Everything from alleged security issues [does anyone recall that Russia fingered the Boston bombers before it happened and our security people ignored] to alleged anti-gay legislation [has anyone paid attention to the number of states and local jurisdictions that are actively anti-gay in their laws, rules, practices] have been touted repeatedly to belittle Russia and Putin. And at least daily someone has to refer to Putin’s having headed the KGB. Interesting that no one harps on George Bush the firsts tenure with the CIA! We should not be surprised, however, as such behavior is typical of egocentrics gone to extreme in fear of not really being the greatest.

    • willkster78

      I don’t understand; why would you boycott the Olympics being hosted by RUSSIA because you’re ashamed of the supposed denigrating attitude of the US media? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Since you asked the question of how many states and local jurisdictions are actively anti-gay, why don’t you give us the answer? How many? You realize that the Russian law is national, right? And it goes far beyond any American local law in scope. And when American states/jurisdictions try to pass bigoted legislation, they receive criticism, as they should. For example, the law that the Kansas house recently passed, which was widely condemned, as the Russian law deserves to be condemned.

  • it_disqus

    Thanks for having this guest on. Did anyone else notice that Robin brought up the pro-gay agenda several times in the interview that just puts an exclamation point on the guest’s theory of the bias?

  • SJLAW

    Mr. Cohen had a few good points about the superficial coverage of Russia and Putin but he also had a few exaggerations. When China held the games there were many stories along the same lines as the stories we’re seeing during these games. China’s human rights issues were thoroughly written about as well as the environmental concerns of the games (the constant smog) and potential corruption during the construction of the venues, wasteful spending etc. And why shouldn’t the media focus on these things? There is an inherent negativity bias in the media, it’s not intentional it’s just the nature of media.

  • skysi

    Cohen is an idiot, and a dengerous one.

    • Thomas McGuire

      It is more dangerous when people make such statements without even a small, soft fact to support them!

      • skysi

        Did you read this article. Cohen is a clear apologist for Putin who is as criminal as a leader can get.

        • Thomas McGuire

          Well according you to Cohen is not just an “apologist” but an “idiot” and “dangerous” too. There is no possibility of discussing this with you when you announce such dogmatic and absolutist nonsense. With you there is no nuance, complexity, no understandable contradictions, no historical context, no self doubts, no analysis, not even a factual analysis. You are all and only about in your face stark and broad labels that serve nothing but your ideological view of all things.

          • skysi

            Maybe I was too harsh calling him an idiot. I would not retract “an apologist” though.

          • Thomas McGuire

            My dictionary defines apologist as “a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.” So if that is what Cohen did, more power to him. Furthermore, we need not and should not have a view of history by which we Americans or our interests are always “right” and our historical opponents always wrong. I happen to agree with him that the American media is nearly aways a super American cheerleader in virtually all international controversies thus abandoning its role as a careful & unbiased presenter of news and news events. Putin is mainly a jerk, but he isn’t always wrong and the media should tell the truth about him and the context in which things happen.

          • skysi

            I don’t think there’s such a thing as unbiased news. The world’s new is for the most part a propaganda machine. The intensity spectrum of this propaganda varies widely, but the essence is the same propaganda. We need to live in a completely different world for that state of the news to change.

          • skysi

            Yea, someone needs to leak his phone conversations.Then we’ll know the truth about him.

          • Thomas McGuire

            P.S. to my post below. By far the worst of the media in providing an almost super patriot view of world news is Fox News whose coverage borders on the jingoistic and chauvinistic. They are in a class by themselves! They mix opinion with “facts” so often and so badly they don’t deserve to use the word “NEWS.”

    • http://Nexus7Forum.com/ Babyfacemagee

      Cohen is correct and makes a number of salient points. If our administration wasn’t so narcissistic and self absorbed they might see another nation’s point of view for once and make better decisions.

      • skysi

        It’s not the point of view of that nation ou want us to see. It’s the point of view of the dictator/ That nation has more points of view than one.

  • Jochen

    Mr. Cohen claimed that the EU forced the Ukraine to choose between the EU or Russia, so that Russia needed to react in “self defense”. This is completely false! The Ukraine and the EU have been negotiating for several years about an association agreement, which was to be signed in November. Russia (= Putin), however, did not want to see the Ukraine drifting towards the EU and threatened to restrict natural gas delivery and other sanctions. Janukowitch gave in and was rewarded with cheaper natural gas price and a 15 billion dollar credit. Association with the EU does not mean severing the ties with Russia, but certain democratic standards have to be met. Janukowitch and his clique would clearly fail; he shows no interest at all in fighting corruption and giving more power to the Ukrainian people. Putin’s threat was a welcome excuse to end talks with the EU. The Ukrainian people may not speak with one voice, but there are many that want to get closer to the EU. They are sick of a corrupt dictatorship, which is not to everyone’s (Putin’s) taste. Mr. Cohen, the Ukraine is not some far east Asian country that only Russia is entitled to have an interest in!

  • Joe KomaGawa

    It’s so easy to bash “the Press”. How about naming names, and specifically pointing to the articles, that represent “The Press”. the criticism of the Press use the same debate strategies that they accuse The Press of I wouldn’t be surprised if the critics of “The Press” are going to point to sentences in the New York Times or the Washington Post. Since when do 2 newspapers, part of the “Press elite” represent all of the media in the US. On the other hand just because a state newspaper in Maryland or Conn. or where ever a Ivy League prof happens to pick up, this becomes a broad-brush straw man for his or her classroom rants against “The Press”.
    The Press are composed of sons and daughters of people who bash them. Who said, “We have met the enemy…”?

  • AlanMacDonald

    I would highly recommend Professor Stephen Cohen’s comments and
    analysis during his excellent interview with Amy and Juan yesterday on
    “Democracy Now”, which in part states:

    “Well, here again, the
    American political media establishment, including the right and the left
    and the center—because they’re all complicit in this nonsense—focused
    on the too sensational, they thought, aspect of that leaked
    conversation. She said, “F— the European Union,” and everybody said,
    “Oh, my god! She said the word.” The other thing was, who leaked it?
    “Oh, it was the Russians. Those dirty Russians leaked this
    conversation.” But the significance is what you just played. What are
    they doing? The highest-ranking State Department official, who
    presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American
    ambassador in Kiev are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état
    against the elected president of Ukraine.”

    [FULL TRANSCRIPT available at http://www.democracynow.org/20

    His
    superb insight and analysis into what the US (and its Disguised Global
    Empire/ DGE strategy) is doing to deceitfully foment a coup d’état,
    using both soft and hard powers (per Thomas Barnett’s “The Pentagon’s
    New Map”) is precisely spot-on IMHO.

    IMHO, what’s being inflamed
    under the guise of a Bushian/Obamian (neo-con/neo-liberal ‘con-job’) is
    just the latest of the US HQed DGE’s action plan throughout the
    Middle-East and Central Asia in any and all GAP countries to attempt to
    pull this entire, and so-called, “Crescent of Instability” — 5000 mile
    swath form Mauritania to the very boarders of Russian and China —
    into the sway of the ‘Old Core’ (read DGE) sphere of disguised imperial
    control, and cut out any possible ‘New Core’ (BRICS) potential for an
    alternative, less imperialist, world view.

    Only Americans can
    non-violently and effectively confront the DGE, since any protestors in
    foreign territories are subject (and ‘subjects’) to receiving the ‘tip
    of the Empire’s spear in their face’ — whereas brave efforts by
    Americans (who still have to be treated somewhat as ‘citizens’ by the
    DGE posing as the USG can accomplish much with the correct non-violent
    strategy, carefully escalating from the original Occupy strategy to an
    “Occupy the Empire” Rel 2.0 strategy based on what can now be proven by
    Snowden’s (and others) exposures that the US is truly acting EXACTLY
    like a Global Empire.

    If Americans in the homeland of the DGE
    don’t soon bravely and non-violently take the initiative here ‘at home’
    of more broadly recognizing, exposing, uncloaking, ‘calling-out’, and
    confronting this Disguised Global Empire only ‘posing’ as our country,
    then millions of citizens in countries/territories the world over will
    continue to be hammered by the DGE (directly or indirectly) as in Egypt,
    Yemen, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine ‘abroad’.

    Or as Hannah Arendt warned from he painful experience with the Nazi Empire, and her study after WWII leading
    universities of all empires:

    “Empire abroad entails tyranny at home” H. Arndt

    —- and we certainly are seeing the more to more tyranny ‘at home’ already.

    Best
    luck and love to the fast expanding ‘Occupy the Empire’ educational and
    non-violent revolutionary movement against this deceitful and Disguised
    Global EMPIRE, which can’t yet be easily identified as wearing Red
    Coats, Red Stars, nor funny looking Nazi helmets.

    Liberty, democracy, justice, and equality
    Over
    Violent (‘Vichy’ disguised)
    Empire,

    Alan MacDonald
    Sanford, Maine

    We
    don’t merely have a “Big Money”/Citizens United problem, or a domestic
    tyranny and NSA SPYING problem, or a gun/fear problem, or an MIC
    problem, or an ‘Austerity’ problem, or an EXPANDING WARS problem, or a
    ‘drone assassinations’ problem, or a vast income & wealth inequality
    problem, or a Wall Street ‘looting’ problem, or a Global Warming and
    environmental death-spiral problem, or the world’s largest political
    prisoner problem, or a crappy un-healthy insurance problem, or, or, or
    …ad nauseam — but what we REALLY have is a hidden VEMPIRE cancerous
    tumor of GLOBAL EMPIRE which is the prime CAUSE of all these underlying,
    related, and ‘symptom problems’

    • Thomas McGuire

      Yes whether you agree with him or not he is a richly knowledgable man who has been reading Russian History for a half century and is intimately familiar with Russian culture. The media here can accommodate only a narrow view of foreign leaders especially those whose ideology has opposed many American interests in the past.

  • Robert Holman

    As is frequently the case NPR gets it right.

  • MileJunkie56

    Hard to believe that American professor spends time on-line and on TV (just saw him on CNN) arguing for, and explaining and excusing, Putin and Russia. Shame!

    • Thomas McGuire

      You say that because of your academic pedigree in Russian Studies, long history of reading a speaking slavic languages and having traveled extensively in Russia and your detailed knowledge of Russia and its complex history and culture? Or you say that because you have preconceived opinions and you simply believe them regardless of hearing from someone who gets paid to study and write about them?

      • MileJunkie56

        You hit the nail on the head, Thomas! All of the above. Years of travel, knowledge of history and culture, native Russian speaker. Relatives in GULAG and Baby Yar. Plus, years and years of studying American politics, starting with Jimmy Carter.

        • Thomas McGuire

          Oh yeah, Jimmy Carter is definitely the place to begin studying American politics! Babi Yar became known for Germany’s actions, not Russian!

        • skysi

          Babi Yar is not a place/ It’s a ravine in Kiev where 33k Jews were executed by the Nazis.

  • RAOUL ORNELAS

    “Really, unless you are a vocal political protestor or publicly gay, Russia is a relatively great place to be.”

    Comrade, if things are so screwed up in America, supposedly because of President, Obama, then perhaps you don’t know much about American history. I suggest that you seek asylum in Russia with Ed. Snowden.

    “Overall I think the US coverage of every country in general is hypocritical. But I’m sure everyone has put together by now that this is strategic.”

    Sir have you read much history lately or for the past 50 years. History has always been hypocritical. Every ruling power throughout history always adjusts history in order to remain in power. Joe Stalin did a hell of a job!

  • Andrey65

    Thank you Stephen, that is a point of view that I totally subscribe to myself, and very well put!
    That will not be a popular opinion among American brainwashed public. But it looks like not every professor has to be a politician! Well, at least, does not have to tell people only what they want to hear!

    I do believe that with American “freeish” mass media is used by oligarchy to manipulate “public opinion” and to actually run American government. So there is precious few people left now (and none of them a politician) who are in the position to be heard and who are willing to say something which does not go well with “the party line”! Thanks for the pleasure!

  • gala

    America, all of RUSSIA is
    watching and listening to the LIES and peretiranie facts of your government!!
    DISGUSTING!!! And this is America!
    And THIS is Democracy!!! SHAME!!!

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