Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments are at TheNation.com.) Cohen raises three “hypothetical” and heretical questions for discussion. Does the recent escalation of anti-Russian behavior by Washington, from its growing NATO military buildup on Russia’s western borders and refusal to cooperate with Moscow against the Islamic State in Syria to the Obama administration’s refusal to compel its government in Kiev to implement a negotiated settlement of the Ukrainian civil war, reflect an undeclared US war against Russia already underway? Given that many US allies are unhappy with these developments, has Washington gone “rogue”? And does the recent spate of warfare media “information” reflect these new realities?
As evidence, Cohen points to some recent examples: the emerging permanence of NATO’s “exercises” on Russia’s borders on land, sea, and in the air; the Obama administration’s refusal to separate physically its “moderate oppositionists” in Syria from anti-Assad fighters recognized as terrorist groups, despite having promised to do so; the demand by 51 State Department “diplomats” that Obama launch air strikes against Assad’s Syrian army, which is allied with Moscow, even if it might mean “military confrontation with Russia”; the questionable allegation that Russia had hacked files of the Democratic National Committee coupled with a NATO statement that hacking a member state might now be regarded as war against the entire military alliance; and the EU’s renewal of economic sanctions against Russia without any meaningful pretext.
As evidence that many US allies are unhappy with these developments, even opposed them, Cohen cites the German Foreign Minister’s denunciation of NATO’s buildup as “war-mongering”; the stated desire of several major European countries, which (not the United States) pay the economic costs to end the sanctions; the growing political and security relationship between Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and Putin; and the relative success of the international economic conference in St. Petersburg last week, hosted by Putin, whom the Obama administration continues to try to “isolate.”
Whether or not Washington’s behavior constitutes undeclared war, Putin, at the conference, warned that if it continues it will mean “war,” reinforcing Cohen’s impression that Moscow is preparing for the worst, bringing the two nuclear superpowers to their worst confrontation since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Batchelor asks if these warlike steps on the part of Washington will benefit Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Cohen agrees that she has associated herself with such hardline US policies but thinks the problem is more general. A presidential election is supposed to feature the best aspects of American democracy, including full public discussion of foreign policy. But the mainstream media have largely deleted the questions discussed by Cohen and Batchelor from their election coverage. Given full media coverage, including of Donald Trump’s foreign-policy views, which are quite unlike those of Clinton, especially regarding Russia, we would learn two now unknowable things: Would Trump’s less hawkish positions appeal to American voters; and will those voters see through and reject establishment media cheerleading for, in effect, war with Russia?
(Cohen notes parenthetically that today, already June 22 in Russia and Europe, is the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941. Russians, he adds, certainly have it in mind.)