Russia Expert Stephen Cohen: New York Times Stokes a New McCarthyism Against Critics of U.S. Policy
Posted on Dec 15, 2016
Stephen Cohen, a longtime scholar of Russian studies formerly at Princeton University, thinks the concerns sparked by still-unsubstantiated CIA claims that the Kremlin ordered hacking into Democratic Party computers during the 2016 election confirms that American leaders and Russia are engaged in a new Cold War. And with a story titled “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.,” The New York Times is helping shape this perception, Cohen contends.
Cohen told Democracy Now! that in his view, U.S. policy toward Russia is colored by the impression that “this new Cold War is solely the fault of Putin.”
“We need to rethink our policy, at least over 20 years, but over the last five or six years, toward Russia,” he said. “That has been made even more impossible now with this slurring of anybody who disagrees from the official American position of how the Cold War arose.”
“The slurring began against people such as myself two or three years ago,” he added. “We were called Putin apologists, Kremlin toadies, Kremlin clients. It moved on to even accuse Henry Kissinger of that. And then, of course, when Trump came along, this was a great blessing to these people, who are essentially neo-McCarthyites. It’s spread to The New York Times.”
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, appeared on the show with Cohen and took issue with some of his points. When Goodman prompted him to weigh in on the subject of “this new McCarthyism,” Roth said, “Well, that’s another way of saying, you know, a new Cold War. You know, just because you start accusing people who say bad things about Putin of McCarthyism doesn’t mean it’s not true. I mean, you know, these big labels don’t help. Let’s look at the facts.”
Cohen pointed out that an assessment published Monday by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group that includes NSA whistleblower William Binney and former CIA officer Ray McGovern, casting doubt on the CIA’s claims of Russian interference from a perspective of technical expertise, has not been addressed by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Roth and Cohen also sharply disagreed, during their discussion on Goodman’s show, about the nature and extent of Russia’s role in the crisis in Syria.
A rushed Democracy Now! transcript of Cohen’s remarks and a debate with Roth follows.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to take a broader look at U.S.-Russian relations in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. On Tuesday, Trump officially nominated Rex Tillerson, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be secretary of state. Tillerson is known to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship decoration in 2013. One of the focuses of the Senate confirmation hearings will be Exxon’s $500 billion oil exploration partnership with the Russian government’s oil company, Rosneft, considered the largest oil deal in history. The partnership can only go through if the U.S. lifts sanctions against Russia, which the Obama administration imposed over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
The news of Tillerson’s nomination came just days after the CIA accused Russia of meddling in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win. Trump has rejected the CIA’s conclusion, decrying it as “ridiculous.” But President Obama ordered a review of Russia’s role in influencing the presidential election.
Still with us, Kenneth Roth, who is executive director of Human Rights Watch, and Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University.
Stephen Cohen, start with the elections.
STEPHEN COHEN: Be more precise.
AMY GOODMAN: What we understand, what the U.S. allegations are around Russian intervention in the elections. The New York Times today has a major top story.
STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: “Hacking the Democrats: How the Russia Honed Its Cyberpower and Trained It on an American Election.”
STEPHEN COHEN: I don’t know where to begin. Let me context it, because when we first—when you first had me on, February 2014, I said we were headed for a new Cold War with Russia, and it would be more dangerous than the last one. That has happened. We now have three Cold War fronts that are fraught with hot war, the possibility of hot war—the Baltic area, Ukraine and Syria—between two nuclear powers. Things are very, very dangerous.
We desperately need in this country a discussion of American policy toward Russia. We can’t keep saying an untruth, that this new Cold War is solely the fault of Putin. We need to rethink our policy, at least over 20 years, but over the last five or six years, toward Russia. That has been made even more impossible now with this slurring of anybody who disagrees from the official American position of how the Cold War arose. The slurring began against people such as myself two or three years ago. We were called Putin apologists, Kremlin toadies, Kremlin clients. It moved on to even accuse Henry Kissinger of that. And then, of course, when Trump come along, this was a great blessing to these people, who are essentially neo-McCarthyites. It’s spread to The New York Times