Steven Cohen in his KGB Bubble

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#1 Steven Cohen in his KGB Bubble

Postby kuhl » Sun Mar 25, 2018 10:34 am

Steven Cohen
in his KGB Bubble

Well, you be the judges

ZAKARIA: Russia's President Vladimir Putin is often seen is an iron man, a throwback who wants to return Russia to its former imperial glory. But this week's cover story of "The Nation" magazine makes the claim that the America media has distorted Putin's image.

How and why? Well, I brought the author of that essay on today, Stephen Cohen, who teaches Russian studies at both New York University and Princeton.

Steve, you say that this -- this guy is not the rank imperialist and rank dictator we see him as. Explain why he isn't those things.

STEPHEN F. COHEN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY AND PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Nor is he, as Secretary Albright and Professor Brzezinski suggested, Hitler with their references to Munich.

Putin is not a thug. He's not a neo-Soviet imperialist who's trying to create -- recreate the Soviet Union. He's not even anti- American.

What he is is intensely historically pro-Russian. He's been in power nearly 14 years. And his mission, as he sees it and many Russians see it, is to restore Russia from the disaster of 1991, the collapse of the Russian state.

Remember that was the second time in the 20th century that the Russian state had collapsed, the first time in 1917. So to recreate stability, prosperity, greatness, whatever that means in Russia at home and, in the process, restore Russia's traditional zones of national security on its borders, that means Ukraine as well.

He did not create this Ukrainian crisis. It was imposed on him and he had no choice to react. That's where we stand today.

ZAKARIA: You say he's actually one of the most liberal rulers of Russia in its history.

COHEN: I wouldn't put it that way. I mean, I wouldn't use the word "liberal." What I would say is, is if we view Putin in the context of the last 400 years of Russian history, with the exception of Gorbachev and possibly the first post-Soviet president, Yeltsin, well, there's an argument there.

Putin is the least authoritarian; let's call him the most soft authoritarian of Russian rulers in centuries.

And by the way, so far as it matters, because Jews and the status of Jews in Russia is often a barometer of how Russian rulership treats its society, Putin has been better for Russian Jews than any leader in Russian history. And if you want evidence of that, just ask Israel.

ZAKARIA: What about this -- the new imperialism? I mean, you -- but why should it be taken as a natural, given that Russia would send troops into parts of Georgia and to parts of Ukraine every time it feels that its interests are being adversely affected?

That does seem neo-imperialist, no?

COHEN: Well, I mean, you know, Fareed, you and -- we could argue this for hours, but, I mean, we could do the analogy.

What if, suddenly, Russian power showed up in Canada and Mexico and provinces of Canada and Mexico said they were going to join Putin's Eurasian economic union and maybe even his military bloc? Surely the American president would have to react at least as forcefully as Putin has. ZAKARIA: I don't think that -- if Canada were to say it wanted to start a trade relationship with Russia, I do not believe the American president would send troops into Canada.

COHEN: Well, but if it was a trade relationship that excluded preferential trade with the United States, it would certainly create a crisis.

But let's go back to Ukraine. Brzezinski and Albright said, for example, that the current government -- excuse me -- in Kiev is legitimate. Putin says it's not legitimate.

I would argue that if you had on your show a panel of constitutional and international lawyers, they would hard -- be hard put to explain how a government, which a week ago overthrew the entire Ukrainian constitutional order, deposed the elected president and has been passing anti-Russian legislation in Kiev and which is at least partially controlled by very extremist forces in the streets, is legitimate. That would be hard to explain.

ZAKARIA: Well, Stephen Cohen, that is a fascinating contrarian point of view.


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