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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

EDITORIAL: Neo-Imperialist Russia


Neo-Imperialist Russia

Writing in The Nation magazine and republished in the International Herald Tribune, NYU Professor Stephen Cohen (pictured, with our devilish doodles) has issued another one of his treacherous little diatribes seeking to rationalize rather than confront the horrific dangers presented by neo-Soviet Russia. We've previously exposed Professor Cohen as the card-carrying neo-Soviet apologist he is. The Nation, you may already know, is an extremist left-wing propaganda screed published by Cohen's wife, so it's not surprising that it is the leading source for his malignant drivel.

Cohen complains that the U.S. presidential candidates are not focusing intently enough on his personal area of claimed expertise, Russia, and hence minimizing his significance in the world. We feel his pain. He drags out the old canards about Russia's nukes and territory, stating that "Russia alone possesses weapons that can destroy the United States" as if this was some kind of news flash. It's really quite pathetic.

In a second pulse-pounding bulletin, he then states: "U.S.-Russian relations are worse today than they have been in 20 years," and asks why this is so. He begins:

In the U.S. policy elite and media, the nearly unanimous view is that President Vladimir Putin's anti-democratic domestic policies and "neo-imperialism" destroyed that historic opportunity. But you don't have to be a Putin apologist to understand that it is not an adequate explanation.

You don't have to be, no -- but it does help. Who else but an apologist would then state:

Over the past eight years, Putin's foreign policies have been largely a reaction to Washington's winner-take-all approach to Moscow, which resulted from a revised U.S. view of how the Cold War ended. In this triumphalist narrative, America "won" the 40-year conflict and post-Soviet Russia was a defeated nation analogous to post-World War II Germany and Japan - a nation without full sovereignty at home or autonomous national interests abroad.

So get this: Russians elected a proud KGB spy not because they themselves decided to, but because they are a nation of mindless monkeys who can do nothing but respond to whatever stimulus the true human beings in the West deign to give them. According to Professor Cohen, it's we in the West who control Russia's destiny, not the Russian people themselves. Talk about a Russophobe!

And, it turns out, the West didn't really win the cold war -- or, if it did, it should have acted like it didn't, because that was the only way to prevent Russians from turning their country into a barbaric neo-Soviet dictatorship. The arrogance and hubris necessary to make a conclusion like this is exactly what Professor Cohen is complaining about in others, isn't it? Have you ever seen such breathtakingly mindless hypocrisy? Little wonder that a ridiculous, fanatical screed like The Nation is the only outlet for Professor Cohen's claptrap.

There is not one word -- not one single word -- of blame for Russia's current neo-Soviet crackdown laid at the feet of the Russians themselves anywhere in Professor Cohen's insane diatribe. The farthest he will go is to say that "the Kremlin may have overreacted" to the West's provocation.

Professor Cohen says that the U.S. must "treat Russia as a sovereign great power with commensurate national interests." But Russia isn't a great power. He wants us to treat it like one in order to salve Russian egos, yet he doesn't call upon Russia to treat its neighbors (like Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia) in a similarly respectful manner. In fact, he totally ignores that Russia treats its neighbors in exactly the same manner that he accuses the U.S. of doing towards Russia.

In a letter to the editor of the IHT, Estonian member of parliament Marko Mihkelson responds to Cohen as follows:

Stephen Cohen presented a dangerous misreading of Russia.

Cohen argues that Russia's resurgence during the presidency of Vladimir Putin was caused by active U.S. support of democracy and free markets in Central and Eastern Europe. He adds that Russia's backlash was caused by the collective view in Washington in the post-Soviet period that "America was entitled to Russia's traditional sphere of security and energy supplies, from the Baltics, Ukraine and Georgia to Central Asia and the Caspian." Cohen calls for a stop to NATO enlargement and for the U.S. to soften its position on building missile-defense units in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The article reflects a rather old way of thinking. Apparently, Cohen has a difficult time recognizing that the Soviet Empire is history and that the free nations on the Russia's borders have the right to decide their own future. Over the last 17 years, my country, Estonia, where I serve as a member of Parliament, has rebuilt a stable and prosperous society, which was destroyed by Soviet occupation after World War II. If the promoting of democracy and the rule of law by Russia's neighbors is seen as threat in Moscow, then the Western world should be seriously worried. Russia's current foreign policy tools reflect 19th-century thinking. Cohen is worried that the U.S. presidential candidates are not paying enough attention to this challenge, but John McCain has been quite clear in how the West should deal with neo-imperialist Russia.

Back in 1994 opposition leader Grigori Yavlinsky wrote in the New York Times:

An increasingly disquieting feature of Russian politics is President Boris Yeltsin's ambiguous attitude toward integration with the former Soviet republics. What most worries the democratic opposition in Russia is the absence of a clear stand among the country's leaders against military and political integration with Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova -- the only approach that can truly calm the fears among members of the Commonwealth of Independent States and make talk of neo-imperialism unfounded. The United States and others may well conclude that a neo-imperialist Russia, catering to an outdated notion of its vital interests, is trying to re-create the defunct Soviet empire through military, political and economic integration.

The fact is, no matter how Professor Cohen might like to twist the facts, that neo-imperialism is not fantasy where Russia is concerned, it's reality. Blogger Valery Dzutsev understands. In a post called "It's the imperialism, stupid" he writes:

Russia’s inability to progress administrative reforms [is] connected to the issue of contemporary Russian imperialism and fear of territorial disintegrationRussia has been kept together by fear in about the same fashion as the USSR and Russian empire previously. This has become more evident after the wars in Chechnya. So fear obviously evokes either resistance, resilience or surrender or mixture of all of these, in any case it does not seem to be a very strong foundation of the state. Also Russians have the example of the Soviet Union’s - disintegration of a state much stronger and more influential on international scene than contemporary Russia - it was also very strong and less diverse than many other countries in the world. So why should they not fear of disintegration and regard democracy as a way national minorities might gain their political rights including right to secede from Russian Federation? I don’t understand why when it comes to contemporary Russia, the scholars back off and start looking at Russia with a completely different mindset, as if Russia were not an old-fashioned colonial power.
It's amazing, and terrifying, that a man as utterly clueless and base as Professor Cohen could be teaching Americans about Russia at a major university. How can we be surprised at our inability to respond properly the the outrages heaped upon us by the malignant little troll who prowls the Kremlin's parapets when we are taught such horrifyingly ignorant and treacherous rubbish as that spewed out by this nasty little academic freak?

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