Is Trump for Detente or Militarism? – A Talk with Stephen Cohen

Yves here. It is quite distressing to see the Mueller report take up as if it were settled fact the idea that Russia influenced the 2016 Presidential election, particularly since his investigation didn’t provide any information that supported this theory. So this Real News Network interview with professor Stephen Cohen provides a badly-needed counterpoint. Please also view the preceding segment Is Russian ‘Meddling’ an Attack on America? – RAI with Stephen Cohen.

PAUL JAY: Welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

And we’re continuing our series of discussions with Stephen Cohen. And his biography is down below the video player, and you really should watch the first few segments anyway and you’ll get where we are. Thanks for joining us again.

STEPHEN COHEN: Thank you.

PAUL JAY: So I’ve watched several of your interviews. You’ve done Larry King and others, and you’ve been positive about Trump’s attitude towards sort of a detente, lowering tensions with Russia. And in terms of my personal view, I think you’re right. I think anything that lowers tensions between two nuclear powers is a good thing, and I think this self-righteous American attitude towards Putin and Russia– when you look at the scale of crimes committed by countries internationally, there is nothing that Russia has done that compares to the Iraq war, and go on and on with the United States has done, and to have some self-righteous attitude… Two, it’s clear it’s so hypocritical to worry about political rights in Russia, because it’s clear in terms of U.S. foreign policy if you can ally with Saudi Arabia, the Israeli occupation, and you name it how many dictators the United States has supported over the years, it’s not about democracy.

So whatever Trump’s intent is, I think I agree that this is a good thing. I actually think Trump framed it quite well himself, where he said, “Russia is not our adversary, they’re our competitor, the way other big capitalist countries are our competitors.” I think all that makes sense. Where I push back is I think you need to add that one of the prime reasons Trump wants to diminish tensions with Russia–assuming he really does, because some of the people that work for him, Nikki Haley in the UN and others, have said as outrageous stuff about Russia as any Democrat has said.

All that being said, I think the Trump presidency is one of the most dangerous presidencies ever, and he is planning and his whole foreign policy agenda has been regime change in Iran. And I think that if they don’t accomplish that through economic warfare against Iran, with John Bolton there, the possibility of some kind of at least bombing attack on Iran before 2020 is very possible. One of the reasons I think he wants to lower tensions with Russia is so he can go after China. His acting defense secretary justified this new military expenditure, the new budget, the 765 billion dollar budget, with three words, “China, China, China.” Their strategic vision–and you can see this in Steve Bannon’s interviews and language–is diminish the tensions with Russia, go after Iran and go after China. And I think one needs to say this, otherwise it kind of looks like Trump is some kind of peacenik. And far from it, I think they’re militarists.

STEPHEN COHEN: Not sure what the question is, though. Is it about–

PAUL JAY: Well, my question is, I think when you are saying positive things about Trump diminishing tensions with Russia, which I think is correct, but I think you need to add this guy does not have peaceful intentions, he’s very dangerous.

STEPHEN COHEN: I live in a social realm–to the extent that I have any social life at all anymore– where people get very angry if I say, or anybody says, anything positive about Donald Trump. When Trump was campaigning in 2016, he said, “I think it would be great to cooperate with Russia.” All of my adult life, my advocacy in American foreign policy–I’ve known presidents, the first George Bush invited me to Camp David to consult with him before he went to the Malta Summit. I’ve known presidential candidates, Senators and the rest, and I’ve always said the same thing. American national security runs through Moscow, period. Nothing’s changed.

In the era of weapons of mass destruction, not only nuclear, but primarily nuclear, ever more sophisticated, the Russians now have a new generation of nuclear weapons–Putin announced them on March 1, they were dismissed here, but they’re real–that can elude any missile defense. We spent trillions on missile defense to acquire a first strike capability against Russia. We said it was against or Iran, but nobody believed it. Russia has now thwarted us; they now have missile defense-evading nuclear weapons from submarines, to aircraft, to missiles. And Putin has said, “It’s time to negotiate an end to this new arms race,” and he’s 100 percent right. So when I heard Trump say, in 2016, we have to cooperate with Russia, I had already become convinced–and I spell this out in my new book, War with Russia?–that we were in a new cold war, but a new cold war more dangerous than the preceding one for reasons I gave in the book, one of them being these new nuclear weapons.

So I began to speak positively about Trump at that moment–that would have been probably around the summer of 2016–just on this one point, because none of the other candidates were advocating cooperation with Russia. And as I told you before, Paul, all my life I’ve been a detente guy. Detente means cooperate with Russia. I saw in Trump the one candidate who said this is necessary, in his own funny language. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, was very much a hawk. When she said publicly that Vladimir Putin has no soul, you could not commit or utter a more supreme statement of anti-diplomacy, and particularly addressing the Russians, who put a lot of stock in soul. To say somebody has no soul and then go on to equate him with Hitler, I found that so irresponsible. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I did begin to write and broadcast that this was of vital importance that we have this discussion, that we needed a new detente because of the new and more dangerous Cold War.

Since he’s been president, I think he’s been ineffective in regard to pursuing detente with Russia for a couple of reasons. I think that the people who invented Russiagate were the enemies of detente, and they piled on. So they’ve now demonized Russia, they’ve crippled Trump. Anything he does diplomatically with Putin is called collusion. No matter what Mueller says, it’s collusion. This is anti-democracy, and detente is pursued through democracy. So whatever he really wants to do–it’s hard to say–he’s been thwarted. I think it’s also one of the reasons why he put anti-detente people around him.

PAUL JAY: Why didn’t he pull out of the arms treaty?

STEPHEN COHEN: So this is a separate issue now, and a complicated one. We have been in violation–let’s be clear for folks which treaty we’re talking about. We’re talking about the so-called Intermediate-Range Treaty. This band of deployment of missiles that could fly roughly from 500, I think, to 3000 miles, they were exceedingly dangerous. The American ones have been based in Europe. They were very dangerous because they tested high-alert systems. They flew low, fast, they could elude radar. They were dangerous. Reagan and Gorbachev abolished them in 1987, correct? Now, stop and think for a minute, Paul. What Reagan and Gorbachev did in 1987 was the first ever, ever in history, act of nuclear abolitionism. They abolished an entire category of nuclear weapons. That was a sacred act. It needed to be cherished and preserved forever, no matter what difficulties emerged.

But then comes the history, and we need to remember the history. In 2002, the second President Bush withdrew the United States unilaterally from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, correct? Now, this treaty was related, because it forbid the deployment of so-called missile defense in a way that either side, American or Russian, could think that it had such great missile defense, it had a first strike capability. And everybody agreed nobody should think that. Mutually assured destruction had kept us safe in the nuclear age. But if Russia or the United States gets a first strike capability, then you don’t have assured mutual destruction, and some crazy person might be tempted to risk it. So how did the Russians react to that? They began to develop–as I said before, when we began to deploy missile defense–a new generation of weapons. In other words, you’re getting this classic action, reaction, action, reaction that drove the previous nuclear arms race, and now it’s happening again.

So that brings us to Trump’s decision. We don’t know yet where it’s going to lead, because Trump has said we’re withdrawing. He said the Russians have been in violation. But in fact, we’ve been in violation since we deployed the missile defense systems. Just for the record, by the way–and professor Theodore Postol at MIT has been very good about this–these missile defense installations that we’ve installed around Russia, land, air, and sea, can actually fire cruise missiles. They are in violation of that Intermediate-Range Treaty, so we’ve been in systematic violation. Pushes come to shove, we withdrew, the Russians have now withdrawn. But Trump has said two things that are interesting and maybe correct, that technically the treaty was out of date because of the new weaponry. And secondly, who has the most cruise missiles? China. 30 years ago in 1987, it was only the United States and Russia, the Soviet Union. But now China, because of its vast regional presence, has all these intermediate range missiles.

So Trump says offhandedly, maybe in a Tweet, “Have you ever looked at the military budget of Russia, China, and the United States? It’s obscene. We should cut it.” What does that mean? What does that mean? It’s a good idea, right? Then he said, “We can’t have such a treaty without China.” The Russians know this too, so let us hope that what they’re stumbling toward is a new, modernized intermediate-range ban that would include China. China, however, will never sign it. But if they begin the negotiations and China doesn’t deploy any more during the negotiations, and the negotiations go on indefinitely, we are safer than we now are. Now, do I think that Trump is cunning and thought this up? I’m not sure, but he’s got China on the mind, and I don’t quite agree with you that–he’s got a kind of dualistic attitude toward China. It’s a threat, but every time he makes a new trade deal with China, he brags on it that it’s great for us.

You would agree with that, right? He’s always talking about, “We’re going to have this wonderful trade agreement with China, it’s going to be so good for us.” So in his mind, Trump’s mind, China is kind of potentially–in his businessman mind–this big economic plus that he alone is going to get right. Let him try.

PAUL JAY: I don’t know how much of this policy at all is Trump or not Trump. I think the brains behind a lot of this policy now is Bolton and some of the other neocon crazies around him.

STEPHEN COHEN: But Trump has been saying the same thing about cooperating with Russia long before he took on Bolton. There’s two ways to look at this.

PAUL JAY: But his attitude towards China–

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, just stay for one minute on Russia, because the China thing is worth talking about too. But he says, almost alone, for the first time–how long has it been since we had a president really pursue detente? It’s been a very long time. Obama called it a reset, but it was fraudulent. It was basically saying to the Russians, “Give us everything, and we aren’t going to give you anything.” It was doomed from the beginning. Plus, they wagered that Putin wouldn’t return to the presidency. Do you know, by the way, speaking of meddling, that Biden went to Moscow and told Putin not to return to the presidency in 2012?

PAUL JAY: No.

STEPHEN COHEN: Wrap your head around that a minute. The vice president of the United States goes to Moscow and tells Putin, who’s now prime minister because he termed out, but he could return, “We don’t think you should return to the presidency.” So you know what I’m wondering, I’m wondering whether Biden’s calling up Putin today and asking Putin whether Biden should get into the presidential race here. I mean, what the hell? What the hell? And we talk about meddling? So the point about Trump, to finish this, is for the first time in many, many years, a presidential candidate, one that I didn’t vote for and didn’t care for, had said it’s necessary to cooperate with Russia.

PAUL JAY: OK, but I’ve got to contextualize it. Because it’s not enough–because first of all, Trump’s a big liar, and everyone, from beginning to end, for real.

STEPHEN COHEN: Politicians lie, Paul. Welcome to the world,

PAUL JAY: No, but I think he lied on Russia.

STEPHEN COHEN: About what?

PAUL JAY: Well, on two things. I think number one–I think two things drove his Russia–

STEPHEN COHEN: Let me get my word in. Then I’ll give it to you, I promise I’ll pass it right to you, because this is going to set you up beautifully. When he said, Trump, 2016, “It’s necessary to cooperate with Russia,” there are two ways to interpret that. He was wise and smart, or the Kremlin had something on him.

PAUL JAY: No, I don’t think either of those are true.

STEPHEN COHEN: And then we go straight to Russia.

PAUL JAY: Neither of those are true.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, I’m not saying you say that, but that’s the way it was taken.

PAUL JAY: No, I think there’s two things drove the Russia thing. Number one, they wanted sanctions lifted because Tillerson and the American oil companies, especially Exxon, wanted a big energy play in Russia, and they needed to lift the sanctions to do it, and Tillerson was all positioned for it. And if it hadn’t been for this whole Russiagate stuff, they would have sailed along, had a detente, lifted the sanctions, and had a whole realm of new energy.

STEPHEN COHEN: You mean under Trump.

PAUL JAY: Under Trump. And I think that would have been a good thing. I’m not critiquing that in the sense that anything that reduces tensions between the United States and Russia is a good, thing normalizing, even if it’s exploitive and ripping off the Russian people in their oil, I don’t care. The nuclear threat is so paramount, anything that reduces those tensions are good. But these are not peacenik intentions.

STEPHEN COHEN: Where do we disagree? You’ve lost me.

PAUL JAY: I’m not saying we necessarily disagree on this. The second part of it is–and this is where I think is the dangerous part. Because I think sometimes when Trump and Putin get together and talk quietly, part of that conversation could well be about Iran. Because when they had the first big round of sanctions on Iran, Russia supported them, Russia came in on it. And if your foreign policy objective–and clearly it is, between whether it was Flynn, or whether it was Mattis, or whether it was Bolton, all of them are “regime change in Iran is the prime objective.” And if you want to do that, wouldn’t you want Russia to at the very least step back a little bit?

STEPHEN COHEN: I got you now, I see where you’re going.

PAUL JAY: Number one. And number two, the big strategic guns are focused on China. So if you want to focus on China, wouldn’t it be nice to have a strategic normalization with Russia, try to split Russia from China? Because in their minds, the real enemy is not Russia, the real enemy is a superpower economy–

STEPHEN COHEN: In whose mind?

PAUL JAY: Much of the American foreign policy establishment, both Democrat and Republican.

STEPHEN COHEN: The real enemy is…?

PAUL JAY: China. Because that’s the global economy, that’s going to be the competing superpower.

STEPHEN COHEN: Let’s say you’re right.

PAUL JAY: And that doesn’t in any way say it’s still, in the final analysis, a good thing if Trump can diminish these tensions. But let’s give it the whole context.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, but it doesn’t–I’m not sure what the whole context is. It seems to me you just said to me that Trump or these people were playing for Russia’s support against Iran in China.

PAUL JAY: As one piece of this, yeah.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, if so, it’s a fool’s folly. Russia is leaving the West. I mean, it can’t leave the West geopolitically, because Russia is so big, it’s half in the West and a half in the un-West geographically. But American foreign policy, NATO expansion, the unwise policies made in Brussels and Washington, are driving Russia from the West.

PAUL JAY: No doubt.

STEPHEN COHEN: And when you leave the West, where do you end up, Paul?

PAUL JAY: They are pushing exactly the kind of a line–

STEPHEN COHEN: Where do you go?

PAUL JAY: Well, with China, of course.

STEPHEN COHEN: And not only China, where else? All major powers that are not members of NATO, including Iran. So when Putin came to power, he was very much in the tradition of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. He wanted a strategic alliance with the United States. Who was the first person to call up Bush after 9/11? Putin. And he said, “George, anything.” And if you go back and look at what the Russians did to help the American ground war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, whether you think it was a good idea or not, that ground war, Russia did more to save American lives–Russian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan–than any NATO country did.

PAUL JAY: No, Iran did more than any NATO country to help America.

STEPHEN COHEN: But Russia had assets, unbelievable assets, and corridors for transportation, and even an army, the Northern Alliance, that it kept in Afghanistan. It gave it all to the United States. Putin wanted a strategic alliance with the United States, and what did he get in return? He got from Bush, the second Bush, more NATO expansion right to Russia’s borders, and as I mentioned before, American withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which had been the bedrock of Russian nuclear security for 30 or 40 years. He got betrayed, and they use that word, “We were betrayed by Washington.” This is serious stuff.

The pivot away from the West begins there and continues with these crazy policies that Washington has pursued toward Russia. It doesn’t mean that Russia is gone forever from the West, but if you look at the billions of dollars of investment, you look at which way the pipelines flow, you look at Russia–Putin meets like six times a year, maybe more, with the leader of China. They’ve each called each other their best friend in politics. Trump meets with Putin and we think, “Oh my god, how can he meet with him.” I mean, it’s normal.

PAUL JAY: Netanyahu just met with Putin; nobody said a word.

STEPHEN COHEN: But the point here is that Russia has been torn between East and the West forever. Its best policy, in its own best interest, is to straddle East and West, not to be of the East or the West, but it’s impossible in this world today. And U.S.-led Western policy since the end of the Soviet Union, and particularly since Putin came to power in 2000, has persuaded the Russian ruling elite that Russia can not count any longer, economically, politically, militarily, on being part of the West. It has to go elsewhere. So all this talk about wanting to win Russia to an American position that’s anti-Iranian and anti-Chinese is conceived in disaster and will end in disaster. They should think of some other foreign policy.

PAUL JAY: I agree, but I think that’s what Trump’s–the people around Trump that wanted the detente–

STEPHEN COHEN: We should get new people.

PAUL JAY: Well…

STEPHEN COHEN: I’ll tell you truthfully, if Trump really wants to cooperate with Russia for the sake of American national security, if we forget all this Russiagate stuff and we say, “The guy is a little dim, but his ideas are right, you’ve got to cooperate with Russia,” he has to get some new advisors. Because the people around him don’t have a clue how to do it.

PAUL JAY: I don’t think that is the intent, the intent is make money. I don’t think there’s any other intent. Make money for arms manufacturers, fossil fuel–

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, hope dies with us. I just don’t see that constant bashing of Trump demeaning him, though it’s so easy to do, helps us think clearly about American national interests.

PAUL JAY: I don’t think bashing Trump by dredging up the demons of the Cold War is anything but war mongering. On the other hand, I don’t think we should create any illusions about who Trump is.

STEPHEN COHEN: So let me give you the part with a paradox. We shouldn’t have any illusions about who Trump is, that seems like–

PAUL JAY: Or who the system is, really.

STEPHEN COHEN: OK. So let’s say–I mean, that seems a sensible point of view. But let me ask you a question. Why was it that American presidents since Eisenhower could do detente with Soviet communist leaders, and they weren’t demonized after Stalin, but we’re not permitted–and certainly Trump is not permitted–to do detente with a Russian Kremlin anti-communist leader, which Putin is? Did we like the communists better than the anti-communists in the Kremlin?

PAUL JAY: No. I’ll give you what I think, it’s just a layman’s opinion. I think the foreign policy establishment, the elite, they were absolutely furious that after all these decades of trying to overthrow the Soviet Union, and they finally accomplish–although I think it was mostly an internal phenomenon, but still–and then they get Yeltsin and they have open Wild West, grabbing all these resources. I think they were really pissed that a state emerged, led by Putin, that said, “Hold on, it may be oligarchs, but they’re going to be Russian, and you Americans aren’t going to have a free-for–all, taking up the resources and owning the finance. We’re not going to be a third world country to your empire.”

STEPHEN COHEN: That’s correct.

PAUL JAY: And they’re pissed off at that.

STEPHEN COHEN: They, meaning…?

PAUL JAY: The Americans.

STEPHEN COHEN: Our people.

PAUL JAY: Our people. Well, I don’t want to even take ownership for it.

STEPHEN COHEN: Don’t run away. I don’t know your age–

PAUL JAY: I’m 67.

STEPHEN COHEN: So we’ve established that I’m older than you.

PAUL JAY: No doubt. But you look younger, and I’m pissed at that.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, that’s a separate subject.

PAUL JAY: You’ve got more hair.

STEPHEN COHEN: I’ve got more hair. You’ve distracted me. What we share, despite the age difference, is that we grew up at a time when we were told–whether you or I believed it or not, but our generations, two generations, were told we are against Russia because it’s communist. We were told that for decade after decade after decade. Now, Russia, the Kremlin, is not communist, it’s anti-communist, and we’re still against Russia. How do Russian intellectuals and policy-makers interpret that turnabout, that it was never about communism, it was about Russia? There’s a saying in Russia formulated by a philosopher, his name was Zinoviev, he passed on but he was very influential, they were shooting–meaning the West–they were shooting at communism, but they were aiming at Russia.

And the view, very widespread among the Russian policy intellectual class today, is that Washington, in particular, will never accept Russia as an equal great power in world affairs, regardless of whether Russia is communist or anti-communist. And if that is so, Russia has to entirely reconceive its place in the world and its thinking about the West. And that point of view is ascending in Russia today due to Western policy. But just remember the view that all during the previous Cold War, they claim they were shooting at communism, but it was really Russia. And they still are today.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, I agree with that. I just–

STEPHEN COHEN: But we don’t–you and I may agree, but we don’t want Russians to think that way.

PAUL JAY: But I think the view coming out of World War II about being the global hegemon, the superpower, what that also means is you can’t have any adversarial regional powers. And whether it’s Russia or Iran, if you’re not in the smaller American sphere of influence, the umbrella, you can’t be there.

STEPHEN COHEN: It’s funny you say that. I mean, I’m not a Putin apologist or a Trump apologist, but I do like intellectual puzzles. If you’re saying that we have to give up our thinking about a multipolar world, so to speak, that there’ll be other regional superpowers or great powers, then isn’t Trump the first American president who seems to be OK with that? I don’t see in Trump much a demand that we be number one.

PAUL JAY: Oh, I think… Make America Great Again?

STEPHEN COHEN: But he didn’t say Make American Number One Again. Maybe that’s what he means, but you don’t have Trump–

PAUL JAY: I don’t think it kind of matters what the hell Trump thinks or says. And I think–

STEPHEN COHEN: Have you heard Trump say this thing that Obama and Madeleine Albright ran around saying for years, that American is “the indispensable nation?” Do you know how aggravated that made other states in the world? I mean, stop and think about it. Who runs around saying “we’re indispensable?” I haven’t heard Trump say that, maybe he has.

PAUL JAY: I just don’t think we should put too much weight into whatever Trump says. I think he’s a vehicle, he’s a vessel.

STEPHEN COHEN: You take what you can get these days.

PAUL JAY: He’s a vessel, first and foremost, for the arms manufacturers, for the fossil fuel industry. He’s a vessel for right-wing evangelical politics. He’s not a philosopher king. He’s not a peacenik.

STEPHEN COHEN: You have to have priorities.

PAUL JAY: I think he’s rather banal.

STEPHEN COHEN: Yeah, probably, but you have to have priorities. My priority in international affairs is to avoid a military conflict with Russia. In my book, my new book, War with Russia?, when I start writing that book in 2013, I never intended to give it that title. But as I worked and watched events unfold since 2013 to 2019, for the first time in my long career, I thought war with Russia was possible. I didn’t even think there was going to be a war–as I remember it, I don’t remember it vividly–during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today, I assure you, the new Cold War is fraught with multiple Cuban Missile Crises. Take your pick; in the Baltic area where NATO is building up, in Ukraine where we’ve got ourselves involved in a proxy war, in Georgia where NATO is trespassing again as we talk, in Syria where American and Russian forces are flying and fighting on the ground in close proximity. By the way, Trump was absolutely right in withdrawing those–what were they–3000 Americans in Syria because whatever, Russia had killed just one of them.

With Trump in the White House, the trip wires, a war between nuclear Russia and nuclear America, are far greater and more multiple than they have ever been. That’s the danger. Therefore, at this moment, if Trump says it’s necessary to cooperate with Russia, on that one issue we must support him. It’s existential at this moment. And believe me, and believe me, people love to hate on Putin in this country; “Putin’s evil, Putin’s bad.” It’s nonsense. Putin is a recognizable leader in Russia’s tradition. Putin, as you said I think before, came to power wanting an alliance with the United States. He’s spoken of his own illusions publicly. Leaders very rarely admit they ever had an illusion, rights, it’s not something they do. He is reproached in Russia, reproached in Russia, for still having illusions about the West. You know what they say about him in high places in Russia? “He’s not proactive, he just reacts, he waits for the West to do something abysmal to Russia, and then he acts. Why doesn’t he first see what’s coming?” What do they cite? They cite Ukraine.

PAUL JAY: Well, that’s the next segment, because my question to you is going to be, “Did Putin make a mistake in Crimea?” So please join us for the continuation of our series of interviews with Stephen Cohen on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

26 comments

  1. chris heinz

    Agent Orange is for whatever he thinks will give him the best ratings, i.e. most press coverage, at the time, and what he thinks will make Vlad happy.

    Reply
    1. Donald

      So when Trump opposes a pipeline from Russia to Germany or when he contemplates a US military base in Poland he is making Vlad happy?

      Reply
    2. False Solace

      Yet another delusional remark at odds with reality. Haven’t these people learned anything from the implosion of their pathetic Russiagate hysteria? The Russophobes won’t be happy until we’re at war with a nuclear power and the nukes are about to land.

      Here are things Trump has actually done, as opposed to red-limned fantasies drawn from the fever-dreams of Putin haters:

      Unilaterally abandoned 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty
      Expelled 60 diplomats and closed 3 Russian diplomatic annexes
      Bombed Syria, a Russian ally, with Russian troops in country
      Sold arms to Ukraine, which is actively at war with Russia
      Threatened Germany to cancel a new Russian pipeline through the Baltic (effort failed)
      Even more sanctions against Russia and Russian nationals
      Stationed missile defense systems on the Russian border in violation of arms treaties
      Massive military exercises in Europe on the Russian border
      Stationed troops in Poland
      Negotiating with Poland to build a permanent US military base in Poland

      All this has certainly made the world safer. /s

      Reply
  2. flora

    The DNC had the biggest influence on the 2016 outcome; they insisted on running a disliked candidate who was a terrible campaigner … so disliked the DNC cleared the field for her ahead of time (got Biden and others to not declare in 2016) and had to club dissenters in their own party to make sure she got the nomination. imo. But sure, blame “those guys over there”. That’s the ultimate “the dog ate my homework” excuse. meh.

    Reply
    1. Rog

      Did Hillary lose the Popular Vote? Fake News that Trump won by Electoral College? Giving the American Right the Presidency for the second time.

      Reply
      1. flora

        Um… what? If Hillary had bothered to campaign in Wisc or had any idea about how to campaign in a national election (and you’d think the ‘most qualified person ever’ would understand how the election rules work) she would have won the electoral vote. But, nooooo…..

        https://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/michigan-hillary-clinton-trump-232547

        Adding:
        https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/10/19/did_jfk_lose_the_popular_vote_115833.html

        Now, just to be clear, the argument that Richard Nixon should be credited with a popular vote win in 1960 doesn’t rest on theories about dead people voting in Chicago or cows voting in Texas. It does rest on a fuller understanding of Southern voting history.

        I’m glad Nixon didn’t win in 1960.

        Reply
  3. Susan the other`

    Good analysis. This even makes the insanity of “Russiagate” seem strategic. (But as overwrought as saying ‘give us liberty or give us death’. The solution to everything is somewhere in the middle.) We know that such dedicated souls as the very fatuous Mr. Brennan cooked it all up and pretended it was because Trump was “treasonous”. Brennan in his dotage might actually be thinking that. I’ve always thought that Putin, like Yeltsin, was pro West. Possibly an atlanticist. Tho’ being as chauvinistic as an atlanticist today is a little offensive to the rest of the world. Cohen’s statement that Putin is pro Russian-anti communism might be a simplification. Russia is certainly positioning itself to be safe from our aggression. I think there are remnants of good social management that the commies learned over the years that Russia/Putin still employs. It’s too simplistic to say Putin is anti-communist. He’s just a realist. And he’s a nationalist. Being a nationalist-protectionist is the worst sin against neoliberal advancement. That’s another propaganda bullet point – you never hear a rational discussion of nationalism – it’s all trash, “Marine LePen is a fascist” exaggeration.

    Reply
  4. Peter

    It is quite distressing to see the Mueller report take up as if it were settled fact the idea that Russia influenced the 2016 Presidential election, particularly since his investigation didn’t provide any information that supported this theory.

    It is quite distressing that in may so called “progessive” or “left liberal” – self designated of course – circles in the USA and the UK such a statement will lead to your being labelled a Russian Troll or the suggestion you are being on Putin’s payroll. That is the level of rational discussion in many those circles today when it comes to the discussion about the wests realtionship to Russia.

    This of course led in Russia to the conclusion that to engage with the west at present in an attempt to ease the tensions is futile and rather counterproductive.

    Reply
  5. juliania

    I think Professor Cohen has a real point in the following statements:

    “…In the era of weapons of mass destruction, not only nuclear, but primarily nuclear, ever more sophisticated, the Russians now have a new generation of nuclear weapons–Putin announced them on March 1, they were dismissed here, but they’re real–that can elude any missile defense. .. Russia has now thwarted us; they now have missile defense-evading nuclear weapons from submarines, to aircraft, to missiles. And Putin has said, ‘It’s time to negotiate an end to this new arms race,’ and he’s 100 percent right. So when I heard Trump say, in 2016, we have to cooperate with Russia, I had already become convinced…

    So I began to speak positively about Trump at that moment–that would have been probably around the summer of 2016–just on this one point, because none of the other candidates were advocating cooperation with Russia…”

    Then, when he goes on to elaborate on China’s weaponry and posit including them in the next round of draw-down negotiations, as far off as that may look – that to me is what Trump can use for his re-election. I do believe his attitude towards Russia won him his first term.

    Those Russia-gate kooks need to focus on the American people, not on Trump. Well, maybe they did, and still do. It’s really about us, not him.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      When I see the right-of-center DNC supporters saying, “Our democracy has been attacked,” I an reminded of the interview Hermann Goering gave while he was waiting to be executed.

      Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

      Reply
      1. lambert strether

        And when liberal Democrats say “our democracy,” you can be sure they do indeed mean their democracy…

        Reply
  6. John Wright

    Perhaps the assumption of Russia meddling in our election is a simple case of projection.

    As has been documented, the USA has frequently meddled in other countries’ elections or election outcomes (Iran, Russia, Chile, Central America).

    One recent Democratic presidential candidate was taped asserting “we should not have held the election unless we could determine the outcome” in another foreign country.

    If Russia did not meddle significantly in the US election, the political class may have had to ponder that possibly the Russians believed that the decline of the US in the world stage did not merit the effort.

    To paraphrase the late Leona Helmsley, “Democracy is for little people”, not for the meddling-in-foreign-democracies policymakers of the Bos-Wash corridor.

    Reply
  7. John

    The thrust of Cohen’s position is correct. Quibble all you wish with the details. We live in a multi-polar world and if Washington can’t get used to it, we are the ones who may pay for their willful stubborn blindness, their inability to come to terms with a perfectly obvious developing reality. The neocons have not had a new idea in 30 years. I continue to be baffled by their obsession with Iran. Iran is a fact; the enmity goes back to our support for the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 and only made worse by our support of the Shah as our-guy-in-Tehran. The Russians really do have a new generation of weapons. The Chinese are re-assuming a leading position in the world that has been theirs most of the time for two thousand years. Europe is not a rising power. The USA is in disarray internally and in its approach to the rest of the world. I do not consider these to be opinions but objective statements. I am not prepared to suffer for illusions and vanity among the “elite.”

    Reply
  8. Ptb

    They ask some interesting questions.

    In my opinion, Trump is effectively quite a bit less militarist, overseas, than this predecessors. This despite the truly alarming rhetoric.

    But the reduction in foreign adventurism is primarily due to the paralysis of his administration, from being so widely distrusted.

    The benefit, if you can call it that, is that the mask is off now (at least from the point of view of some allies who were willing to look the other way under Bush and Obama). What is/was under the mask hasn’t changed, and is not likely to in this generation of policy-makers.

    And domestically Trump is without a doubt militarist. We have industrial scale child abuse at the border, as the cruelest and most obvious example. A generation of ever more conservative judges is set to defend such practices. Defense contractors enjoy the best access to unde executive branch. And even the so called resistance spends their days worshipping the national security agencies, and encouraging jingoist paranoia.

    Another 10 years of this and the budding police state, that’s been coming together since Bush, will be fully grown.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      In my opinion, Trump is effectively quite a bit less militarist, overseas, than this predecessors. This despite the truly alarming rhetoric.

      I disagree because each new President doesn’t start from day 1. Low hanging fruit and lessons the Russians and Chinese learned in light of Libya (which is the U.S. is run by dangerous children) have altered world structures. At the same time, wunder weapons which deployed against Iraq 2003 aren’t as wonderful against stronger targets.

      The Coalition in the Gulf War included the USSR. This was world wide undertaking and example of phenomenal cooperation, and even then the Iraqis largely withdrew at the start of ground hostitlities, ignoring a chance for a major counter attack, after 6 months of bombing and a decade long war. The 2003 war was possible with as few troops because Iraq was a disaster from an additional 10 years of sanctions and pre-positioned bases and no fly zones. Many Iraqi soldiers and Baath officers assumed the U.S. would arrive and embarrassed into leaving when no WMDs were found and leave after killing/arresting Hussein.

      A country like Iran is several magnitudes of difference. The at the time publicized Millenium War Games demonstrated a major U.S. assault on Iran would end in disaster. The recent warming of relations with North Korea is a direct result of South Korean elections where almost 80% of votes were cast for “peace” candidates. Without the South Koreans, attacking North Korea is out of the question. I think about Obama’s dismissing of Russia as a regional power. This is true. Its just that Obama seemed to not understand Russia was concerned about issues in their region. The U.S. might be lashing out rhetoric wise and running special operations in weaker areas of Africa, but much of the actual foreign policy situation has been determined because the low hanging fruit is gone. The Venezuela operation was expected to be done by defecting Venezuelan soldiers, and now that has passed, we are passing additional sanctions on Cuba largely to show how tough we are.

      Reply
      1. Ptb

        I’m taking ‘militarist’ to mean, first of all, direct body count, or number of people displaced due to wars we started. Right now it looks like by the end of 2020, the Trump admin will come in behind both GW Bush and Obama administrations by these measures.

        Maybe if the Boltons and Pompeos of the world had their way, we would have weekly cruise missile strikes on Iran, full economic sanctions on China, and anyone involved in the ICC would be captured and ‘renditioned’ to Guantanamo bay.

        But I don’t think they have the trust of enough of the US govt to do it. These guys are so plainly insane, their agenda so over the top aggressive, that it becomes self defeating. Not exactly comforting, but it’s what we got.

        Reply
  9. shinola

    “PAUL JAY: I don’t think that is the intent, the intent is make money. I don’t think there’s any other intent. Make money for arms manufacturers, fossil fuel–”

    Ever wonder how much of Trump’s investment portfolio includes stakes in the MIC & fossil fuel industry?

    Reply
  10. Pookah Harvey

    Cohen states:

    President Bush withdrew the United States unilaterally from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, correct? Now, this treaty was related, because it forbid the deployment of so-called missile defense in a way that either side, American or Russian, could think that it had such great missile defense, it had a first strike capability. And everybody agreed nobody should think that. Mutually assured destruction had kept us safe in the nuclear age. But if Russia or the United States gets a first strike capability, then you don’t have assured mutual destruction, and some crazy person might be tempted to risk it. So how did the Russians react to that? They began to develop–as I said before, when we began to deploy missile defense–a new generation of weapons. In other words, you’re getting this classic action, reaction, action, reaction that drove the previous nuclear arms race, and now it’s happening again.

    Here is Putin’s reaction to U.S. suspension of and withdrawal from the INF Treaty
    Putin: Do The Math! Our Mach 9 Missiles Are 200 Miles Off US East Coast; How Fast They Can Reach It?

    Decisions on whether to go to nuclear war are down to less than 5 minutes. That’s the reason the Doomsday clock is closer to midnight than ever before. And Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton will be making the decisions.

    Reply
  11. Chris Cosmos

    Since the decline and fall of the Soviet Empire Washington has been worried that its existence as an imperial capital was in danger due to the rise of the small government right. A lot of money not only in the USA but from the vassal states is and was at stake thus when Trump came along with his anti-imperial rhetoric the entire Washington Eatablishment rose as one and screamed “off with his head” so Trump had to mollify everyone by more warlike rhetoric and allying himself with the Saudis and the neo-fascists in Israel and it looks like he will finish out his term. Detente will never come no matter who wins next year and no one wants nuclear war but we could step into it as Cohen warns. But I believe today that military leaders have shown how adept they were in avoiding conflict in Syria so I’m more hopeful than Cohen.

    Reply
  12. barrisj

    Whatever Candidate Trump may or may not thought about a militaristic foreign policy, once in office he was properly tutored in the realities of the game. He now realizes that the MIC exists purely through the sufferance of external “enemies”; that “Full-Spectrum Dominance” means what it says; that America Numba One is non-negotiable; that Israel sets ME policy for the US; and that there is no limit to the DoD budget. Any policy changes outside of those parameters is tolerated…and here we are…plus ça change, etc., etc.

    Reply
  13. Merf56

    Cohen really embarrassed Jay in this interview. Jay simply wanted to belittle Trump and Cohen was trying to have a serious conversation. Cohen makes the most sense of anyone I have heard in the last 10 years.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *