Stephen F. Cohen is an American scholar who knows Russia and teaches Russian studies at New York University. He writes about Russia, too, and his articles appear in The Nation. He also happens to be married to Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation's editor.
Cohen attracted some attention recently with an article The Nation published, titled, Distorting Russia, How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine. It comes as a surprise to see a purported liberal writing for a Progressive magazine as an ardent defender of Vladimir Putin. Cohen says Putin has been treated unfairly.
Today he appeared on Democracy Now! for a long interview with Amy Goodman and Juan González. By coincidence, I had just been chastised for expressing some doubt about Goodman's show lately. And there was Cohen, Putin's biggest fan, but what was he doing on Democracy Now!?
I don't think of myself as having knee-jerk opinions. I like to dig deep into details to learn more about political issues than what's readily available. My opinions on every subject aren't written in stone. I can absorb new information and admit when I'm wrong.
But how am I supposed to figure out Cohen on Putin? Remember, it's the tea party Bolsheviks who love Putin, the ex-KGB agent who demonizes gays, and pushes traditional values, a term that leaves plenty of room for political repression and bigotry.
I listened to the interview anyway. It's mainly about the grim situation in Ukraine. I posted a diary about the situation there a couple of weeks ago after a phone call between Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Geoffrey R. Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine, was mysteriously intercepted and the recorded conversation was released to the public. Summing up the discussion between between Nuland and Pyatt, I commented:
|"it came out that “Fuck the EU,” is now an element of US foreign policy."
It comes at the 16 minute mark in the video below.
While Cohen has some interesting observations, I didn't get the impression that Nuland and Pyatt were discussing plans for a coup. To me, it seemed that they were talking about the possibility of Arseniy Yatseniuk taking a position in the Yanukovych government while excluding the other two opposition leaders they mentioned.
The recorded conversation was heard by many people and no one else has suggested that a coup was in the works till today. If anyone else is interested in having a listen to the intercepted phone call, here it is. A transcript of the conversation is below.
Pyatt: I think we're in play. The Klitschko [Vitaly Klitschko, one of three main opposition leaders] piece is obviously the complicated electron here. Especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister and you've seen some of my notes on the troubles in the marriage right now so we're trying to get a read really fast, on where he is on this stuff. But I think your argument to him, which you'll need to make, I think that's the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk, another opposition leader]. And I'm glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario. And I'm very glad that he said what he said in response.
Nuland: Good. I don't think Klitsch should go into the government. I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's a good idea.
Pyatt: Yeah. I guess... in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I'm just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok [Oleh Tyahnybok, the other opposition leader] and his guys and I'm sure that's part of what [President Viktor] Yanukovych is calculating on all this.
Nuland: [Breaks in] I think Yats is the guy who's got the economic experience, the governing experience. He's the... what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in... he's going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it's just not going to work.
Pyatt: Yeah, no, I think that's right. OK. Good. Do you want us to set up a call with him as the next step?
Nuland: My understanding from that call - but you tell me - was that the big three were going into their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a... three-plus-one conversation or three-plus-two with you. Is that not how you understood it?
Pyatt: No. I think... I mean that's what he proposed but I think, just knowing the dynamic that's been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he's going to take a while to show up for whatever meeting they've got and he's probably talking to his guys at this point, so I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three and it gives you also a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn't like it.
Nuland: OK, good. I'm happy. Why don't you reach out to him and see if he wants to talk before or after.
Pyatt: OK, will do. Thanks.
Nuland: OK... one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can't remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?
Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.
Nuland: OK. He's now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.
Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we've got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I'm still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there's a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I'm sure there's a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep... we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.
Nuland: So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president's national security adviser Jake] Sullivan's come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need [US Vice-President Joe] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick. So Biden's willing.
Pyatt: OK. Great. Thanks.