TRNN: Did Russiagate Just Escalate Ukraine’s War?

(This un’s especially for juliania, who was looking forward to Part II; sorry it’s so long, but…needs must at times.  I find myself wondering if Cohen is not only a bit elderly forgetful, but more crankily defensive at the many, many tirades against him, such as Putin’s American Toady at ‘The Nation’ Gets Even Toadier’, Julia Ioffe, the new republic, May 1, 2014)

Dec. 30:  President Trump has agreed to arm the Ukrainian military in its fight with Russian-backed forces in the Donbass region. Leading Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen says it’s the latest Russiagate-driven escalation of the new Cold War  (The transcript; a few excerpts follow):

AARON MATÉ:  President Trump has approved a major weapons sale that could inflame the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Trump has reportedly agreed to supply the Ukrainian military with Javelin anti-tank missiles to fight Russian back forces in the eastern Donbass region.

President Obama had considered a similar move but ultimately ruled against it when he was in office because he didn’t want to fuel a proxy war. Now Russia says Trump’s decision makes the U.S. “an accomplice in igniting a war”.

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, it’s going to make everything worse. I mean, it certainly could not have been done, possibly, for political reasons. The official reason insofar as you can get an official reason for anything being done in Washington these days, is that we’re sending defense aid weapons.

[wd here: what he’d said was ‘defensive weapons’, not ‘defense aid’ weapons, and he was being sarcastic re: it certainly could not have been done, possibly, for political reasons ‘.]  From AP:

“The new arms include American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles, U.S. officials said late Friday. Ukraine has long sought to boost its defenses against Russian-backed separatists armed with tanks that have rolled through eastern Ukraine during violence that has killed more than 10,000 since 2014. Previously, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with support equipment and training, and has let private companies sell some small arms like rifles.

The move is likely to become another sore point between Washington and Moscow, as President Donald Trump contends with ongoing questions about whether he’s too hesitant to confront the Kremlin. Ukraine accuses Russia of sending the tanks, and the U.S. says Moscow is arming, training and fighting alongside the separatists.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the U.S. decision will only make the conflict more deadly and suggested that Russia could be forced to respond. He also said the U.S. can no longer cast itself as a mediator. “It’s not a mediator. It’s an accomplice in fueling the war,” Ryabkov said in a statement.

Trump had been considering the plan for some time after the State Department and the Pentagon signed off earlier this year. President Barack Obama also considered sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, but left office without doing so.

The State Department, responsible for overseeing foreign military sales, would not confirm that anti-tank missiles or other lethal weapons would be sent. But in a statement late Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had decided to provide “enhanced defensive capabilities” to help Ukraine build its military long-term, defend its sovereignty and “deter further aggression.” 

“U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself,” Nauert said.

In thanking the U.S. for its support, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addressed the concerns over how the weapons would be used.

American weapons in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers are not for an offensive, but for a decisive rebuff of the aggressor, the protection of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, as well as for effective self-defense,” he wrote on Facebook. “It is also a trans-Atlantic vaccination against the Russian virus of aggression.”]

STEPHEN COHEN:I have no idea what a defense aid weapon is. Is it artillery that only shoots in one direction? I mean, there really is no such thing as defense aid weapons unless it’s body armor. These are weapons. Exalted weapons. The official reason is it’s to keep Russia from committing a new military offensive against Ukraine. But there is no possibility of that whatsoever.

[Now here’s one of the things I find a bit curious at best, vexing at most]:

COHEN: The only two alleged — and I think there are two sides to this story — military offenses reportedly, and this will outrage many of your viewers, but so be it, that Russia committed against Ukraine was the annexation of Crimea and support for what is an indigenous civil war in Donbass against the Kiev government. That happened in 2014.

[wd here: now I’d have sworn that in the past he hadn’t said the same, so I went lookin’; not an exhaustive search by any means, but I found:

Via, April 2015: ‘‘The New York Times “basically rewrites whatever the Kiev authorities say’: Stephen F. Cohen on the U.S./Russia/Ukraine history the media won’t tell you

Salon: What is your judgment of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine? In the current situation, the need is for good history and clear language. In a historical perspective, do you consider Russia justified?

Stephen Cohen: Well, I can’t think otherwise. I began warning of such a crisis more than 20 years ago, back in the 1990s. I’ve been saying since February of last year [when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in Kiev] that the 1990s is when everything went wrong between Russia and the United States and Europe. So you need at least that much history, 25 years. But, of course, it begins even earlier. [snip]

Let me give you one example. It’s the hardest thing for the American foreign policy elite and the media elite to cope with. Our position is that nobody is entitled to a sphere of influence in the 21st century. Russia wants a sphere of influence in the sense that it doesn’t want American military bases in Ukraine or in the Baltics or in Georgia. But what is the expansion of NATO other than the expansion of the American zone or sphere of influence? It’s not just military. It’s financial, it’s economic, it’s cultural, it’s intermarriage—soldiers, infrastructure. It’s probably the most dramatic expansion of a great sphere of influence in such a short time and in peacetime in the history of the world.

I take Kiev’s characterization of its war in the eastern sections as an “anti-terrorist campaign” to be one of the most preposterous labels out there right now.

The horror of this has been Kiev’s use of its artillery, mortars and even its airplanes, until recently, to bombard large residential cities, not only Donetsk and Luhansk, but other cities. These are cities of 500,000, I imagine, or two million to three million. This is against the law. These are war crimes, unless we assume the rebels were bombing their mothers and grandmothers and fathers and sisters. This was Kiev, backed by the United States. So the United States has been deeply complicit in the destruction of these eastern cities and peoples. When Nuland tells Congress there are 5,000 to 6,000 dead, that’s the UN number. That’s just a count of bodies they found in the morgues. Lots of bodies are never found. German intelligence says 50,000.

Ever since the Clinton administration, we’ve bleated on about the right to protect people who are victims of humanitarian crises. You’ve got a massive humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. You’ve got one million people or more who have fled to Russia—this is according to the UN—another half a million having fled elsewhere in Ukraine. I don’t notice the United States organizing any big humanitarian effort. Where is Samantha Power, the architect of “right to protect”? We have shut our eyes to a humanitarian crisis in which we are deeply complicit. This is what’s shameful, whether you like or don’t like Putin. It’s got nothing to do with Putin. It has to do with the nature of American policy and the nature of Washington—and the nature of the American people, if they tolerate this. [long but worthy history of those he knew who’d known Russian history tried to shape a better Russian policy over the decades, including this, of interest to juliania:

“Part of it also had to do with Yeltsin. He was so desperate, not only for American affirmation but for American affection. He was so insecure as his health declined, and he became more and more the captive of the oligarchs that he wanted to mean as much to Washington as Gorbachev had. He was getting close to virtually giving Washington anything, saying anything, until the Serbian war.”

From Part II:

RT just aired a documentary in which Putin explains exactly when and why he decided to move as he did in Crimea. It’s striking: The deliberations began the night President Yanukovych was ousted in the American-supported coup last year. Can you talk about Putin’s thinking on the Crimea question, leading to the annexation [sic]?  

Putin, in my judgment, did some wrong-headed things. We now know much more about Crimea, but even given what he has said, there was an argument. It wasn’t quite as clear-cut as he says it was. There was a debate with two sides.

One side said, ‘Take Crimea now or fight NATO there later.’ The other said, ‘Let the referendum [on association with Russia, held in March 2014] go forward and they’re going to vote 80-plus per cent to join Russia. We don’t have to act on it; they’ve just made a request and we’ll say what we think about it. Meanwhile, we see what happens in Kiev.’

The Kremlin had done polling in Crimea. And it’s the best bargaining chip Putin will have. He’ll have Crimea wanting to join Russia and he can say to Washington, ‘Well, you would like Crimea to remain in Ukraine? Here’s what I’d like in return: an eternal ban on NATO membership and federalization of the Ukrainian constitution, because I have to give my Crimean brethren something.’

But those arguing that Crimea was the biggest bargaining chip Putin was ever going to have lost. The other side prevailed.

Now, Putin took all the credit, but that’s not what really happened. They were all dependent on intelligence coming out of Kiev and Crimea and Donbass. You see now, if you watch that film, what a turning point the overthrow of Yanukovych was. Remember, the European foreign ministers—Polish, German, and French—had brokered an agreement saying that Yanukovych would form a coalition government and stay in power until December, and that was burned in the street. I’ll never forget the massive Klitschko [Vitali Klitschko, a prizefighter-turned-political oppositionist, currently Kiev’s mayor] standing on a platform at Maidan, all 6’ 8” of him, announcing this great triumph of negotiation, and some smaller guy whipping away the microphone and saying, ‘Go fuck yourself. This thing is going to burn in the streets.’ The next day it did. That night you saw what an undefeated heavyweight champion looks like when he’s terror-stricken.]

(In a 2015 HuffPo interview he’d also said that the Russians called the annexation ‘reunification’, for obvious and historical reasons; good narrative of NATO betryals by Clinton, Dubya, and Obama, as well.)

Back to TRNN, the transcript:

AARON MATÉ: And political reasons do you think those are?

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, we know what they are. I mean, come on. What have we watched. I mean, we may think that Trump is the worst president in American history. Be my guest. Maybe he is. I don’t know. Everybody says so on CNN and MSN. He’s the worst president we ever had. Okay. But he’s done one thing that’s absolutely essential. And I have to now give my broader perspective. We are in new cold war that is much more dangerous than the last cold war for various reasons.

Somebody cooked up this Russiagate bunk that any cooperation with Russia was clearly treasonous because Putin put Trump in office. Complete nonsense. Reckless nonsense. Every time Trump does something that we would have been grateful to previous presidents for doing — going back to Eisenhower in the first détente, and even Nixon in his détente, and Reagan with his détente with the Soviet Union that he thought had ended the Cold War. We all said, “Good. Good. At last we don’t live under the danger of nuclear war and all the rest.” Trump does any of that, and he tried to do quite a bit. He’s denounced in the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSN, NBC, and all the rest as a treasonous president.

He gives them something. He has his secretary of state, who clearly doesn’t believe it, Rex Tillerson, say highly accusatory things about Russia. Things that secretary of states don’t usually say because they’re supposed to do diplomacy. And Trump has been giving these hawks, who are feeding off Russiagate, bits of what they want. The last bit are these weapons to Ukraine. It’s the only reason for it. It makes no sense. It’s detrimental to our national interests in every other regard. This is why I have argued, and all your liberal progressive friends say I’m a traitor too, that it’s Russiagate and these false allegations, not Trump, that constitute the main danger to American national security. You can see it again with this shipment of arms to Ukraine.

[wd: His recent oeuvre at the Nation is clearly about the hideous dangers of the pressitute media, mainly Democrats, and RussiaGate.

[wd here: I’d be more inclined to agree with Cohen that Herr Drumpf is throwing  bone to the neo-con warmongers, were it not for his having ceded his foreign policy to his generals earlier.  But beyond sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, i agree with him that RussiaGate is fueling hatred/fear of Putin.  See this recent Newsweek cover & coverage at the Café.   And how many additional billions past Herr T’s military budget request did Ds hand him? to fight the Red Menace, wasn’t it?]

Excerpts from ‘Trump unveils “America First” national security strategy’, Bill Van Auken,, 19 December 2017,

“The essence of the National Security Strategy document itself consists of a call for the preparation for a new era of “great power” conflict and world war. While including Trump’s themes of militarizing the border and hounding immigrants along with invocations of American nationalism, the meat of the document reflects the thinking within the cabal of active duty and retired generals who dominate US foreign policy, including National Security Advisor Gen. H. R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and Trump’s chief of staff, Gen. John F. Kelly. [snip]

“After a quarter century of uninterrupted US wars in the wake of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, McMaster and his fellow generals are using the new National Security Strategy to insist that Washington has been insufficiently aggressive and to push for an unprecedented upsurge in American militarism, directed at preparing for global war directed against China and Russia, both nuclear powers.

The document describes both China and Russia as “revisionist powers” and “hostile competitors” that are seeking “to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests.” “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity,” the document states.

“These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades—policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners,” the document continues. “For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.”

Instead of developing important capabilities, the Joint Force entered a nearly decade long ‘procurement holiday’ during which the acquisition of new weapon systems was severely limited.”

The “holiday,” the document indicates, is over. A military buildup is required to confront the attempt by China and Russia to “reassert their influence regionally and globally.”  

“The United States must maintain the credible deterrence and assurance capabilities provided by our nuclear Triad and by US theater nuclear capabilities deployed abroad,” it states. “Significant investment is needed to maintain a US nuclear arsenal and infrastructure that is able to meet national security threats over the coming decades.”


8 responses to “TRNN: Did Russiagate Just Escalate Ukraine’s War?

  1. Thanks for more Steve Cohen. The US national security conunundrum is how to replace the snuggle blanket of the “sole world superpower”. That one’s gone and neither party in the Congress is talking about what replaces that old end of the American Century.

    MAGA looks a lot like extend and pretend that the US can be the same blowhard it used to be. It ain’t happening. There’s too much moving forward on BRI and BRICS countries to keep busy.

    What is very curious to me is that Trump won’t man up and say, “Yes I negotiated a roll-back of the personal sanctions on Russia on the allegations of their colluding in something. He’s so coy and offensive at the same time that it looks like Trump is enjoying what he’s doing to the Democratic party. But, is is likely that his folks don’t understand prosecutors.

    Some parts of this political scramble is going to start slipping in different directions.

    Happy new year to all of you.

    • welcome, THD, and thanks for making the great slog thru it! yes to ‘snuggle blanket’ and ‘extend and pretend’; the latter meme ain’t just about economics, is it?

      i couldn’t remember if you’d read my ‘merrry xmas to the MIC, diary, but on it i’d featured this from pepe which you’ve prolly seen already. his take on the maga security strategy document: Update 12/26: from Pepe Escobar’s Dec. 25 ‘The Petro-Yuan Bombshell’; The new 55-page “America First” National Security Strategy

      “The website of the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) recently announced the establishment of a yuan-ruble payment system, hinting that similar systems regarding other currencies participating in the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will also be in place in the near future.” [snip]

      “The decision follows the establishment by Beijing, in October 2015, of the China International Payments System (CIPS). CIPS has a cooperation agreement with the private, Belgium-based SWIFT international bank clearing system, through which virtually every global transaction must transit.
      What matters, in this case, is that Beijing – as well as Moscow – clearly read the writing on the wall when, in 2012, Washington applied pressure on SWIFT; blocked international clearing for every Iranian bank; and froze $100 billion in Iranian assets overseas as well as Tehran’s potential to export oil. In the event Washington might decide to slap sanctions on China, bank clearing though CIPS works as a de facto sanctions-evading mechanism.

      Last March, Russia’s central bank opened its first office in Beijing. Moscow is launching its first $1 billion yuan-denominated government bond sale. Moscow has made it very clear it is committed to a long term strategy to stop using the US dollar as their primary currency in global trade, moving alongside Beijing towards what could be dubbed a post-Bretton Woods exchange system.
      Gold is essential in this strategy. Russia, China, India, Brazil & South Africa are all either large producers or consumers of gold – or both. Following what has been extensively discussed in their summits since the early 2010s, the BRICS are bound to focus on trading physical gold.”

      (He’d earlier noted that the dollar is the reserve currency for two thirds of global trade energy-pricing and strategic raw materials.)

      but i began work on a homeless diary, and went back and fetched rev. barber and friends’ long poor peoples’ march schedule hoping this might have been in charlotte. still…

      and i wish you and miz THD a good 2018 as well, though i’m always baffled by the celebration, myownself. ;-)

  2. a commenter under the interview had noted: “The Ukrainian constitution of 1992 granted Crimea a high degree of autonomy, including the right to establish relations with other nations independently of the government in Kiev. Many Ukrainians argued that this was the first step in the separation of Crimea from the rest of Ukraine, and they were right. The Crimean parliament has on numerous occasions since then attempted to hold a referendum on whether to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Each time the government in Kiev opposed the will of the Crimean people by preventing the referendum from being held. The referendum held on March 16, 2014, was not the first, but only the first successful one, because this time Russian force were present to prevent the Ukrainian army from once again thwarting the will of the Crimean people, who voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia.

    What’s happening in Donbass is not a civil war. The people of Donbass are mostly Russian-speaking, and second-class citizens in Ukraine for that reason. They rebelled, as Cohen says, because they are defending the people of Donbass from the armies of Kiev, and Russian forces entered the Donbass to prevent their slaughter.”

    well said, and iirc, i remember that 1992 construction.

    tomorrow night la luna bella is full, and gorgeous here tonight. those who claim to know say that ‘the 2018 Chinese New Year is arriving on February 16, 2018. That is the 4715th Chinese year. The zodiac sign of 2018 is the Dog. According to the Chinese Horoscope calendar, 2018 is the Male Earth Dog year. Brown is connected to the earth. Therefore, 2018 is also called the year of the Brown Dog’, (as opposed to 2017, the year of ‘the fire rooster’, lol. i can dig it.)

    ‘New Year’s Message and Warning from a War Correspondent’, Andre Vltchek, December 29th, 2017, i’ll clip only two sentences:

    “Perhaps it is almost impossible to cut through the pseudo-reality manufactured by the mainstream media, academia and ‘culture’. Or maybe it’s not impossible. I actually believe that ‘it is never too late’, as I believe that nothing in life is truly ‘impossible’.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!”

    g’ night, all.

  3. Actually, wendye,(and thank you for the attribution, happy new year!) before I read your post, and I promise to read it carefully, I did go to find the second segment of Cohen’s interview. It impressed me favorably as the first segment hadn’t- because he was more forceful in what he was saying. So I will be very interested in your take as I suspect we may disagree on that from your opening words.

    One thing before I do so, though – he may be overemphasizing imminent calamity – Saker, though troubled, thinks less darkly and some comments at the end of a long, long series there even suggest, no, claim that Trump is playing the MIC (militaryindustrialcomplex or Dark State). Happy to enlarge on that after I have my pancakes and read your long piece -thank you!

    • ah, well, it’s my own fault that i’d spent six hours+ on it, as i’d asked you to whistle if i should. but now i can’t even ask you for my usual $1.99 for doing so. but what else was i gonna do w/ all those hours? ;-) i’ll maybe try to pay attention to the saker’s take later. for now, i yam knackered silly and need some rest.

  4. Excellent presentation, wendye – thd as well. I like very much both your final messages and especially the adroit way you underline some of Cohen’s bland assessments that I had missed. That comment from the RN piece was right on point. If any part of Ukraine is on the defensive, it is Donbass, and Crimea certainly would have been were it not for a fortuitous topography and qick action by its citizenry, who pribably were among the first to realize the Maidan was not on the up and up.

    Rather tamely I will just add to those beautiful summations:-

    Hopefully, it will all come out in the wash.

    • thanks, juliania. i know it was very long, but digging into the past exposés of ‘experts’, and western imperialists…often is. ;-) your final offering is indeed aspirational, but then…iran is in herr drumpf’s crossshairs right now. it does seem that these grassroots protests are being aided by nationalist provocateurs (bibi screams “Not True!’) and NGOs (NED, usaid?), though, or: ‘war by other means’. but my eyes haven’t been on it.

      i will add, though:
      ‘Thousands march in Ukraine to mark Nazi collaborator Bandera’s birthday’, via RT
      ‘Biden told ex-Ukraine President Yanukovich to resign, former VP reveals in memoirs’ RT dec. 26
      and all of you may have seen Dec. 11: ‘‘Kiev, get up!’ 1000s of Saakashvili supporters demand Ukraine president’s impeachment (VIDEO)
      saakashvilli is the bad penny that keeps returning various guises the western neo-cons (‘today we are all georgians!) seem comfortable with. he reminds me of ahmed chalabi. always useful to the hegemon in one guise or another.

  5. since this thread is likely pretty dead, and i’d rather not put it on jason’s homeless thread, these OT tweets:

    julian assange’s most recent tweet was dec. 31 w/ a rather obscure video and a long alpha-numeric code that has some wondering if it might be the ‘dead-man’s switch he’d imagined years ago. it’s created ‘a bit of a stir’.

    but on the wikileaks account (not necessarily assange) have come these: the first one: irony alert:

    holy hell: pierre’s account is just full of em:

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