Nation vs. New Republic
While it’s not the first time that The Nation and The New Republic — two of the most influential left liberal newsmagazines in the U.S. — have disagreed on matters of foreign policy, their divergence on the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been interesting to watch. (See note 1.)
In “Cold War Against Russia — Without Debate,” The Nation‘s Russia specialist Stephen F. Cohen and his wife, the magazine’s editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, have penned the latest in a series of critiques of the Obama administration’s — and mainstream media’s — move toward portraying Putin’s Russia as irrational, dangerous, and requiring a critical U.S. response.
Writing in The New Republic — which has featured a series of substantial pieces on Ukraine and Russia in recent months — Julia Ioffe’s “Putin’s American Toady at The Nation Gets Even Toadier” responds to Cohen’s and vanden Heuvel’s argument. (See note 2.)
Specifically, she takes issue with the case they claim about the U.S. media’s ostensibly monolithic support of U.S. policy, and takes the authors to task over a series of oversights. One of these, a “small detail Cohen doesn’t want to clutter your mind with,” is Ukraine itself:
“You may have heard of it, it’s been in the news a bunch recently, and it’s a country of 46 million people, each of whom thinks and wants and may even want some say in this. But, shhhh, why?
“Ukraine, you see, is just “a former Soviet republic” and a catalyst for feelings between Russia and the West. It’s a thing that can be “smuggled into NATO” because its desire or non-desire to be in NATO is automatically less important than how that “smuggling” would make Russia feel. It doesn’t seem to matter that NATO accession was not really on the table for Ukraine (just look at its military performance in recent weeks) and neither was EU accession because—warning: another meaningless detail!—Ukraine is a financial basket case, even worse than the basket cases the EU is already dealing with. It doesn’t matter to Cohen that both issues were matters of great debate inside that insignificant detail named Ukraine, and that the fact of their potential smuggling into this or that union might be something to be decided inside Ukraine, a sovereign and independent country trying in vain to regain its own territory captured by masked Russian gunmen.”
1. To be fair, The Nation prefers the label “progressive” over “liberal,” and TNR‘s policy stances have sometimes made it more “neoliberal” than “liberal” — hardly the same thing — and occasionally neoconservative (though that trend appears to have faded in recent years). But the overlap between them has generally been greater than the underlap, when viewed against the rest of the U.S. media-political spectrum.
2. I believe it’s the first time in the magazine’s recent series of articles on Ukraine or Russia that Cohen and vanden Heuvel have co-authored an article — which gives me the sneaky suspicion that Cohen’s original draft may have even been too over-the-top for The Nation.