Stephen Cohen rides again

11 07 2014

I am blogging less here these days, and I expect that will continue through the summer (unless some radical change occurs in Ukraine and its relations with Russia).

One thing I shouldn’t let go without mention, however, is Stephen Cohen’s recent article in The Nation, “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities.” I’m one of the many Ukraine-watchers who disagree with Cohen’s analyses of Ukraine, who find them overfocused on geopolitics, oversympathetic to Putin and his nationalist/neo-imperialist regime, and almost completely lacking in on-the-ground knowledge of Ukraine itself.

The letters responding to Cohen’s article are worth reading; they can be found here. My own — third from the bottom on that page — is harsher than is my typical style, but as a long-time reader of The Nation, I can’t help feeling betrayed by it on this issue. I’m generally in agreement with the Brookings Institution’s Steven Pifer’s more detailed response.

Other Ukraine scholars tend to be less generous with Cohen (see, for instance, Alexander Motyl’s “Contradictions Define Kremlin Apologists“). But he is influential on the left and his defenses of Putin’s Russia deserve a hearing (however misguided they may be). My disagreement is less with Cohen’s right to speak his mind than it is with The Nation‘s unwillingness to look more deeply into the issues he writes about. Since Cohen is married to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, that may not be surprising; but readers should still press for better from the leading newsweekly on the U.S. left.

Nation vs. New Republic

6 05 2014

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.)

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