And now for expert analysis that runs refreshingly contrary to the week’s Trump-Putin mass hysteria over the Helsinki summit, we find ourselves surprised to feature an unusually honest Vice segment on HBO: These American scholars say the real threat to the U.S. is Russophobia.
“If he [President Trump] means what he said he was right. It would be great to cooperate with Russia — I would go farther, it’s imperative… We are eyeball to eyeball in a new Cold War with Russia,” begins Stephen F. Cohen, considered among the world’s foremost Russian academic experts, while sitting beside John Mearsheimer in this latest Vice interview, who nods his head in approval.
Both have long been a thorn in the side of the McCarthyite commentariat which alleges Russian collusion behind every decision of the Trump administration.
Mearsheimer, a longtime International Security Policy program director at the University of Chicago, questions the now largely cemented narrative created by those who have least understanding of the history of US-Russia relations: “Why won’t people engage in a legitimate debate with people like Steve and me? And I believe the reason they won’t is they would lose the debate – I’m fully confident of that.”
Instead of a rational, nuanced national debate we are fed a steady diet of simplistically absurd and crude images like the newly unveiled Time magazine cover:
— John Lundin 🌊 (@johnlundin) July 19, 2018
As the American public has from the time of Trump’s election endured endless obtrusive and cacophonous media noise with no real smoking gun (as Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper famously admitted a year ago) to back the charges of collusion — what CNN’s Van Jones early on admitted was “just a big nothing burger” — the voices of a small cadre of real Russian experts rarely breaks through to a mass audience.
“There is an unwillingness to engage in debate on this issue, like I have never seen before,” Mearsheimer tells Vice.
And Cohen adds:
We’ve demonized Putin and we’ve Putinized Russia so we demonize Russia. Russophobia is running amok in this country.
I’ve seen these things from the inside. I’ve re-thought and re-thought how we got to the edge of war with Russia, where we haven’t been since Cuba in 1962. And I have concluded, and I would be happy to debate my opponents… It is 95 percent our own doing.
The two scholars present the convincing weight of history to demolish the Vice interviewer’s every objection.
Professor Cohen in particular has also been a guest of increased regularity on Tucker Carlson’s prime time show, where he is consistently introduced as “an actual expert on the subject, a Russian speaker…”.
On Tuesday, a day after the Trump-Putin meeting, Cohen explained the following obvious historical truth on Tucker Carlson Tonight:
This is the president of the United States, doing what every other president before him since FDR in 1943 with Stalin [has done], meeting with the head of the Kremlin. And something that every American president since Eisenhower, a Republican, by the way, has met with the leader of the Kremlin for one existential purpose: To avoid war between the nuclear superpowers.
It’s unfortunate that the current mainstream media landscape is such that it takes a professor emeritus at Princeton University to point out what ought to be obvious in any History 101 survey course. Yet Cohen and Mearsheimer’s credentials are without parallel when compared to the usual supposed ‘experts’ regularly appearing in mainstream media (who typically don’t even have a basic background in Russian language or history).
Cohen once described the ongoing obsessive and sensationalized ‘Russiagate’ press coverage as a kind of “pornography”: Well it’s a kind of pornography. Just as there is no love in pornography, there is no American national interest in this bashing of Trump and Putin. As a historian, let me tell you the headline I would write instead…“Potentially Historic New Detente Anti-Cold War Partnership Begun by Trump and Putin but Meanwhile Attempts to Sabotage It Escalate.”
* * *
Peak Twitter hysteria – yes, this was a thing this week… journalists went crazy over a photo they thought showed alleged Russian agent Maria Butina meeting with Trump at the White House:
Journalist tweets out totally unverified claim that accused Russian agent Maria Butina visited the White House.
Other people quickly do the *reporting* to prove it’s not it’s not Butina.
Tweet deleted, but damage done.
Countdown to accusations of fake news… pic.twitter.com/aBFbyFmQQ3
— Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) July 17, 2018
The rumor that red head lady in back is busted Russian agent Maria Butina is wrong.
This is Cari Lutkins who runs Protocol at NSC. Only share hair color… pic.twitter.com/ytbKEg9ka7
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) July 17, 2018
Professor Cohen has a history of challenging powerful media figures, which is why his appearances on networks like CNN or MSNBC are very infrequent, despite his status as a world authority.
For example at the height of the 2014 Ukraine crisis he made Christiane Amanpour so frazzled that she began yelling antagonistically for show host Wolf Blitzer “to be very careful” in allowing what she called “pro-Russian” views to be expressed across CNN airwaves.
CNN’s Amanpour in 2014: We cannot allow “pro-Russian” perspectives on CNN! (begins at 2:25 mark)
For his consistent realist approach on Russia over the years, The Daily Beast slandered Cohen as “Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend in the American Media” — even while acknowledging his prodigious credentials and wide respect within American academia.
As they suggested in the Vice interview, we’d certainly like to see a real debate materialize involving true academic experts like Cohen and Mearsheimer up against the self-anointed Russiagate “authorities” that currently dominate the airwaves.
But we won’t hold our breath as these types prefer a platform that carefully avoids challenge from people with serious credentials who present an ‘alternate’ point of view backed by inconvenient facts and lessons of history.