NATO’s games with Ukraine bring world to 5 minutes before nuclear midnight - Stephen Cohen ― RT SophieCo

We ask these questions to a prominent American scholar on
Russian studies, Professor at New York University and Princeton University. Stephen Cohen is on Sophie&Co today.

SS: Well the unthinkable is nuclear weapons being involved - do you think that’s a possibility as well?

SC: Well, let’s look at what’s happened. Russia has the doctrine; they’ve had it since the 99s, because Russian conventional forces are weaker than American-NATO conventional forces. Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if Western conventional forces threaten the Russian state and Russia. Meanwhile, as was announced in the New York Times on the front-page, maybe 2 weeks ago, I forgot, that President Obama is about to sign a budgetary decree of what he calls a “major modernization” of our nuclear arsenal at the cost of $1 trln over 30 years. One trillion dollars is only the cost today, it doesn’t include overrun inflation, and it’s a fortune. Meanwhile, your government has been, quote, “modernizing its nuclear weapons” - but let’s talk as adults, what does the word “modernization” means? It means buildup, so both sides are now building up their nuclear weapons, we’re in a new Cold War, we’re beginning a new nuclear arms race, and the danger is now immense - does that mean there’s going to be war? No. The problem is to avert war you need leadership, political leadership, and the question of who’s leading correctly and who’s not is a political discussion, but the danger is there, absolutely 100%.

SC: That’s correct. Will Obama veto it? We don’t know if it will get to Obama, it’s got to go out of committee , then it’s got to go to the full Senate, then it’s got to get a majority, and then it’s got to go to Obama, I don’t know. We’re not sure what Obama does from day-to-day, I mean, if he changes his mind... Now, if the Ukrainian Civil War begins again, if Kiev and the South-East begin fighting and shooting and shelling and what else, now, then I think Obama would sign it. But if the ceasefire and negotiations are unfolding - I don’t think Obama would actually sign this. But the strange thing is, it needs to be explained, but I’m not sure I can completely, is why were new sanctions brought against Russia just as Putin and Poroshenko agree on a ceasefire and negotiations?

SS: Obviously, that’s another huge topic, because many believe that NATO expansion is the main stumbling point between Russia and the West. Also, NATO strategy to actually move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit - it is a huge problem, for Russia. Should Russia consider NATO’s actions in Europe as a threat?

SC: If I found out where you live and I came to your house, and I’ve sat out in front of your house with a lot of weapons, and I’ve said to you: “Sophie, I’m not here to harm you, this is good for you, this is security” – you’d be frightened and buy a few guns to protect yourself, obviously. Look, when NATO expansion began in 1990s, the late George F. Kennan, who was considered the wisest man in America about American-Russian relations, said “This is a terrible, reckless, stupid decision” and it will lead to a new Cold War. Twenty years later, George - I call him George, because we both were in Princeton together, we saw each other regularly - was correct, and he was not alone. I’ve said it, Jack Matlock who was Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union and Gorbachev… A lot of people warned that the expansion of NATO eastward was going to lead to a very bad situation.

SS: But was the expansion a deliberate idea, maybe, a deliberate act, with an eventual stand-off with Russia in mind?

SC: How can you expand a military alliance without a deliberate decision? It wasn’t as if nobody was paying attention, and NATO was on wheels and just kind of drifted…Major decision was taken under Clinton to do it, and it was a catastrophically unwise decision, and not only because it led to conflict with Russia, but what it said to all these new countries in NATO that were part of the Soviet Block is that you don’t have to have normal diplomatic relations with Russia, that the Baltics don’t have to negotiate with Russia about the rights of Russian-speaking people there. You don’t have to negotiate.. Georgia, who thought it was going to get into NATO one time - you don’t have to negotiate, you can punch Russia in the nose and hide behind NATO. How much diplomacy is going on? Very little. That was one of the bad things about NATO expansion, it was the end of diplomacy between Eastern Europe and Russia. The expansion of NATO was done for one main purpose - to increase security in Europe. It did just the opposite.

SS: And NATO’s chief keeps on saying - the new chief - that there’s no contradiction between increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe and constructive relations with Russia…

SC: That’s an ideology, that’s not a reality. I mean, it’s foolish, everybody else knows it isn’t true. Russia is preparing for war, as NATO moves closer to Russia. And, by the way, remember something very important, which is often forgotten: missile defense. Russia’s tried to compromise on where this missile defense would be located. Russia has proposed it to be joined, Russian-American. What did the U.S. do? They gave the missile defense project to NATO, so missile defense is now part of the NATO expansion. It’s not just NATO bases coming towards Russia, it’s the missile defense. Now, U.S. says the missile defense is not directed at Russia, but American scientists have said, in its fourth stage it will be able to strike down Russian missiles as the rise towards their ultimate trajectory. Now, that means that Russia will not have the deterrent and the nuclear peace that had been kept for 45 years, on this crazy theory - but it has worked until now - that we won’t attack you because we know if we attack you, you will attack us and vice versa - missile defense could end that.

SS: Also, just recently, the U.S. has shipped tanks, soldiers, armored vehicles to the Baltic states - I mean, it’s the first time since the end of the Cold War, that U.S. has shipped armed vehicles into Europe. What threat is that aimed at?

SC: Look, this is driven by the Ukrainian crisis. There’s a theory in the West of what the meaning of Ukrainian crisis is - that the Ukrainian crisis was started by Putin - that isn’t true, but that’s believed, that’s the ideology - and the Ukrainian crisis is only the beginning, that Russia, the Kremlin, Putin, Russian imperialism is going to move on to the Baltics, to Poland. It’s all ridiculous, there’s no evidence for it. But, there’s been a group in NATO that for at least 15 years - you remember, there was an agreement between NATO and Moscow, that even if NATO would expand, there would be no NATO permanent military bases in these countries that came in closer to Russia - but there’s been a group in NATO for years who wanted to do that, they’ve seized the Ukrainian crisis at the NATO Wales summit, month ago, to create this so-called rapid deployment force of 4,000 men. What good are 4 thousand man against the Russian army? Zero, but there’s a reason: there going to go bases, communication centers, barracks, air strips in Poland, in three Baltic countries, maybe in Romania - Romania hasn’t quite agreed - and that would be not only NATO expansion politically, which is what it was previously, and now it’s an actual military expansion. In addition, there is a plan, as you know, to build land-based missile defense installations in Poland and in those countries, so you’re right, for the first time there’s a military expansion of NATO, not just political, towards Russia - but it’s not too late to stop it. It’s not too late, if leadership does what leadership is supposed to do, if statesmen and women do what they are supposed to do - we can end this Ukrainian crisis and stop this military expansion of NATO, it’s not too late, but it’s five minutes to midnight.

SS: How hard is it for you to get your point across the American public when it comes to mainstream media, because, you know, you’re always welcome here, at RT, but do you get a platform where you can talk and do you think you’re getting your point across?

SC: Let me say a word about RT. Some people say if you go on RT it’s unpatriotic - it’s complete nonsense. It’s just that they don’t want to have a debate. In the U.S., I’m not alone, there’s a very famous American professor John Mearsheimer in Chicago, who has published a big article in the most important American journal of the elite, “Foreign Affairs” with the title of which is something like “America caused the Ukrainian crisis” - it was a sensation. I’ve been arguing that for several months, I was very happy that professor Mearsheimer joined this debate. Jack Matlock, you remember who he is?

SS: Yeah, I’ve actually interviewed him recently.

SC: You know what Jack thinks. He agrees this was reckless, this was bad Western policy. Here’s the problem - the three major opinion-shaping newspapers in the U.S., Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal do not actually…

SS: The New York times actually called you “dissenting villain” because of your views on Russia.

SC: When I was a kid, there was a saying “sticks and bones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” - but names do hurt you, because they stigmatize you, they make people not invite you on mainstream television. The problem is that the Washington elite depends primarily on mainstream television and on the three newspapers: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Our point of view never, since last February, when the crisis began, has appeared on their opinion pages, never. We’ve been excluded. Jack Matlock hasn’t been there, professor Mearsheimer hasn’t been there, my articles have been rejected. I’ve never seen this before in America, this is something very strange to me, because newspapers used to like controversy, but on this issue, they seem to have convinced themselves there’s only one point of view.

SS: Alright, you’ve got about 90 seconds. Tell me, how does the situation affect the policy-making, decision-making, in the White House. Do you feel there’s lack of expertise on Russia?

SC: Yes. We don’t even know who advises Obama. In the past, we always knew to whom the President listens, even if those people were not in the government. But we know, for example, that probably among the wisest men about Russia today in the U.S. is Henry Kissinger. He’s 92 years old - Obama hasn’t talked to him.

SS: He has also actually said that demonizing Putin is not a policy.

SC: “It’s an alibi for not having a policy.” I think it’s worse; it’s an alibi for having a bad policy. I’ll tell you what we do: I’m old, I’ve been through this before, I went through this in 70s… those of us who think as I do, we keep speaking out when we can, we’re organizing, we try to talk to Senators and Congress people who are willing to listen to us. The problem is, most of them are Democrats and they don’t want to come out against Obama, because there are Congressional elections coming in November. They don’t want to do anything to be critical of Obama publicly, because the Democrats are having a hard time holding the Senate and the House. This is not about Russia, this is about our social welfare programs, our Supreme Court, about helping poor people, about social justice in America - it’s a very important issue, I don’t fault them. But, what I say to them: “Ok, after the elections I expect to see you on TV saying this Ukrainian crisis is a disaster and we are also guilty, not just Russia”. We’ll see if they say anything. What else can you do?