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Useful Stooges | 16Nov2015 | Author, [2] Cathy Young

Professor Cohen's latest pro-Putin project

There's no keeping up with the multitudinous mischievous machinations of veteran Kremlinologist Stephen F. Cohen. Russia's thug-in-chief, Vladimir Putin, has no more high-profile apologist anywhere in the Western world than the 76-year-old NYU and Princeton prof. Every time we turn around, Cohen -- almost invariably in league with his moneybags wife, Nation publisher/editor Katrina vanden Heuvel -- has come up with some new stunt, some new angle, some new scam designed to pump up ol' Vlad's image in the West.

In mid October 2015, Cathy Young reported at the Daily Beast on one of Cohen's latest capers. It appears that back in the Cold War days, Cohen helped found something called the American Committee on East-West Accord (ACEWA), one of those groups that, in the name of peace, “consistently urged U.S. trade, foreign policy and arms control concessions to the USSR.” Established in 1974, the ACEWA was shuttered in 1992, in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Now Cohen, along with some allies, appears to be reviving the ACEWA -- kind of. The name of the new organization, the American Committee for East-West Accord, is almost exactly identical to that of the old one -- the only difference is that “on” has been replaced by “for.” (The change, Cohen explains, reflects his desire to be “more proactive.”) The group, whose stated objective is to promote “open, civilized, informed debate” on U.S.-Russian relations and ensure “a conclusive end to cold war and its attendant dangers,” had its formal launch in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2015.

As Young notes, the whole thing “couldn't sound more benign.” The seven-member board includes some soothing, solid establishment names: Bill Bradley, the former U.S. Senator from New Jersey; Jack Matlock, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union; and John Pepper, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble.

But Cohen is one of two official co-founders, and this is plainly his baby. The other co-founder is something of a wild card: he's Gilbert Doctorow, whom Young describes as a “Brussels-based U.S. expatriate and self-styled 'professional Russia-watcher.'” Vanden Heuvel, though not officially affiliated with the ACEWA, is a major player, promoting the venture in The Nation and “mentioning the group’s activities to her contacts in Congress.” Also heavily involved is vanden Heuvel's dad, former UN ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel: he's on the group's board, was identified as the group's president in its incorporating papers, and has allowed the address of his philanthropy, the Melinda and William J. vanden Heuvel Foundation, to be listed as the ACEWA's Manhattan address.

To our surprise, Cohen, in a conversation with Young, actually tried to walk back some of his own more outrageously Putin-friendly statements -- though not very effectively. He admitted that when discussing Putin's invasion of Crimea on TV, he'd been “insufficiently critical of Russia’s contribution to the crisis,” but maintained that he'd taken a strong pro-Putin line as a “conscious strategy” intended to counter what he saw as the mainstream media's excessively anti-Putin spin. “Russia’s side of the story was not being told, and I knew I was going to get grief for trying to tell it as I understood it,” Cohen insisted. He added that if he'd been insufficiently nuanced, it was, well, because his TV time is always so brief. In response to his claim, Young pointed out that Cohen has been just as uncritical of Putin in his articles for the Nation, where his wife gives him enough space to be as nuanced as nuanced can be.

Cohen's efforts at backpedaling are, it must be said, rather entertaining. But the major accomplishment of Young's article is to draw our attention to Doctorow, Cohen's co-founder. Unlike Cohen, Doctorow has virtually no profile in the U.S. He maintains his own blog, writes for an obscure Russian news and opinion website, and last year contributed an article on Putin to the Nation. There's pretty much only one reason he's worth paying attention to -- and that reason is that, as Young puts it, he's even “more pro-Kremlin” than Cohen.

How pro-Kremlin? We'll get into that tomorrow.


COMMENT by Jaroslaw Sawka
November 16, 2015 at 6:12 am

Of course. We should express outrage & sympathy to the French who have now suffered terrorism although NOT as bad as what Ukraine has endured from Putin’s terrorism ... their territory is STILL intact whereas Ukraine lost Crimea and endures “frozen conflict” after Putin’s drive to create NovoRosiya failed ... and is the death of 200 French really worse than the death of over 6,000 Ukrainians?

We well remember how the French & Germans snickered and pretended to be outraged and sympathetic when Putin invaded & annexed Crimea -- they actually had to be shamed into imposing "slap on the wrist" sanctions against Russia by Obama! (who is more subtle but as shameless as Trump!). Everyone conveniently has forgotten the Budapest Memorandum and what was promised to Ukraine if only Ukraine would give up its Nuclear Weapons -- the Third largest stockpile in the world at the time. France/Germany are still trying to lift the sanctions by demanding that stubborn Ukraine correct its corruption (as though they and Putin are NOT corrupt!) and give in to his demands so that he can have veto power and control over Ukrainian political and financial affairs. In fact they have threatened that if Ukraine doesn’t abide by Minsk 2 unilaterally -- even if Putin’s separatists violate the provisions -- they will lift the sanctions which they have been itching to do since day one.

After all, why irritate Putin when so many (e.g. Trump) consider him an ally of the West in the war against ISIS (even though so far his fighter jets have only been bombing forces actually fighting ISIS that the USA has been lukewarm supporting). The prevailing.attitude seems to be -- give Putin what he wants so we can win him over to “our” side. Let Ukraine subsidize his puppet governments in eastern Ukraine and let Ukraine pay for the MH17 Russian atrocity that occurred on once Ukraine’s territory that was NOT controlled by Ukraine at the time but by Putinistas. And, of course, Ukraine must repay the 3 Billion$$$ that Putin loaned (bribed) to Yanukovych to keep Ukraine from joining the European Union (as though Europe actually wanted it) that led to the EuroMaidan -- Revolution of Dignity.

Ukraine should offer its European friends: France/Germany a way to deal with ISIS by mediating the same formula established at Minsk as a sure way to reach a settlement between Putin and Ukraine. Ukraine can explain to France/Germany that they should NOT irritate ISIS but provide accommodations like Ukraine is expected to provide for Putin. Parts of their countries could be given to ISIS Separatists just like Putin’s Separatists ... they won’t even have to go through the procedure of phony elections that Putin likes -- like the quickie in Crimea ... since ISIS doesn’t believe in elections anyway -- because those are not in the Koran. Europe can subsidize the extension of ISIS Caliphate just as Ukraine is expected to subsidize Putinista territory.

Europe & Obama keep telling Ukraine ... there is NO military solution only diplomatic so we have to remind Europe & Obama of this winning formula that they say will work for Ukraine -- Putin should also work for Europe ISIS. Not only should Amnesty be granted to the ISIS killers as Ukraine is urged to do with Putinistas BUT they should be IN the government Parliaments to represent the interests of ISIS ...  similar to what Ukraine is supposed to do with Putinistas!

What could possibly go wrong with such a MINSK formula??? If Minsk 2 is good for Ukraine then Minsk 3 will surely work for France, Germany and ISIS and everyone will be happy and peace and harmony will reign for ever more!

Putin says east Ukraine crisis may yet turn into ‘frozen conflict’:
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday there was a risk that the situation in east Ukraine may turn into a “frozen conflict”. “I would not overdramatize the delay in implementing the Minsk Agreements. Despite some difficulties, they are being implemented and, which is ...

Daily Beast | 11Oct2015 | Cathy Young

Putin's New American Fan Club

Their board includes a famed ex-senator. Their goals couldn’t sound more benign. But a new outfit to promote “debate” between the U.S. and Russia has a decidedly pro-Putin lineup.

It is, most would agree, a worthy goal: to promote “open, civilized, informed debate” on Russian-American relations and bring about “a conclusive end to cold war and its attendant dangers.” But there are reasons to believe that the American Committee for East-West Accord
, which is having its formal launch with a Capitol Hill event scheduled for November 4, 2015, may be involved in a less admirable mission.

“The more organizations there are having country-to-country conversations, exchanges and partnerships, the better, [especially in] an increasing atmosphere of anti-Americanism there and anti-Russianism here,” New School international studies professor and writer Nina Khrushcheva, a granddaughter of the late Soviet leader, told The Daily Beast in an email. Like several other analysts, however, Khrushcheva voiced concern that the group’s potential positive role was compromised by some of its members’ knee-jerk tendency to blame all tensions on the West while excusing the Kremlin’s and Vladimir Putin’s actions. 

The committee’s seven-person board of directors includes former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ), former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock, and former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper. But its co-founders are two men who were part of the group’s forerunner, the American Committee on East-West Accord, a pro-d�tente organization that existed from 1974 to 1992. Stephen F. Cohen, the Russian history scholar, earned a certain notoriety last year with his dogged defense of Putin at the height of the Russia-Ukraine conflict; Gilbert Doctorow, a like-minded Brussels-based U.S. expatriate and self-styled “professional Russia-watcher,” has had a long career in multinational business as well as scholarship and punditry. 

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Cohen credited both himself and Doctorow with the idea of an advocacy group to counteract the new Cold War. “The model I had in mind was the American Committee, and it began to fester in my mind to re-create the equivalent,” says Cohen; the change from “on” to “for,” he says, was intended to make it “more proactive.” Both men began to publicly promote the initiative in early 2014. Doctorow, as ACEWA’s European coordinator, organized its first events in Brussels, including a panel last March that featured Cohen as well as Nation editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel, Cohen’s wife and frequent co-author on Russia-related issues.

Actively promoted in The Nation, ACEWA is clearly something of a Cohen-vanden Heuvel project. While vanden Heuvel is not a board member, Cohen told The Daily Beast that she “does help,” sometimes by mentioning the group’s activities to her contacts in Congress. Her father, William J. vanden Heuvel, a retired career diplomat and former United Nations ambassador, serves on the committee’s board and was even listed as its president in its incorporating papers. ACEWA also appears to have close ties to his philanthropy, the Melinda and William J. vanden Heuvel Foundation: The address listed on the committee’s tax filing last March is the foundation’s Manhattan address (and that of the investment firm Allen & Co., in which he is a senior adviser). None of the ACEWA representatives contacted by The Daily Beast would comment directly on whether the organization -- whose U.S. budget is listed at $30,000 for this year -- is financed by the vanden Heuvel Foundation; but both Cohen and Doctorow confirm that for now, its funding comes from board members.

Cohen’s views have been widely described as pro-Putin and “Moscow-friendly,” labels he has hotly disputed. Similar charges have been leveled at other people and organizations linked to ACEWA; the March 2015 World Russia Forum in Washington, D.C., where Doctorow made a pitch for the Committee, was skewered by The Daily Beast’s Jamie Kirchick as “a gathering of Kremlin apologists, conspiracy theorists, and other assorted nut jobs.” 

To ACEWA’s founders, such language validates the need for the committee, showing that dissent from a bellicose, Russia-bashing party line is marginalized in American discourse. “McCarthyite” attacks on Russia-policy dissenters have been decried by Cohen, Doctorow (who hailed Cohen as the “Great American Dissident”)  and James Carden, the former National Interest columnist who is now editor of ACEWA’s website. 

Yet the drubbing Cohen has received was due largely to his propensity for crossing the line into Kremlinesque spin. During the Crimea grab, he asserted that “we don’t know that Putin went into Crimea”; later, he insisted that the Russia-backed insurgents of Donetsk and Luhansk were “resisters” with a valid claim to self-defense since those regions had “voted overwhelmingly for autonomy” (never mind that the separatist-controlled vote was a blatant farce and polls showed most locals opposing secession). 

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Cohen defended some of his statements; for instance, he explained that he did not know at the time whether the “little green men” who executed the Crimea takeover were new special forces sent from Russia or Russian troops already stationed there under a treaty with Ukraine. (In fact, they wore no insignia, and Putin claimed they were “local self-defense units.”) However, Cohen concedes that he might have been “insufficiently critical of Russia’s contribution to the crisis” -- but says it was a “conscious strategy” to counteract a one-sided media narrative. “Russia’s side of the story was not being told, and I knew I was going to get grief for trying to tell it as I understood it,” says Cohen, adding that he was further constrained by very limited television airtime.

Whatever one makes of this argument (which doesn’t account, among other things, for Cohen’s similarly skewed Nation articles), Cohen is also emphatic that he should not be the “personification” of the committee. “If you look at the seven members of the board, there are serious disagreements among us on various issues,” he says. “In fact, you could probably have a terrific debate just by putting the seven of us on the stage.”

Fair enough. Yet, disturbingly, at least one board member disagrees with Cohen from a more pro-Kremlin point of view -- and that person is Doctorow, the committee’s co-founder. 

Doctorow’s peculiar outlook can be gleaned from his 2014 Nation article on U.S. and Russian media coverage of the Ukraine crisis. In it, he chides far-left academic Noam Chomsky for being slow to condemn “American bullying of Russia” because of “distaste for what he construed as Mr. Putin’s authoritarian regime” and praises Russian journalism for “emerging from pro-Western wishful thinking.”

In articles on his own blog and on Russia Insider, an American expatriate website with clear Putinist sympathies, Doctorow serves up a steady diet of frank Kremlin apologism and vitriolic attacks on Putin foes. A 2013 column waves aside Moscow’s ban on American adoptions of Russian orphans, many of them with disabilities, as no big deal since “the handicapped constituted no more than 10% of … international adoptions” and “the global numbers of such adoptions had been falling” even before the ban. Doctorow’s  commentary on the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov last February 2015 not only played up the theory of an anti-Putin provocation -- either by Ukraine or by fellow oppositionists -- but slammed the murdered man for “actively courting the enemy in what may easily be described before the dock as treason.”

Opposition treachery is a Doctorow leitmotif. An August column is subtitled, “Russian ‘liberals’ are hailed as heroes in the West. In Russia, they’re widely viewed as traitors”; the text leaves little doubt that Doctorow shares this view. The massive protests against election-rigging in late 2011 and the spring of 2012 are portrayed as a “seditious movement” financed with “U.S. dollars.” Yeltsin-era Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, the main target of the piece, is accused of “courting sedition” with a New York Times op-ed calling for regime change in Russia -- and of being a de facto U.S. agent with “American handlers” during his tenure as minister. (Doctorow also calls Kozyrev “delusional” and makes unsubstantiated references to his past “mental breakdown.”) A 2013 blogpost brands the Carnegie Center Moscow think tank as “a nest of sedition,” singling out foreign policy analyst and then-Carnegie associate Lilia Shevtsova as the culprit. 

What does Cohen, who has often stressed his sympathy for Russia’s liberal dissenters, think of his partner’s crude dissident-bashing? “Gil has very strong feelings because he’s got this trilateral life,” Cohen told The Daily Beast, referring to Doctorow’s status as a U.S. citizen who divides his time between Belgium and Russia and has a Russian wife. He also stressed, once again, that “the seven [board members] probably disagree as much as we agree about specific issues.”