Stephen Cohen, American scholar of Russia, friend of Gorbachev & advisor to Bush, dies at 81

Tom Paine 1949

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Stephen F. Cohen was the leading American Russia expert of his generation. He became a vocal critic of Washington’s “new Cold War” with Moscow after the fall of Yeltsin. He was almost totally removed from mainstream U.S. media over the next decade and a half and ended writing for RT. My own views are similar to Cohen’s on basic issues of U.S.-Russia relations. He will be missed. Here is an excerpt from a short RT obituary and an interview with him from around 2018:

“As a frequent visitor to Russia, Cohen became well-connected among leading Soviet dissidents, politicians and thinkers in the 1980s, even befriending Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev....

“Breaking with many American academics and political commentators, Cohen was highly critical of Washington’s approach to Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He warned of the dangers of NATO expansion and argued that much of the economic devastation seen in Russia during the 1990s could be traced to bad-faith policies and advice from the United States....

“After the election of Donald Trump, Cohen found himself in the crosshairs of the mainstream media for challenging the ... Russiagate narrative.”

Stephen Cohen on how impeachment battle is impacting US-Russia relations

Stephen F. Cohen, pre-eminent contemporary American scholar of Russia & USSR, friend of Gorbachev & advisor to Bush, dies at 81
 
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Tom Paine 1949

Tom Paine 1949

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Excerpts from a personal remembrance by his wife, Katrina Vanden Heuvel:

“He unwaveringly opposed American Cold War thinking both during the Cold War and since the end of the Soviet Union.... This stance was no recipe for popularity.... He was courageous and fearless in continuing to question the increasingly rigid orthodoxies about the Soviet Union and Russia. But in the last months, such criticism did take its toll on him. Along with others who sought to avert a new and more dangerous Cold War, Steve despaired that the public debate so desperately needed had become increasingly impossible in mainstream politics or media. Until his death he’d been working on a short article about what he saw as the ‘criminalization of détente.’...

“Positions he took often elicited slurs and scurrilous attacks. How many times could he be labeled ‘Putin’s puppet’? ‘Putin’s No.1 American apologist’? Endlessly, it seemed. But Steve chose not to respond directly to the attacks, believing—as he told me many times when I urged him to respond—that they offered no truly substantive criticism of his arguments, but were merely ad hominem attacks....”

Stephen F. Cohen, 1938–2020
 
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Tom Paine 1949

Tom Paine 1949

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Here is a fascinating critical article on Cohen’s legacy and the collapse of the USSR under Gorbachev, the “rise and fall” of Euro-Communism and Social Democracy in West Europe (and the New Deal welfare state in the U.S.), and the stupendous economic rise of China. I realize Americans have next to no interest in this subject, but I personally find there are lessons to be learned in studying this history. A tiny excerpt follows ....

According to Anatoly Chernyaev, a close advisor to Gorbachev, it was a Russian translation of Cohen’s biography [of Bolshevik “Right Opposition” leader Bukharin] that catalyzed perestroika and glasnost, the twin policies that caused the implosion of the USSR in 1987-91. Meanwhile in Beijing, Deng Xiaoping, trained at a Comintern center called the Moscow Sun Yat-sen University during Bukharin’s 1926-1929 tenure as a leader of the Communist International, ushered in a rediscovery of Bukharinist theory as he opened the Chinese economy to foreign direct investment while privatizing large swathes of the public sector. Whether it was the tutelage by Bukharin that spurred Deng’s policies or if Cohen’s scholarship played a role in these developments is ancillary to the reality of the situation....

The Communist movement worldwide did rediscover Bukharin. And what it has wrought for humanity over the past half century is far from the socialistic humanism Cohen aspired for.

The Tragedy of Stephen F. Cohen and the Bolshevik Revolution - CounterPunch.org
 

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