Published On: Tue, Jan 28th, 2020

‘Nobody ever gets points for saying anything good about Russia’: Stephen Cohen says, as Rep. Schiff spreads ignorance about Putin

US Congress heavyweights like Adam Schiff deeply misunderstand Russia but keep on bashing Moscow because it has become “politically advantageous” in Washington, Russia researcher Stephen Cohen said.

“Being highly-critical of Russia is good politics in the United States,” Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, told the Grayzone’s Aaron Mate in an interview, uploaded online on Monday.

Nobody ever gets any points for saying anything good about Russia – and only rarely for advocating any kind of partnership with Russia.

Cohen said that “politically it’s advantageous to a lot of people to bash Russia,” and even some of the “progressive” Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 presidential race employ rhetoric, which is hostile toward Moscow.

It has become an American way of life to blame Russia when things go wrong. Of course, sometimes Russia is to blame, but not all the time. And yet that’s become part of our discourse.

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The US Democratic Party’s lead impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has invoked Russia a lot during the trial in the Senate. Democrats want to oust President Donald Trump because they believe he briefly suspended military aid to Ukraine while trying to pressure Kiev into investigating the dealings of his chief 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sending weapons to Ukraine serves America’s “abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism,” Schiff argued.

Cohen, however, said that shipping weapons to Kiev would effectively amount to the US turning its back on Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to resolve the conflict with Russia through peaceful means. Instead, he thinks Washington should focus on encouraging the neighbors to negotiate.

“If Zelensky had full American backing for his peace talks with Putin – that would help him a lot.”

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Speaking on the Senate floor, Schiff accused Moscow of trying to undermine the faith in democracy and government institutions around the globe.

Cohen argued that the congressman misunderstands what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually “sees as his own historical mission,” and it is almost the opposite of what Schiff attributes to him.

According to the researcher, Putin’s chief ambition is “to rebuild Russia from the disaster into which it fell in the 1990s” after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The last thing Putin wants is instability. He’s trying to build economy at home and economic relations with countries abroad because he sees that as a way to modernize Russia.

The Russia researcher said that Moscow is currently focused on ties with China, but Putin would like to have good trade relations with Europe and the US as well.

“The notion that he wants to foster discord in the very countries, with which he wants what he calls ‘modernizing trade relations’ is just ignorance on the part of Adam Schiff. Because Schiff runs his mouth a lot about Russia, we get to hear the kind of ignorance… that dominates a large segment of policy-makers in Washington.”

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