Saturday, August 17, 2019

Russia’s Nuclear-Powered Fear of First Strike and Political Protest in Russia - By Stephen F. Cohen

Professor Stephen F. Cohen, a Nation contributing editor and professor emeritus of Russian studies at NYU and Princeton, discusses with the host of The John Batchelor Show the recent nuclear accident on a submarine in Northern Russia and the unrelated political protests in Moscow.
Cohen puts both in the historical and political context usually missing from media accounts. The first should be understood in the context of the new US-Russian nuclear arms race triggered by Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002—and as further confirmation that the new Cold War is more dangerous than was its predecessor.
Cohen noted to John Batchelor, “Once [America] left [the ABM treaty] and we began deploying  missile systems around Russia, that was the turning point; that was in the modern age the original sin…It was in developing these new hypersonic missiles [to defend Russia and continue Mutual Assured Destruction] that this accident occurred. The testing has taken place in [that historical context], the Russian reaction to [Washington’s] decision to abrogate the missile defense [ABM] treaty.”
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Professor Cohen references Eric Schlosser’s book, Command and Control, Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety and states that it is inherent, “rightly or wrongly, to have accidents and high degrees of state secrets about those accidents.”

Regarding the political protests, on the other hand, provoked by the authorities’ refusal to register some opposition figures as candidates in upcoming Moscow city elections, the protests are best viewed in the context of the struggle for the democratization of Russia. This historic struggle began with the pro-democracy reforms of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the late 1980s, and has continued, not surprisingly, with “many zigs and zags,” as Gorbachev himself has often remarked.
This commentary is based on Stephen F. Cohen’s most recent weekly discussion with the host of The John Batchelor ShowNow in their sixth year, previous installments are at A new expanded [not revised] edition of War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate 2nd Edition will be published next year.
Reprinted with the author’s permission.
Stephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His new book is War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.
Copyright © 2019 Stephen F. Cohen