tv Cross Talk RT August 18, 2014 12:29pm-1:01pm EDT
might. choose the access to your office. hello and welcome to cross talk where all things are considered on peter limbo after the famous but failed washington moscow reset it appears now the obama administration is preparing to embrace a very different though historically familiar policy towards russia it's called containment it worked during the cold war against the soviet union what will work against today's russia and does this mean washington has declared a new cold war. to cross-talk washington spinning of containment i'm joined by my guest stephen cohen
in new york he is a professor emeritus of russian studies and politics at new york university and princeton university and author of the recent book soviet fates in last alternatives and in chicago we cross to john mearsheimer he is a professor in the political science department at the university of chicago who has written extensively on international security his latest book is the tragedy of great power politics all right gentlemen cross talk rules and that means you can jump in anytime on steven cohen if i go to you first i read your article in the nation the cold war again whose responsibility subtitle in the name of democracy the west has unrelentingly moved its military political in the economic power ever closer to a post soviet russia i'll not ask a very broad ended question here what a future historians are going to think about this time period right now what if there are any future historians left because this could easily lead to nuclear war but we could go to that later i think that they will ask the same questions they asked about the previous cold war the forty five year cold war who was responsible
for and which policies which factors which leaders how do you divide the responsibility back then in the. forty's between the united states and the soviet union but a critical question peter and i think professor mearsheimer may agree is that when did it begin because you don't know when to begin your analysis and what we have at the moment for example in future story and this will sort this out but i pretty much made up my mind did this new cold war which as you pointed out according to the new york times the white house has resolved on did this cold war begin with the ukrainian crisis did it begin for example in november two thousand and thirteen when ukraine the president then you on a cold which rejected europe's offer for a partnership economic partnership did it begin in february this year a couple months ago when you're on a covert fell and the government supported by the street became the government of
kiev or did it begin when russia was annexed or reunited with russia depending on how you look at it now the reason this is important is that the alternative historical perspective is to argue that it began right after the end of the soviet union in the one nine hundred ninety s. right when the clinton administration began to expand nato so you've got historians will debate this question when did it begin and then the analysis will began johnny and chicago well this is a very good point that stephen brings up because we have south was set in two thousand and eight as well but maybe it's the dysfunctionality of the entire post cold war environment i mean what has the international system found any kind of balance are we still moving to some kind of lack of equilibrium or is it the united states just has gotten used to being very had to manage monic well i basically agree with steve which is that i think that the united states and the west more
generally but especially the united states has found it almost impossible to put cold war thinking behind it. and as a result in the mid one nine hundred ninety s. the clinton administration began to push hard for nato expansion and there's no way you could explain nato expansion unless you make the argument that it's designed to contain some sort of future russian threat nobody put the argument for nato expansion in those terms at the time but in retrospect it's quite clear that that's what was going on so the deep cause of the present crisis i believe is nato expansion which is part and parcel of a strategy designed to contain russia and to strip ukraine away from russia's orbit and to grade it into the west the precipitating crisis would cause the.
present crisis that's going on i should say the precipitating cause of the present crisis were the events of february of this year especially the february twenty two coup. in kiev. it's stephen it's interesting if we if we look at nato expansion and it ends up being kind of like a chicken in the egg situation because if russia is the threat do you want to expand nato but if it isn't a threat you know if you expand it you do create a russia that is extremely anxious about it a vast military complex moving towards its border i mean it you know it what do what should the world expect from a country like russia that he has had a history of being a major power still is an important power in the world and almost that it has this military apparatus right at its very border and we have this ukraine crisis where john pointed out there in it with the coup in kiev which means you legal in my mind that is a red line that the kremlin said look we can't trust these people these people live
openly lie now you see the problem here peter is and i'm going to retreat into my vocation as a historian is that john is absolutely right this began. the push that's now come to shove in the one nine hundred ninety s. a historian will say to you wait a minute i know this doesn't go down well today we need the archives we need to see what the clinton administration and its european allies were thinking did they ask themselves the question you just asked peter if we start moving nato toward russia and you're right i mean there was no reason other than to contain russia by the way if that's so then the answer to my question when did the policy of containment new containment which the new york times said last sunday or i think it was april twentieth that the obama administration has now adopted where did that begin and then the new policy of containment began in the one nine hundred ninety s. but we need to know what did the clinton administration think would be russia's reaction that's exactly the question you ask me now logically logically you and i
and professor mearsheimer would agree that if you push and push militarily toward a great power perhaps not. so great at that time but coming back that it once been your adversary it's going to reawaken all sorts of old conflicts will planking idea ideological reflexes it's going to do that do you want to do that but can we assume that the clinton administration or politically political leadership is so rational if we do then they made a grievous mistake they understood what could happen and they did it anyway if they didn't know they should not have been in power because they were misinformed jon i think one of the interesting things that i found kind of time to go ahead jump in got to tell you yeah i just want to jump in. i think two things are going on here i think first of all the clinton administration and this was true of the george w. bush administration as well viewed the united states as
a benign hedge amman and we think that we are different than other great powers and that when we expand our influence countries like russia will understand that we're ultimately not very threatening because we are the good guys in the international system this is a remarkably foolish way of thinking about the world but i believe if you spend any time in washington it becomes clear that this delusion is widespread second point i would make is that we are paid a waiter with a lot of soaring ok go ahead john finish your second point we'll go to i'll go back to stephen go ahead second point i would make is we were able to get away with nato expansion in the early two thousand and in the one nine hundred ninety s. because russia was remarkably weak and because the initial waves of nato expansion were not so close to russia's border what's happened now is that russia has recovered from the one nine hundred ninety s.
it's much more powerful today than it was back then and furthermore expanding nato to ukraine is putting nato right on russia's border and creating a direct threat so it's those changes that make the present situation much more volatile than what happened in the ninety's and in the early to thousands steve in new york you want to jump in there please do. yeah i apologized to john from erupting as he being in chicago and i don't know how you are creates the problem i think john's thesis is exceedingly important in its more than a thesis and he being perhaps the preeminent american scholar of international affairs and american behavior i'm abroad we have to take it seriously the view that american policymakers think that we behave abroad no matter how aggressively only benignly and that other people will see it this way is reflected in what's happening today it's astonishing to me that unlike in previous run up to war cold
war or hot there is no opposition in the american congress there is no opposition in the mainstream american media to the united states' policy toward russia today only blaming russia now the only way you can explain that is a kind of inherent meijer assumption by the five hundred plus members elected members of congress that what we're doing must be benign and therefore what russia is doing must mean nothing but quote as they put it naked aggression even though in peer a clean it's plainly not the truth but there is no opposition there is no criticism in the mainstream media that would slow this process and the explanation i guess is what professor marshall armor has just said out steve it is very interesting is that during the cold war there was a debate about the nature of american foreign policy in its relationship to the
soviet union after the cold war there is no debate as you just said there that's quite interesting isn't it. it's more than interesting for me because it's autobiographical i'm probably the oldest oldest person on this broadcast today i participated in the debates of the light late one nine hundred seventy s. and early eighty's they were called the debate between the detente just those of us who wanted to reduce the cold war and the cold warriors who wanted to step up the cold war of the soviet union but there was a real debate we needed detente just we're always in a minority always in a minority but we were present on the op ed pages of the main american newspapers there were and this was before cable t.v. but we were on television we were on radio we got our say we even had a i don't know if is the right word but a lobby group called the american committee for east west a core and i remember included c.e.o. is a power forget his ations donald kennel tom watson of i.b.m. we included george kennan he's
a famous. diplomatic scholar of russia i believe on that i'm going to i'm going to have had jump in here where you go to a very short break and after that show break we'll continue our discussion on containment stakes are. just so much is this soldiers russia's internal special forces but being tough and good with a gun may not be enough these extreme tests. only the most capable will be to the end. of. those whose dreams can wage exhaustion franks put
themselves through fine smoke and water and not some money promotion. is the coveted prince. right the. first strike. and i think that you're. an army corps. instrument. i know c.n.n. the m s n b c news have taken some knocks lightly but the fact is i admire their commitment to cover all sides of the story just in case one of them happens to be accurate. that was funny but it's closer to the truth and might
think. it's because when full attention and the mainstream media works side by side the joke is actually on here. coming up. at our teen years we have a different price. because the news of the world just is not this funny i'm not laughing dammit i'm not. good. at. you guys stick to the jokes well handled it makes us happy. i marinate joining me on. impartial and financial reporting commentary cancer
ok john i come back to you in chicago we're all children of the cold war i suppose but those days were quite simple one thing i mean it was very black and white the good guys bad guys and this seems to be what the obama administration is selling because it looks like it's given up on dialogue it's given up on diplomacy it's given up on problem solving in ukraine there were opportunities to avert what's going on there now but they were missed opportunities because the united states didn't want to respect anyone else is an equal partner well i think what's going on here is that the united states has a particular world view as we were saying before if you go inside the beltway in washington you go inside the foreign policy establishment what you see is there is remarkable consensus among republicans and democrats about the nature of american foreign policy and about the nature of the world around us most americans in the
foreign policy establishment believe that the united states is the indispensable nation they believe that we stand tall or that we see further that we are a benign hedge amman and that we not only have a right but we have a responsibility to run the world and that most states out there should understand that and people are baffled that the russians don't understand that our motives are good and that what we're doing and eastern europe is all designed to create peace and stability of course for other countries around the world this is not the way they see things and. it's not only true with the russians it's true of the chinese as well all you have to do is follow president obama's travels through asia which are taking place. right now to understand just how complicated this situation is in asia with regard to chinese american relations so we have problems all over the world because other people don't. see things the way we do and that's
stephen you know this is exactly where i want to go it's very interesting to me is that the u.s. government and its allies who just cannot conceive of another party's perspective russia's perspective on what's going on in the world is never given any air time in the mainstream media at all i mean people i've been on cross talk of been doing. ukraine related topics for months now and we come across people that are just baffled they've never heard of victoria nuland they've never heard about snipers in kiev they've never heard about yulia timoshenko saying the russians should be killed they've never heard these things in these people are not stupid we wouldn't bring them on the program but they've never heard these things or they thought they were just very minor things my point is that you know the us and its allies can't see how other people see the world. you're asking a question that are often asked myself and it's beyond my competence to answer i would say this again invoking my age i remember the time when there were so-called
wise men and women who urged the president of the united states and the congress to see both sides of any story even if it involved the soviet union there's an old american at age there are two sides to every story and to understand the stand the other side you have to walk in the other person's shoes a bit try as an intellectual exercise that's an obligation in my judgment for policymakers who may control the fate of the world we don't seem to have that codger a elder statesman i think henry kissinger is one such person but you're not he's ninety years old but his mind works very well but you don't see him popping up on television you don't see him he published an op ed article in the washington post back in march but he came and went and that was it but there used to be quite a few people like that who would say to the president yes probably moscow is guilty but let's take a look at this let's see how we are perceived as john would put it around the world
how do you explain that i don't know that those people are gone but meanwhile because they are gone the american mainstream media seems to instinctively filter out dissenting voices john and i appeared briefly fleetingly heretics living in exile someplace in the mainstream i know the feeling and i had a feeling i haven't i haven't i haven't see jobs and i don't see me either i mean there's a process of kind of rejection and here's the thing peter because we really are i think we should get to this movie to an exceedingly dangerous moment i have a very bleak view of what could happen but there is this pattern that is the drumbeat of war in america built builds whether it's cold. or a hot war dissenting voices though they might have been there in the beginning slow only are either overwhelmed by the war boosters or they are deleted by the kind of
institutional reflexes of washington and that's where we are today as things really really are moving fast toward the unimaginable which i would say is war between the united states and russia all that's unthinkable but john john let me kick if it's talk about content ok this is cross talk please jump in go ahead. no i was just going to make two points one is that i was one of the most outspoken opponents of the iraq war and it was very lonely and it was very clear that anybody who opposed that war came under attack from all sides for being unpatriotic for being an appeaser for being a fool for being a left winger and so forth and so on and we did not have a healthy debate in the united states about going into iraq as a result of the fact that there was such a consensus in the elite and people were afraid to speak out against
a war that was really remarkably foolish so in a funny way the situation with ukraine is not that different now i think what's going on here just to talk a bit about this is that when the cold war ended what happened is that the united states emerged in a situation where it had no rival that had the military power to check it and to make it think seriously about how to conduct foreign policy the fact is we are so remarkably powerful that we can do all sorts of foolish things and we don't pay that significant a price or at least we haven't up to now because we are a remarkably secure country at the same time when the cold war ended frank fukuyama wrote this very famous article called the end of history that basically said that history was on our side we defeated fascism in the first half of the twentieth century and communism in the second half of the twentieth century and the wind was at our back everybody was going to end up looking like us so we felt incredibly
a good about ourselves and we thought that we could go out in the world and reshape the world a narrowly image because we again had the wind at our back and when you couple that basic worldview with the fact that we did emerge as a remarkably powerful country full of self-confidence it's hardly surprised that we have been march. you know all over the globe for the past twenty five years trying to slay all sorts of dragons and thinking at the same time that we are a benign hedge of mine which of course we're not and as a result we have done a pretty terrible job of running foreign policy and the latest manifestation of it is this crisis in ukraine steven we've all remember containment did it work today in this kind of environment i mean with with globalization and whatnot i mean it's seems to me that the obama administration they have just given up which is shameful
on their part made a lot of moves particularly in in a crane and now and not being responsible i mean who knows what's going to happen do you question it could turn into a failed state it didn't have to be that way it didn't have to be a failed state in the center of europe so what would containment look like in the twenty first century against russia well it won't look like what washington thinks it's going to look like because the mantra in washington and this too was reported in the new york times to be the thinking of the white house that containment means the complete isolation of russia or as the time summarized thinking in the white house to cut off all of russia's top political and economic with other countries it's preposterous ridiculous what were they will do it will drive east russia eastward it will expand in solidify the emerging alliance between russia and china but you will note that india and iran and many latin
american countries are not taking the american side in this and by the way it was interesting that even is really a serial didn't vote exactly they didn't vote for the un resolution well that's very significant so you cannot isolate russia with with a new containment can you draw a new divide in the world order you can. and and that would be reckless and dangerous and i'll tell you why the old stabilizing rules of the stabilizing rules or go volved to keep the first cold war from becoming a hot war no longer exist that's the first reason secondly the epicenter of this cold war is in ukraine on russia's borders not in far away berlin and that's why peter i want to quarrel with you i don't think you meant this literally it was kind of like oh my gosh but i don't think war between the united states and russia is unthinkable and you can see how it might happen if you crane tumbles into the civil
war that it's on the verge of right now russian troops may enter ukraine in the east nato troops which are being mobilized as we talk in eastern europe would enter perhaps western ukraine across the polish border and then the power of russia and the united states will be eyeball to eyeball and that is the cuban missile crisis and you can remember how close we came to war then so i wouldn't say it's unthinkable i think it's a blip a tory on us today the think about that horrible prospect so we can get our leaders and by the way russia could help here too but it's being driven by moscow by washington now to pull back before it's too late. john you know it's interesting it this is two thousand and fourteen but in one thousand nine hundred fourteen the major power strip themselves into a war this is what stephen's talking about right now when i think that one thousand nine hundred fourteen was fundamentally different in that imperial germany was a remarkably powerful country and i believe it was bent on dominating europe and i
believe it was prince will be responsible for the july crisis and world war one. today we're dealing with a russia that is remarkably weak commute hared to the soviet union compared to nazi germany compared to imperial germany the idea of trying to contain russia doesn't make any sense to me because you're not talking about a country that is bent on widespread aggression in europe yes they took crimea i find that hardly surprising and i think if they tried to take eastern ukraine that would be a huge mistake i don't think it's going to i'm sorry gentlemen this is one of the best cross talks we have ever had i many thanks to my guests in new york and in chicago and thanks to our viewers for watching us here narky see you next time and remember last time.
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