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Nuclear War with Russia?


Rockwell:  Well, good morning.  This is the Lew Rockwell Show.  And what a treat we have today to have Professor Stephen F. Cohen as our guest.  Professor Cohen is the author of many books.  I tried to count them.  I find it very difficult to get the number but it seems to me it's probably more than the proverbial five-foot shelf of books.  Just extraordinary books on the Soviet Union, on Russia.  And he's professor emeritus at Princeton University and at New York University.  His most recent book is War with Russia?.  And I like the quote he has at the bottom of the book, where he's called "the most controversial Russia expert in America."  We know what that means.  It means the most truth telling.  They don't mean it that way but that's what it does mean, the most truth-telling Russia expert.

So it's just tremendous to have you, sir.

Cohen:  I'm very happy to be with you.  And I think both, as you know – though, undoubtably, I'm older than you are – I'm older than almost everybody – that –

Rockwell:  I don't know about that. 

Cohen:  — that what is called controversial today probably was not so controversial in many ways a decade or two ago.  So this is part of the problem.

Rockwell:  No, it's quite something.  And I was especially struck by your saying that unless John Brennan and James Clapper can be required to testify under oath about the real origins of Russia-gate that there's too much of a chance of the U.S. actually waging war on Russia.

Cohen:  Well, I don't know I you feel about this.  I wrote a chapter of the book about two years ago when this Russia-gate fraud was unfolding and the title was, Intel-gate, meaning the intelligence services are Russia-gate.  And now that we have Mueller's report, it seems to be that there's a cardinal question.  I don't want anybody to go to prison, but we need to know how this Russia-gate fraud began two or three years ago.  And there is evidence that it began with our intelligence services.  And I don't mean primarily the FBI, but the CIA, with Brennan and Clapper.  The reason we need to know that, I think, Mr. Rockwell, is that, not to punish anybody, but if it's true that the American intelligence services were way off the reservation, that is, in trying to destroy Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, we know they have now abused their powers in ways that they could do so again.  And that's something we just need to know no matter what our politics are.

Rockwell:  Professor, it seems to me like it's like some earlier movie about Cold War crimes and starting wars and Dr. Strangelove and that sort of thing.  It seems like it's all coming true.

Cohen:  So, I mean, everything is generational in terms of what we remember and how we see what's going on today.  I lived through the latter part of the preceding 40-year Cold War.  And the extreme things said in the United States and also in the Soviet Union about America were very dangerous.  There was a demonizing of the other.  And we went through the period known as McCarthyism, where American citizens, for just having their own thoughts about international relations, were badly damaged.

I have to say that I don't remember it being this bad as it's been the last couple of years, back then.  For this reason, back then, particularly in the '70s and '80s, when I entered the field of Russian studies and public life, it was two hands clapping in this country.  You had a lot of people in this country saying, this is not the way to talk, this is not the way to conduct relations with the other nuclear superpower.  But today, there's just a handful of us – yourself included – I know who are saying that this is dangerous and that if we're going to avoid some sort of catastrophic outcome in our relations with Russia, or any other country, we need to have a vigorous debate in this country about the issues, and we have not had it.  For two years, we've slipped ever – three years maybe – ever deeper into a new and more dangerous Cold War.  That's the overarching thesis of my new book, War with Russia?.  And we have done so without any public debate whatsoever.  That's what's unprecedented on the American side.

By the way, what I'm talking about is debated everyday inside Russia, on television, in the mass media.  And there are more than one or two sides to this issue.  The question is, who is responsible for the new Cold War, how do we get out of it.  There's a robust debate about this in Russia but not in the United States.  And that, too, is bad news.

Rockwell:  It's very bad news.  And are there actually people who think that the U.S. could start a war, perhaps even an atomic war against Russia, and the U.S. itself not be damaged?  I mean, do they really think that?  Are they willing to take X number of casualties as long as they're under a mountain in West Virginia?

Cohen:  So that's a really good question.  And I think the answer is complicated and long.  But let me give you what I think in my judgment is the short version.  In 2002, President Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.  Now, the importance of that treaty was that neither side could deploy so-called missile defense systems because both sides, American and Russian, needed to know that if they attacked with nuclear weapons, they, too, would be destroyed.  But the assumption of missile defense was that the United States could obtain a so-called first-strike capability and survive.  So what did Russia do?  And this is almost reported not at all here.  Russia, under Putin, quickly, efficiently, and apparently successfully, developed a new generation of nuclear weapons, attack weapons, called hypersonic.  And they were designed to elude, escape, avoid, defy any missile defense system, upon which we have spent trillions of dollars, that we could install anywhere.  I believe they were successful.  So we're now in a new and dangerous moment.  There are people in the United States who still think that we could first strike Russia with a nuclear weapon and not – and that missile defense would protect us from retaliation.  That is no longer true, if it ever was.  And yet, we hear among the Dr. Strangeloves among us – and by the way, there are probably a few in Russia, too – the Dr. Strangeloves who nonetheless say we can survive a first strike against the other.  But what does survive mean?  Who?  Who many?  What?  It certainly wouldn't be civilization as we know it today.  So this talk is dangerous.

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