1. Lavelle: Hello and welcome to CrossTalk, where all things are considered. I’m Peter Lavelle. After the famous but failed Washington-Moscow **, it appears now that Obama Administration is being prepared 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. Will it work against today’s Russia, and does this mean Washington has declared a new Cold War? [break] To CrossTalk Washington-spinning and -Containment, I’m joined by my guests, Stephen Cohen in New York . In Chicago, we cross to John Mearsheimer . All right gentlemen, CrossTalk rules, and that means you can jump in at any time you want.
Stephen Cohen, if I can go to you first. I’ve read your article on the Cold War again; Who’s Responsibility, subtitled In the Name of Democracy, the West Has Relentlessly Moved Its Military, Political and Economic Power Ever Closer to Post Soviet-Russia. I ask a very broad-ended question here. What are future historians going to think about this time period right now?
2. Cohen: If there are any future historians left, because this can easily lead to a nuclear War, but we can go to that later. I hate that they will ask the same questions they will ask about the previous Cold War, the 45 Year Cold War. Who was responsible for it? Which policies? Which factors? Which leaders? How do you divide the responsibility back then in the 40s between the United States and the Soviet Union? But the critical question, Peter – and I think Professor Mearsheimer may agree – is: When did it begin? Because you don’t know when to begin your analysis. And what we have at the moment – future historians 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 is resolve on, begin with the Ukrainian Crisis? Did it begin, for example, in the November 2013, when then-Ukraine President, **, rejected Europe’s offer for economic partnership? Did it begin in the February of this year, a couple of months ago, when ** fell and the Government supported by the ** became the Government of Kiev? Or did it begin when the [Ukraine] was annexed or reunited, depending on how you look at it?
The reason that this is important is because the alternative historical perspective is to argue that it began right after the End of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, when the Clinton Administration began to Expand NATO. So the historians will debate this question: When did it begin, and the analysis will begin.
3. Lavelle: John in Chicago, this is a very good point that Stephen brings up, because we have ** in 2008 as well. But maybe it’s the dysfunctionality of the entire post-Cold War Environment. Has the international system found any kind of balance, or are we still moving to some kind of lack of equilibrium, or has the United States gotten used to just being very hegemonic?
4. Mearsheimer: I basically agree with Steve. I think that the United States, and the West more generally, but especially the United States, has found it almost impossible to put the Cold War thinking behind it. As a result, in the 1990s the Clinton Administration began to push hard for NATO Expansion. There is no way you can explain NATO Expansion unless you make the argument that it is 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 the NATO Expansion, which is in part a parcel of the strategy to design to contain Russia and to strip Ukraine of the Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. The precipitating cause of the present crisis where the events of the February of this year, especially February  Coup d’État in Kiev.
5. Lavelle: Steve, it’s interesting. If we look at NATO Expansion, it ends up being like the chicken and the egg situation, because if Russia is the Threat, you want to Expand NATO. But if you Expand, you do create the Russia that is extremely anxious about it, a vast military complex moving towards its Border. What should the World expect from a [State] like Russia that has had a History of being a major Power, still one of the most important Power in the World, and all of a sudden there’s this Military apparatus right at its very Border, and we have this Ukraine Crisis where the Coup d’État in Kiev, which was illegal. In my mind, that was the red line. Look, we can’t trust these “People”, these “People” lied, they openly lied now.
6. Cohen: You see, the problem here, Peter, is – and I’m going to treat it as my vocation as a historian – that. John is absolutely right. This began, the push that’s now come to shove in the 1990s. The historians will say to you: Wait a minute, I know this doesn’t go down very 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 towards Russia – and you’re right, there’s no reason other than to contain Russia. And by the way, if that’s so, the answer to my question, When did the policy of the new Containment begin?, as the New York Times said last Sunday – I think it was April 20th – that Obama Administration has now adopted. Then the new policy of the new Containment began in the 1990s. But we need to know what the Clinton Administration thought would be Russia’s reaction. That’s exactly the question you asked me. Logically, you and I – and Professor Mearsheimer would agree – that if you push and push militarily towards a great Power, perhaps not so great at that time but coming back, that had once been your adversary, it’s going to reawaken all sorts of conflictual thinking, Ideological reflexes, it’s going to do that. But can we assume that the Clinton Administration or any 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 shouldn’t not have been in Power because they were misinformed.
7. Lavelle: John, one of the interesting thing is.
8. Mearsheimer: Can I just?
9. Lavelle: Jump in, jump in. Please do.
10. Mearsheimer: Yeah, I just want to jump in. I think that the 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 Hegemony. We think that we are different [from] other great Powers, and when we Expand our influence, [States] like Russia will understand that we are ultimately not very threatening, because we are the Good guys in the international system. This is remarkably foolish way of thinking about the World. But I believe that if you spend any time in Washington, it becomes clear that this delusion is widespread. The second point I would make is.
11. Cohen: Peter, Peter. Sorry.
12. Lavelle: John, finish your second point, then we’ll go to Stephen.
13. Mearsheimer: The second point I would make is: We were able to get away with the NATO Expansion in the early 2000s and the 1990s because the Russia was remarkably weak. And because the initial wave of the NATO Expansion [was] not so close to Russia’s Border. What’s happened now is the Russia has recovered from the 1990s, 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 those changes that make present situation much more volatile than what it happened in the 90s and the early 2000s.
14. Lavelle: Stephen in New York, if you want to jump in, please do.
15. Cohen: I apologise to John for interrupting. He being in Chicago, I being in New York creates a problem.
16. Mearsheimer: No problem.
17. Cohen: I think John’s thesis is exceedingly important, and it’s more than a thesis. And he being perhaps the prominent American scholar of international affairs and American behaviour abroad, we have to take it seriously. The view that American policy makers that we behave abroad no matter how aggressively and only benignly and that other People will see it this way is reflected what’s happening today. It’s astonishing to me that, unlike in the previous run-ups to the Cold War, there’s no opposition in the American Congress, there’s no opposition in the mainstream US Media to the United States’s policy towards Russia today. Only blaming Russia. The only way you can explain that is a kind of inherent need and assumption by the 500 elected members of Congress that what we’re doing must be benign, and therefore what the Russia’s doing must be nothing naked Aggression, even though empirically that’s plainly not the truth. But there is no opposition, there is no criticism in the mainstream Media that will slowly this process, and the explanation I guess is what the Professor Mearsheimer has just said out.
18. Lavelle: Stephen, it’s very interesting that, during the Cold War, there was a Debate about the nature of US Foreign Policy and its relationship to the Soviet Union. But after the Cold War, there’s no Debate, as you just said. It’s quite interesting, isn’t it?
19. Cohen: It’s more than interesting for me, because it’s autobiographical. I’m probably the oldest person on this broadcast today. I participated in the Debates in the late 1970s and early 80s, they were called the Debate between **, those of us who wanted to reduce the Cold War and the cold warriors, who wanted to step up the Cold War with the Soviet Union. But there was a real Debate. We, **, were always in the Minority. But we were present on the op-ed pages of the main US Newspapers. This was before the cable TV, but we were on Television. We were on Radio. We got our say. We even had – I don’t know if it’s the right word – a lobby group, called American Committee for Eastern-Western **, which included the CEOs of powerful Organisations, Donald Kennel, Tom Watson of IBM, even included George Kennan .
20. Lavelle: I have to jump in here. We’re going to go a very short break, and after that short break, we’ll continue our discussion on Containment. Stay with RT. [very noisy music] Welcome back to CrossTalk, where all things are considered. I’m Peter Lavelle. To remind you, we’re discussing Washington’s spinning and Containment. [very noisy music]
Okay John, I’d like to go back to you in Chicago. We’re all the childrens of the Cold War, I suppose, but those days were quite simple, weren’t they? It was very black-and-white, Good guys, Bad guys. But it seems to me that’s 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 as an equal partner.
21. Mearsheimer: I think what’s going on here is the United States has a particular World-view. As we were saying before, if you go inside the Beltway in Washington, if you go inside the Foreign Policy Establishment, what you see is there are remarkable consensus among the Republicans and the Democrats about the nature of the US 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, that We stand taller, that We see further, that We are the benign Hegemony, that we not only have the Right but we have the Responsibility to run the World, and that most States our there should understand that. And “People” are baffled that Russians don’t understand that our motives are Good and that what we’re doing in Eastern Europe are all designed to create Peace and Stability. Of course, other [States] around the World, this is not the way they see Things. And it’s not only true of the Russians, it’s true of the Chinese as well. All you have to do is to follow President Obama’s travel through Asia, which is taking place right now, to understand just how complicated the situation is in Asia with regard to China-U.S. relations. So we have problems all over the World, because People don’t see Things the way we do.
22. Lavelle: Steve, this is exactly where I wanted to go. It’s very interesting to me that the US Government and its allies just cannot conceive of another Party’s perspective. Russian’s perspective on what’s going on in the World is never given any airtime in the mainstream Media at all. We on Crosstalk have been doing the Ukraine-related topics for months now, and we come across people who are just baffled. They’ve never heard of Victoria Neuland, they’ve never heard of Ukrainian snipers in Kiev, they’ve never heard about **, Russians should be killed, they’ve never heard these things. And these people are not stupid. We wouldn’t bring them on the programme.
minor things. My point is: the US and its allies can’t see how other People see the World.
23. Cohen: You ask a question that I often ask myself, and it’s beyond my competence to answer. I would say this – again, evoking my age: I remember a Time where so-called Wise Men at the Creation who urged the President of the United States and Congress to see both sides of any story, even if it involved the Soviet Union. There’s an old American adage: There are two sides to every story, and to understand 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 judgement, for the policymakers, who may control the fate of the Earth. We don’t seem to have the cadre of elder statesmen. I think Henry Kissinger was one such person. He’s 90 years old, but his mind works very well. But you don’t see him popping up on Television. He published an op-ed article on the Washington Post back in March. 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 was guilty, but let’s take a look at this. Let’s see how we’re perceived, as John would put it, around the World. How do you explain that? I don’t know, those people are gone. Meanwhile, because those people are gone, the US mainstream Media seems to instinctively filter out dissenting voices. John and I appeared briefly and fleetingly like the heretics living on exile. Laughter of Lavelle.
24. Lavelle: I know the feeling. Don’t worry, I know the feeling.
25. Cohen: I haven’t seen John since, and I don’t think he’s seen me, either. There’s a process of a kind of rejection. And here’s the thing, Peter: we’re leading to a exceedingly dangerous moment. I have a very bleak view of what could happen. There is this pattern, as the drum beat of War builds, whether it is a cold War or a hot War, the dissenting voices that might have been there in the beginning are slowly either overwhelmed by the War boosters or deleted by the institutional reflexes in Washington. And that’s where we are today as things really are moving fast towards the unimaginable, which I would say the War between the United States and the Russia.
26. Lavelle: That’s unthinkable. John. This is CrossTalk. Please jump in. Go ahead.
27. Mearsheimer: I was just going to make two points. One is that I was one of the most outspoken opponents of [the Invasion of Iraq, not on any Moral grounds, just like his good buddy, Stephen M. Walt & Flynt Leverrett.] It was very lonely, and it was very clear that anybody who opposed that [Invasion] came under attack from all sides for being unpatriotic, for being an appeaser, for being a fool, for being a left-winger, so forth and so on. We did not have a healthy Debate in the United States about going into Iraq. The fact that there [was] such a consensus in the Elite, and “People” were afraid to speak out against the War, it was really remarkably Foolish. So in a funny way, the situation in Ukraine is not that different. I think what’s going on here – to talk a little bit about this – when the Cold War ended, what happened is that the United States emerged in a situation where it had no rival that had military Power to check it [Mearsheimer thinks this is Good.] and to make it seriously about how to conduct the Foreign Policy. The fact is that we are so remarkably powerful that we can do all sorts of foolish things, and we don’t pay that significant a price, at least we haven’t up to now, because we are a remarkably secure [State]. But at the same time, when the Cold War ended, Frank Fukiyama wrote this famous article called The End of History which basically said that The History Is on Our Side. We defeated Fascism in the first half of the 20th century and Communism in the second half of the 20th century, and Wind Was on Our Back, Everybody Was Going To End Up Looking Like Us. So we felt incredibly good about ourselves, and we thought we could go out in the World and reshape the World in our own image, because again, We Had The Wind on Our Back. And when you couple that basic World-view with the fact that we did emerge as a remarkably powerful [State] full of self-confidence, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve been marching all over the World for the past 25 years, trying to slay all sorts of dragons, [Accurate.] and thinking at the same time that we are the benign Hegemony, which of course we’re not. As a result, we have done pretty terrible job of running Foreign Policy, and the latest manifestation of it is this crisis in Ukraine.
28. Lavelle: Stephen, we all remember the Containment. Can it work today in this kind of Environment, with the Globalisation and whatnot? It seems to me that the Obama Administration - they have just given up, which is shameful on their part – they’ve made a lot of moves, particularly in Ukraine, and not been responsible. Who knows what’s going to happen in Ukraine? It can turn into a failed State. It didn’t have to be that way. It didn’t have to be the failed State in the Central Europe. So what would the Containment look like in the 21st century against Russia?
29. Cohen: 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 complete Isolation of Russia, or as the Times summarised the thinking in the White House: To cut off Russia’s ties political and economical with other countries. It’s preposterous. What it will do, it will drive Russia eastwards, it will expand and solidify the emerging alliance between Russia and China, and India and Iran and many Latin American [States] are not taking the [US] side on this. And by the way, it was interesting that even Israel.
30. Lavelle: Even Israel didn’t show up. Exactly. [Mearsheimer has a fucking grin on face.]
31. Cohen: They didn’t vote for the UN Resolution. That’s very significant. So you cannot isolate Russia with the new Containment. Can you draw the new divide on the World order? You can, and that would be reckless and dangerous, and I’ll tell you why. The old stabilising rules of all to keep the first Cold War from becoming a hot War no longer exists, that’s the first reason. The second reason, the epicenter is in Ukraine on Russia’s Border, not on faraway Berlin. And that’s why, Peter, I want to quarrel with you. I don’t think you meant this literally, it was like O my gosh. But I don’t think the War between the United States and the Russia are unthinkable, and you can how it might happen. If Ukraine tumbles into a Civil War that it’s on the verge of right now, Russian Troops may enter the Ukraine from the East, NATO Troops, which are being mobilised as we talk in the Eastern Europe, will enter perhaps the Western Ukraine across the Polish Border, and then the Power of Russia and the United States will be eyeball-to-eyeball, and that would be the Cuban Missile Crisis. And you can remember how close we came to a War then. So I wouldn’t say it’s unthinkable, I would say it’s obligatory on us to day to think about that horrible prospect so we can get our leader – and by the way, the Russia can help here, too – it’s being driven by Washington now to pull back before it’s too late.
32. Lavelle: John, it’s interesting. This is 2014. In 1914, the major Powers tripped themselves into a War. This is what Stephen is talking about right now.
33. Mearsheimer: I think 1914 was fundamentally different. The Imperial Germany was remarkably powerful [State], and I believe it was bent on dominating Europe, and I believe it was principally responsible for the July Crisis and World War One. Today, we’re dealing with the Russia that is remarkably weak compared to the Soviet Union, compared to the Nazi Germany, compared to the Imperial Germany. The Idea of trying to contain Russia doesn’t make any sense to me, because we’re not talking about a [State] that is bent on widespread Aggression in Europe. Yes, they took Crimea. I find that hardly surprising. And I think that if they tried to take eastern Ukraine, that would be a huge mistake.
34. Lavelle: I’m sorry, Gentlemen. This is one of the best CrossTalks we’ve ever had. Many thanks to my guest in New York and in Chicago. And thanks to our viewers for watching us here on RT. See you next time, and remember CrossTalk rules..