During the last couple of days we’ve been learning a few things about one Gilbert Doctorow, who, together with fellow Putin apologist Stephen F. Cohen, and with the backing of Cohen’s wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and her deep-pockets family, has founded something called the American Committee for East-West Accord (ACEWA). Perusing a few of Doctorow’s recent commentaries, we’ve recognized the truth of Cathy Young’s statement, in an illuminating Daily Beast piece about the ACEWA, that Doctorow is even “more pro-Kremlin” than Cohen.
Here’s one last tidbit from Doctorow’s oleaginous oeuvre. This summer, writing in Russia Insider, he trashed Putin’s liberal opposition; as in much of his work, sneering was his principal rhetorical device. He ridiculed Maria Gaidar, whose father was a pro-free market prime minister under Yeltsin, for relocating to Ukraine to work for Putin opponent Mikhel Saakashvili, and for exchanging her Russian passport for a Ukrainian one. Likewise, he jeered at Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of a popular, pro-liberty St. Petersburg mayor, for taking a job with an anti-Putin TV channel. Throwing around words like “neo-fascist,” Doctorow charged that when these and other high-profile Russians accept employment from critics of Putin – or, quite simply, just move abroad, presumably to escape his thuggery – their motive isn’t a love of freedom but “just money.”
Doctorow concluded his piece by slamming opposition leader and former foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, who in recent op-eds for the New York Times and Washington Post had dared to criticize Putin’s human-rights violations and to broach the subject of regime change at the Kremlin. Accusing Kozyrev of “courting sedition” and “giving comfort to the enemy,” Doctorow warned in the strongest terms against regime change (“Most of the obvious candidates to succeed to the presidency are far less experienced, far less prudent than the incumbent”) and, without addressing Kozyrev’s actual charges about human rights, suggested he was obviously not “someone genuinely wishes his native country well.”
Doctorow’s columns on Russia, then, are easily summed up, and Young has already done the job: as she puts it, he “serves up a steady diet of frank Kremlin apologism and vitriolic attacks on Putin foes,” all the while suggesting that any Russian who has anything negative whatsoever to say about the president is an out-and-out traitor. “Opposition treachery,” Young writes, “is a Doctorow leitmotif.”
Interviewing Cohen, Young asked him about what she called Doctorow’s “crude dissident-bashing.” Cohen seemed to try to distance himself from it, averring that he and his fellow ACEWA board members “probably disagree as much as we agree about specific issues.” But if Cohen really has significant disagreements with Doctorow, why put him on the board? Why list him as a co-founder? He’s no ex-Senator or ex-Ambassador; nor does he seem to be a moneybags like William vanden Heuvel. What, other than his noxious views, does Doctorow bring to the table?
No: plainly Cohen and his wife want to have an extremist like Doctorow on board. It makes sense: he can mount even more fervently pro-Putin arguments than they themselves dare to put their names to, all the while doing Cohen the service of making him look like a reasonable moderate by comparison.
It’s a neat deal: Doctorow’s arguments get out there – perhaps even in the pages of the Nation – and they attain a certain legitimacy thanks to his association with ACEWA, even though, at the same time, Cohen and vanden Heuvel are fully free to claim (if strongly or unpleasantly challenged by, say, his colleagues at NYU, or her friends on Capitol Hill and on Manhattan’s limousine left) that Doctorow’s opinions aren’t necessarily their own.
In short, a sneaky stratagem, eminently worthy of this wily pack of pro-Putin propagandists.