The #1 Putin apologist’s apologists

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Stephen F. Cohen

We saw yesterday that the jig is just about up for NYU professor and Putin publicist Stephen F. Cohen. People who have Putin’s number are getting wise to Cohen’s campaign of propaganda – in response to which his fellow members of the Putin fan club have circled the wagons, defending Cohen and smearing his critics. Yesterday we took a look at Paul Craig Roberts, who, in an impressive low, slammed Radio Liberty – on whose website reporter Carl Schreck had examined the increasingly widespread concern about Cohen’s views – at the website of Pravda. 

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Robert Parry

Another Putin apologist whom we’ve mentioned before, Robert Parry, also tore into Schreck, accusing him of relying “on vitriol rather than reason.” This was just plain dishonest: Schreck’s article, to repeat, was a piece of straightforward reportage, which quoted amply from both Cohen and his critics. As for Radio Liberty, Parry sought to discredit it by recalling a thirty-year-old minor controversy over its airing of commentaries by Ukrainian exiles some of whom had “praised Ukrainian nationalists who sided with the Nazis in World War II.” Parry sought to use this historical footnote from the Reagan Era to smear last year’s democratic Maidan Revolution as a largely neo-Nazi project and to depict the current, Western-oriented Ukrainian government as “coz[ying] up to modern-day neo-Nazis.” In Parry’s account, Cohen is only telling the plain and simple truth about Russia and Putin; any criticisms of Cohen’s views on the subject, however consistent those criticisms may be with the actual facts of the matter, are “ad hominem attacks”; Cohen, insists Parry, is the chief victim of “a new McCarthyism” in America that questions “the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t get in line” as the U.S. pursues a “new Cold War with Russia.”

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James Kirchick

All these claims, of course, are part of the standard pro-Putin line, one of the sharpest observers of which is no-nonsense American journalist James Kirchick – who noted wryly, in a savvy article published by the Tablet on May 13, that Russia is moving “from having fought real Fascists 70 years ago in Germany to imaginary ones today in Ukraine.” The Kremlin’s resuscitation of wartime anti-fascist rhetoric, Kirchick points out, “provides Russians with an easy framework in which to understand their current political predicament,” even though “if there’s any regime in Europe today that resembles a ‘fascist’ one, it is Russia.” Kirchick elaborates:

Like the Nazis, Russia has invaded a neighbor based on the principle of ethnic comradeship, is targeting a vulnerable domestic minority (homosexuals) with state-sanctioned bigotry, and officially labels any and all dissenters “national traitors.” As Moscow relives its glorious past, monopolizing the heroism of World War II and slandering its contemporary adversaries as latter-day Nazis, it inches closer and closer toward becoming the sort of fascist regime its forebears once fought against.

Precisely. And useful stooges such as Stephen F. Cohen, Paul Craig Roberts, and Robert Parry are defending its reprehensible actions every inch of the way.

They’re getting wise to Stephen F. Cohen

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Stephen F. Cohen

It’s a pleasure to report that in recent weeks, awareness of Professor Stephen F. Cohen‘s role as an ardent Putin apologist seems to have risen, at least in certain circles. In an April 28 New York Times op-ed, Polish sociologist Slawomir Sierakowski slammed Cohen’s view that Ukraine is part of Russia’s sphere of influence, pointing out that Cohen

overlooks the question of whether the countries that fall within [that sphere] are there by choice or coercion. Ukraine is willing to be in the Western sphere of influence because it receives support for civil society, the economy and national defense — and Russia does nothing of the kind.

Also, added Sierakowski, “Cohen and others don’t just defend Russia; they attack the pro-democracy activists in Ukraine.”

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Vladimir Putin

A week later, at the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Carl Schreck weighed in, noting that “[e]ven respected Russia specialists who, like Cohen, advocate for a U.S.-Russian relationship based on realism say Cohen is essentially defending the Kremlin’s agenda in the West.” Schreck quoted Lynn Lubamersky, an associate professor of history at Boise State University, as calling Cohen “a mouthpiece for a mass murderer.”

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Anne Applebaum

Schreck also cited a recent debate with Garry Kasparov and Anne Applebaum – two of the sharpest and best-informed critics of Putin’s Russia alive today – at which Cohen had “accused the West of provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin with NATO expansion, stoking potential war with Moscow, and failing to acknowledge its responsibility for what has happened in Ukraine in the last 15 months” – a line of argument, Schreck pointed out, that largely “dovetailed with a narrative pushed by the Kremlin, which portrays its seizure of Crimea as a response to Western meddling in Ukraine.” Denying in an interview with Schreck that he’s a fan of Putin, Cohen insisted that, on the contrary, he’s a “patriot of American national security,” while those who criticize him – including, apparently, Kasparov and Applebaum – are not.

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Paul Craig Roberts: such a loyal Putin defender that he deserves his own stamp

A key point about Schreck’s piece is that he didn’t attack Cohen – not in the slightest. He reported on the plain fact that many people, including a number of Cohen’s fellow Russia experts, consider the guy a Putin apologist; also, Schreck interviewed Cohen, got his side of the story, and presented it at considerable length – and with apparent fairness. This is called proper journalistic conduct. But it was too much for economist Paul Craig Roberts, who savaged Schreck – and Radio Liberty – at the website of Pravda, itself an institution not widely known for its fealty to proper journalistic conduct. 

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Roberts appears frequently on Russian TV

As we’ve discussed previously, Roberts, a former Wall Street Journal editor and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, has become “a hard-core propagandist” for Putin, “serving up breathtaking, bald-faced claims that are almost always the very antithesis of the truth.” At the Pravda site, Roberts rechristened Radio Liberty as “Radio Gestapo Amerika” and accused it of attacking “distinguished Americans who are known and respected for their allegiance to the truth.” In addition to calling Schreck a “propagandist” for “Washington’s agendas,” Roberts took on Lubamersky, denying her charge that Putin is a mass murderer and adding that “[t]he mass murderers of our time are George W. Bush and Obama, and clearly Cohen is not a mouthpiece for them.”

Another Putin apologist whom we’ve mentioned before, Robert Parry, also tore into Schreck. We’ll look at him tomorrow. 

Chomsky & co.

We’ve seen how some of Vladimir Putin’s Western apologists belong to the “yes, but” brigade. They’re quick to acknowledge that he’s a pretty vile character, and yet they feel moved to defend the guy – or even, as in Peter Hitchens‘s case, claim to like him.

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Noam Chomsky

There’s no “yes, but,” however, for Noam Chomsky, the World’s Leading Intellectual©. He’s all in for Putin, and then some. Writing in May 2014 about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Chomsky was quick to “contextualize” it, in his own unique way, by bringing in the “era’s most extreme international crime, the United States-United Kingdom invasion of Iraq.” For Chomsky, the latter “crime” more than excuses the former. Yes, the US and UK took down one of the most murderous tyrants of all time, while Putin invaded a country that had just undergone a democratic revolution, but such distinctions have never mattered to Chomsky: the suffering of people here and there around the globe doesn’t interest him unless he can find a way to pin that suffering on America.

Chomsky mocked the idea that Russia’s move on Ukraine should be viewed as a crisis. After all, as so many of his fellow Putin apologists have pointed out, Ukraine is in Russia’s “neighborhood.” He also helpfully cited polls supposedly indicating that people all over the planet overwhelmingly consider the U.S., not Russia, a “pariah state” and “the greatest threat to world peace.” So there.

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Paul Craig Roberts

Chomsky, of course, is in a category all his own. But when it comes to standing up for Putin, the guy who puts even him in the shade is almost certainly Paul Craig Roberts. An economist who once worked as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, Roberts has since gone off the deep end, contributing regularly to Counterpunch – the journal of the loony, Jew-hating far left – and routinely siding with Putin against the U.S. Indeed, “Putin apologist” is far too feeble a term for Roberts; he’s a hard-core propagandist, pure and simple, serving up breathtaking, bald-faced claims that are almost always the very antithesis of the truth.

Here’s just a sampling. In Roberts’s lexicon, the people running the Ukraine are “Washington’s stooge government in Kiev”; the Eastern European countries who’ve joined NATO to protect themselves from being re-incorporated into the Kremlin’s empire are “NATO’s vassals.” The U.S., charged Roberts in July 2014, “is at work through its Kiev proxy murdering citizens in eastern and southern parts of present-day Ukraine that once were part of Russia.”

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Vladimir Putin

Meanwhile Putin’s the good guy, standing up alone to “Washington’s crimes against humanity” and striving in vain “to find a peaceful settlement” that would help “the Ukrainians who are being attacked” on orders from Washington. Putin’s only fault, in Roberts’s eyes? His failure “to realize that his reasonableness is not reciprocated by Washington.” Summing up: “Putin has done what he can to avoid conflict. Now he needs to do the right thing, as he did in Georgia and Crimea.”

If Roberts isn’t on the Kremlin payroll, he should be; he’s doing a PR job for Putin that should be the envy of any Hollywood publicity mill.