The Media's New Cold War: Ukraine's Contested Election Was a Call to Arms for America's Punditry

By Cohen, Stephen F. | The Nation, January 31, 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Media's New Cold War: Ukraine's Contested Election Was a Call to Arms for America's Punditry

Cohen, Stephen F., The Nation

Thirteen years after the end of the Soviet Union, the American press establishment seemed eager to turn Ukraine's protested presidential election on November 21 into a new cold war with Russia. Still worse, its greatest enthusiasts were not the usual Russophobes but influential opinion-makers and publications reputed to be exemplars of balanced, moderate, even liberal, outlook.

An essential element of the last, forty-year cold war was manichean, double-standard thinking on both sides that relentlessly vilified the other, denied it had any legitimate national interests outside its own borders and blamed it for every conflict. The result was to maximize differences, minimize mutual understandings and inspire a nearly catastrophic nuclear arms race. Consider, then, recent commentary in the mainstream American press on the US-Russian conflict over Ukraine, which might not have ended with the victory of the candidate favored by Washington, Viktor Yushchenko, on December 26.

Its basic premise was that events in Ukraine were, in the alarmist formulation of Washington Post editorialist Jackson Diehl, "disturbingly reminiscent of...1947-48" (Dec. 6). His colleague at the Post, Anne Applebaum, was more Churchillian: "Looking back, we may...see 2004 as the year when a new iron curtain descended across Europe" (Nov. 24). Not surprisingly, the sole cause of this fateful possibility of "a renewed cold war," in the equally foreboding words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (Dec. 15), is said to have been "massive and malign Russian intervention in Ukraine" to help Moscow's favored candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, as the Post charged repeatedly in a torrent of editorials (Oct. 31, Nov. 23, Nov. 25, Dec. 2).

Considering that Russian President Vladimir Putin had courted the West for five years, even taking the unprecedented step of publicly endorsing President George W. Bush's re-election, how was the Kremlin's "remarkably Cold War" campaign for Yanukovich, as the Post's editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt denounced it (Dec. 13), to be explained? The possibility that Russia may have a legitimate security or other national interest in Ukraine, to which it has been intimately, even familially, related for centuries by geography, traditions, language, religion, economics and intermarriage, was flatly ruled out. Indeed, according to an approving report in the Times by Elisabeth Bumiller (Nov. 30), Washington "Russia specialists say [Putin's] involvement in Ukraine is his most serious offense yet in American eyes." (Apparently not in Ukrainian eyes: In a survey done at the end of December 2004, 83 percent of Ukrainians expressed having a "good" opinion of Russia, and 50 percent even regretted the end of the Soviet Union.)

Nor was it asked if Putin might have been reacting to the well-known (to the Kremlin, at least) US "involvement" in Ukraine on behalf of Yushchenko. The indignant complaint that Moscow organized a "mass influx of Russian celebrities" to promote Yanukovich (Stephen Sestanovich, Post op-ed, Nov. 19), for example, seemed especially disingenuous in light of a State Department official's boastful testimony to a House committee on December 7 that the US government had sent its own legion of notables to Ukraine. They included Senators John McCain and Richard Lugar, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright and former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark.

Even leaving aside Putin's retort that an election more democratic than the protested one in Ukraine can hardly be expected in US-occupied Iraq this month, there is another, evidently forgotten, American precedent. In a repeated "news analysis," a Times correspondent (Steven Lee Myers, Nov. 24; similarly, Dec. 19) assured readers that the Kremlin leader's great offense was having "stepped on accepted diplomatic protocol by campaigning so overtly on Mr.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Media's New Cold War: Ukraine's Contested Election Was a Call to Arms for America's Punditry


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?