“The orthodox American political-media narrative blames “Putin’s Russia” alone for the new US-Russian Cold War. Maintaining this (at most) partial truth involves various mainstream media malpractices, among them lack of historical context; reporting based on unverified “facts” and selective sources; editorial bias; and the excluding, even slurring, of proponents of alternative explanatory narratives as “Kremlin apologists” and carriers of “Russian propaganda.” An extraordinary example appeared on May 1, when Jim Sciutto, CNN’s leading purveyor of Russiagate allegations, tweeted that “Jill Stein is…repeating Russian talking points on its interference in the 2016 election and on U.S. foreign policy.” To the extent that Sciutto represents CNN, as he does almost nightly on air, it is useful to know what this influential network actually thinks about a legitimate third party in American electoral democracy and its presidential candidate. And also about many well-informed Americans who have not supported Stein or her party but who strongly disagree with CNN’s orthodox positions on Russiagate and US foreign policy. No less important, however, is the highly selective nature of the mainstream narrative of the new Cold War, what it chooses to feature and what it virtually omits. Among the omissions, few realities are more important than the role played by neofascist forces in US-backed, Kiev-governed Ukraine since 2014. Not even many Americans who follow international news know the following, for example:
§ That the snipers who killed scores of protestors and policemen on Kiev’s Maidan Square in February 2014, thereby triggering a “democratic revolution” that overthrew the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, and brought to power a virulent anti-Russian, pro-American regime—it was neither democratic nor a revolution, but a violent coup unfolding in the streets with high-level support—were sent not by Yanukovych, as is still widely reported, but instead almost certainly by the neofascist organization Right Sector and its co-conspirators.
§ That the pogrom-like burning to death of ethnic Russians and others in Odessa shortly later in 2014 reawakened memories of Nazi extermination squads in Ukraine during World War II has been all but deleted from the American mainstream narrative even though it remains a painful and revelatory experience for many Ukrainians.
§ That the Azov Battalion of some 3,000 well-armed fighters, which has played a major combat role in the Ukrainian civil war and now is an official component of Kiev’s armed forces, is avowedly “partially” pro-Nazi, as evidenced by its regalia, slogans, and programmatic statements, and well-documented as such by several international monitoring organizations. Congressional legislation recently banned Azov from receiving any US military aid, but it is likely to obtain some of the new weapons recently sent to Kiev by the Trump Administration due to the country’s rampant network of corruption and black markets.
§ That stormtroop-like assaults on gays, Jews, elderly ethnic Russians, and other “impure” citizens are widespread throughout Kiev-ruled Ukraine, along with torchlight marches reminiscent of those that eventually inflamed Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s. And that the police and official legal authorities do virtually nothing to prevent these neofascist acts or to prosecute them. On the contrary, Kiev has officially encouraged them by systematically rehabilitating and even memorializing Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi German extermination pogroms and their leaders during World War II, renaming streets in their honor, building monuments to them, rewriting history to glorify them, and more.
§ Or that Israel’s official annual report on anti-Semitism around the world in 2017 concluded that such incidents had doubled in Ukraine and the number “surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined.” By the region, the report meant the total in all of Eastern Europe and all former territories of the Soviet Union.
Americans cannot be faulted for not knowing these facts. They are very rarely reported and still less debated in the mainstream media, whether in newspapers or on television. To learn about them, Americans would have to turn to alternative media and to their independent writers, which rarely affect mainstream accounts of the new Cold War. One such important American writer is Lev Golinkin. He is best known for his book ‘A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka,’ a deeply moving and highly instructive memoir of his life as a young boy brought to America by his immigrant parents from Eastern Ukraine, now the scene of tragic civil and proxy war. But Golinkin has also been an unrelenting and meticulous reporter of neofascism in “our” Ukraine and a defender of others who try to chronicle and oppose its growing crimes. (Many of us seeking reliable information often turn to him.)
(Stephen F. Cohen was a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. He died from lung cancer on September 18, 2020, at the age of 81. He will be greatly missed.)