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The Insanity of a New Cold War: A Top Russian Scholar Sounds the Alarm

Posted on Jan 13, 2017
The Kremlin at sunset. (Flickr / CC 2.0)

In this week’s episode of KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence,” host Robert Scheer is joined by Russian-born professor Sergei Plekhanov. Plekhanov teaches at York University in Toronto and has a wealth of knowledge about Russian culture and politics, which, he argues, are overlooked by Western media.

The conversation begins with a brief discussion of the history between the United States and Russia, particularly during the Cold War. Scheer then asks Plekhanov about U.S. attitudes toward Russia today.

In the eyes of some in the United States, “Russia has undermined the international order,” Plekhanov says. “So,” he continued, “Russia needs to be punished, Russia needs to be contained. That’s the view.”

Scheer brings up the recent political mayhem over allegations of Russian hacking, particularly the role of FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Clapper makes it seem like we are entering another chapter of the Cold War, Scheer says, but “Putin is not, any longer, a Communist.”

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Plekhanov delves into how Russia is “transitioning,” and argues that Putin “is concerned about the survivability of Russia.”

Western beliefs about Russia aren’t accurate, he continues. “Russians are informed,” he explains, refuting Western beliefs that Russians only get their daily news from KGB-run sources.

“Can you have both security and democracy?” Plekhanov muses. “Understandably enough, the Russians are more concerned about security.”

Scheer and Plekhanov discuss how Russia is advancing its infrastructure and economy, and how this will continue during the Trump administration. Plekhanov says:

Somebody like Trump, who thinks like a businessman—I really think that there are more opportunities than dangers with regards to Russia. So we’re stuck in this obsolete policy of containment. … But in the meantime, we might actually benefit tremendously from being part of this larger network of economic ties and economic development that is growing in Eurasia.

“I’m sure some people will say, ‘Well, Sergei is just a propagandist for Putin,’ ” he concludes. “By the way, I’ve never voted for Putin as a Russian, and I’m not a Putin supporter. I’m an academic who’s trying to make sense of what’s happening in the world. And I’m appalled at the quality of reporting on Russia that dominates the media here in the West.”

Listen to the full interview below:

—Posted by Emma Niles

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