The Diplomat of Islington North

By David Paxton (@canyouflybobby)

Diplomacy (noun): the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries

Diplomat (noun): a person who represents his or her country’s government in a foreign country : someone whose work is diplomacy

A week ago Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn gave a long interview to Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy. This section, on his calling Hamas ‘friends’, immediately started doing the rounds due to Corbyn’s apparent loss of temper.

By just using that single word ‘friends’ against him Guru-Murthy left available to Corbyn the defence he decided to make. He said:

I spoke at a meeting about the Middle East crises, in Parliament, and there were people there from Hezbollah and I said “I welcomed our friends from Hezbollah” to have a discussion and a debate.

Later he said:

I’m saying people I talk to, I use it in a collective way saying ‘our friends were prepared to talk’. Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is, to bring about a peace process you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree.

On the surface this is almost plausible. This was indeed what a diplomat might say, it is the language of diplomacy. Political activist, satirist and comedian, Heydon Prowse seemed to agree and said:

What an idiotic line of questioning. Doesn’t c4 understand the concept of diplomacy

We had a brief discussion about his view. It didn’t go well.

In reply to Alan Johnson’s open letter to Corbyn addressing his previous praise for members of Hezbollah and Hamas, the website Left Futures carried a piece called Reactionary and Dishonest. In it is a more fleshed out version of Corbyn’s defence:

…the all too common view that anybody who supports dialogue and diplomacy with Hamas and Hezbollah must necessarily wholly endorse their politics as well.

Jeremy Corbyn was ahead of his time in recognising the need to talk to Sinn Fein and the IRA in 1984 when he invited Gerry Adams to London, and the same is true in relation to Hamas and Hezbollah. This farsighted act was subject to a furious barrage of criticism at the time, and yet now over 30 years later the importance of such acts of dialogue and goodwill in bringing an end to the Troubles could hardly be more uncontroversial.

…Corbyn also understands that peace can only be achieved through mutual respect and diplomacy.

I think it worth examining this notion that Jeremy Corbyn is a lone, extra-governmental diplomat bravely ahead of his time in seeking peace and that we cannot draw any other conclusion from his conduct.


As mentioned, only the word ‘friends’ was brought up in the interview and without full context, Corbyn’s explanation has legs. Try this:

“We are gathered here for an important meeting of opposing views. On my right are some friends from the Black Panther Party and on my left are friends from the Ku Klux Klan. Hopefully by coming together as friends we can… etc”

That could get in under the excuse of being ‘diplomatic’.

Now try this:

“It is my pleasure and my honour to host an event where my friends from Stormfront will be speaking. I also invited friends from the Ku Klux Klan to speak but unfortunately the FBI won’t allow them to travel so it will only be friends from Stormfront. The Ku Klux Klan is an organisation dedicated towards the good of American people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice, and political justice.”

How does that sound to you? I don’t believe the latter example would be consistent with Corbyn’s claim “I use it in a collective way saying ‘our friends were prepared to talk'”. It goes well beyond standard diplomatic niceties.

Here is a video of the offending speech, see for yourself. He said exactly that about Hamas and Hezbollah and he was being very friendly indeed.

If he profoundly disagrees with them why claim the bit about social and political justice? Hamas’ form of ‘political justice’ is to execute their political opponents. Hamas’s ‘social justice’ is to murder people for being gay. Hamas’ ‘long-term peace’ includes a Charter clause calling for the destruction of Israel and the divinely ordained killing of Jews. And feeling ‘honoured’ to host holocaust deniers means either A: Corbyn thinks ‘honour’ means something it doesn’t or B: He has some fundamental problems with his morality.

To go as far in his praise as Corbyn does is grotesque and hints far more at outright support than the forced diplomatic nicety, while holding his nose, which one might tolerate or expect. Who would possibly say such a thing if they were not ‘friends’ or did in fact ‘profoundly disagree’? I think he is being deceptive in the Channel 4 interview and this should be taken into consideration by those so willing to repeat the claim that Corbyn is the straight-shooting candidate of unflinching honesty and integrity.

Who invited you anyway?

Yes, peace talks without a unconditional surrender require compromise, they require some holding of noses. After a successful peace has been forged such actions can indeed appear noble and worthy. However, this realisation can also be used to cover a multitude of sins and just talking, per se, is not necessarily a worthy and noble act.

John Major, who happened to be the actual prime minister and leader of the government, did a difficult and presumably correct thing in starting talks with the IRA. It was a careful and deliberate process that was straining against the idea that rewarding violence with power and representation might lead to more of the same. Do I have to laud Corbyn with the same praise when he invites IRA representatives to the Commons a fortnight after the Brighton bombing? This isn’t the brave and principled putting aside of grievance, this is rewarding and forgiving brutal terrorist violence directly following its most clearly anti-democratic expression by saying that the more they bomb the more they should be given a seat at the table. Imagine your young child is throwing a nasty tantrum in the supermarket because you refuse to give him sweets. Corbyn’s unilateral intervention is the equivalent of the unwelcome shop assistant butting in and saying ‘don’t be a meany, look at his little face, give him a Mars Bar.’ It’s undermining, it’s unwelcome, it’s not really his business. But these aren’t sweets in a supermarket, this is a murderous terror campaign.

This is not to say that a backbench MP cannot engage in dialogue that has little to do with his own constituents. However, in this case it is undermining the position of his own, and successive, governments at a time when its citizens were being murdered.

Corbyn’s stands on Israel and Northern Ireland require no holding of the nose and no compromise. He supports their positions. Ultimately the Northern Ireland peace process was about changing the means and agreeing to disagree on the ends. In Israel any future dealings with any groups will require the same. The difference between those outcomes and approaches and that of our renegade diplomat is that he wants an end to Israel and have it replaced with a Palestinian majority state. He also wants the reunification of Ireland. He supports the aims of these groups and doesn’t seem to think the means should exclude them from anything.

The Diplomacy of Adrian Mole Aged 66 & 1/4

Owen Jones said:

I’ve known Jeremy for years, and have shared numerous platforms with him on issues ranging from peace to social justice. He is the very antithesis of the negative caricature of an MP: he’s defined by his principles and beliefs

Great. Corbyn has taken several positions on foreign affairs and so one would expect some common themes running through these positions that can tell us what he is about. Let’s try and define him.

He met with the IRA, but fine, some will consider this just Jezza the Diplomat diplomating, as he is wont to do. But at a Troops Out meeting in 1987, Jeremy stood for a minute’s silence to “honour” eight IRA terrorists killed at Loughall. That event brought about the end of activities of an Active Service Unit from the East Tyrone Brigade that had been blowing up police stations and executing those present. What principle and belief can we deduce from that?

From Andrew Gilligan’s Telegraph piece (worth reading in full):

Jeremy Corbyn was helping Sayyed Hassan al-Sadr celebrate “the all-encompassing revolution,” the 35th anniversary of the ayatollahs’ takeover in Iran. In his talk, entitled “The Case for Iran,” he called for the immediate scrapping of sanctions on the country, which had not then promised to restrict its nuclear programme, attacked its colonial exploitation by British business and called for an end to its “demonisation” by the West.

Corbyn has repeatedly praised members of Hamas. They kill gays, deny the holocaust and speak of starting a fresh one. He calls them a force for social justice.

He praised the leadership in Venezuela while the oil-rich country was being run into bankruptcy and the freedom of the press was being eroded.

Corbyn asserts that despite the wishes of the Falklands islanders, expressed through the ballot box, and despite a fascist junta invading them causing British servicemen to fight and die, the islands should be owned by Argentina.

Corbyn wants an end to Israel, the most democratic and law-bound state in the region. The call for a single state solution with a Palestinian majority is, under present circumstances, a call not just for the end of a Jewish state but for the end to those living within it. It is conceivable that some might believe protecting the racial or religious identity of a state is in principle wrong. However, choosing to ignore the unique circumstances and history of the Jews and decide this principle cannot be bent in their case, that they cannot expect a nation where they are a majority, while wanting them to be at the mercy of those who openly call for a new genocide is, at the very best, immoral.

Corbyn believes that the 1973 Chilean coup was ‘run’ by the CIA.

In that same Jones piece he said:

he was protesting against Saddam Hussein when the west was arming him

A more cynical person than I might well consider changing the word ‘when’ to ‘because’ to add greater truth to that statement.

Taken on their own each of these could be a difference of opinion or a forgivable misjudgment. But combined as a life’s work?

So is there a theme in Corbyn’s choice to consistently side with theocrats, homophobic thugs, genocidal fascists, murderers, terrorists, demagogues, deniers of freedom and exponents of oppression? Is there a belief in evidence when he praises the people who believe his own constituents are legitimate targets for car bombs and suicide vests? I think there is: Whatever his own government (Labour or Tory) wants, he is against. Wherever The Man is represented Corbyn is sticking it to him. And this stands in contrast to the slogans and lofty ideals spouted at the rallies he is so often seen at.

This therefore isn’t the CV of a great diplomat or a campaigner for peace and human rights. Nor do his pretensions for a role in international relations add up to a statesman of value and importance. He’s not even a gifted amateur. This is merely adolescence dragged out into late middle-age. He is less Otto Von Bismark than Otto from The Simpsons. Laughable in a pub bore but fairly tragic at the forefront of a political party with a noble history. Corbyn should be seen as what he is, a 66 year old teenager using the stature of his MP status to make a bigger noise than a man of his ability otherwise could or should. If you are looking for the next Clement Attlee, keep looking.

To observe the likes of Corbyn is to see the worst of the modern Left, where being seen to fight is more important than achieving the goals congruent with their slogans. Seemingly unaware of the victories the Left have won already, the need to keep sidestepping left has meant they’ve come out the other side and are now friends, allies and enablers of facists, racists, murderers and thugs. And worst of all, they expect a halo for being so.

Glenn Greenwald and the hierophants of an alternate imperialism

By Tom Owolade
Twitter: @owolade14

A set of attacks happen in close proximity to your neighbourhood, and initially your response is emotive. Initially emotive and then analytical. You try to adduce from these attacks the reasoning that underpins them. You try to explain the casus belli of these horrendous atrocities. In reaction to the mainstream declaration that these admittedly atrocious acts are “acts of terror”, you investigate the meaning of the word ‘terror’- its functional significance. As a righteous opponent of the establishment, you feel obligated in trying to understand the intentions of these acts. This, in reaction to the establishment’s pronouncement that these acts are the acts of primitive, unconscionably savage bedouins. You side with the oppressed in reaction against their oppressors, you understand their reaction to be oppressed in reaction against their oppressors condemning their reaction, and continuing to oppress them. You are in essence an anti-imperialist, an unflinching critic of a nefarious global empire. You feel disinclined to straightforwardly condemn the oppressed in reaction against the simplistic condemnation of the oppressors. You have to contextualise their actions, in reaction to the establishment’s lack of context. As a fair-minded, analytical yet morally righteous person, you understand the importance of understanding why they hate us. Why they react, often violently, to us. Why we have blood on our hands, not them. Why we are the aegis of all moral depravity, and they’re the necessary blowback to our ubiquitous , callous, financially driven, imperial, war on terror.

In a piece for the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, explaining an attack that took place in Canada against a Canadian soldier, contends:

it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.

Understanding the reaction of the oppressed – the disenfranchised malcontents – is basic analytics. They hate us because we ruined their lives. As a result of this, all moral carnage that they inflict upon us is ultimately our fault. Is this reasoning faulty? Does it ultimately abrogate responsibility from the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, and disproportionately concentrate responsibility on the victims of these heinous crimes? Yes, and yes. Greenwald goes on, however and develops this dysfuctional reasoning by adding:

The only surprising thing about any of it is that it doesn’t happen more often.

Of course, as an analytical and a morally righteous person, it is right we express incredulity at the fact that the victims of our oppression, our imperialism, don’t react more violently against us. But of course, Mr Greenwald is not an analyst, or at the very least not a sophisticated one. He is an anarcho-libertarian moralist though, one who marinates in the perpetual loathing of a single subject: the West. Hatred that is so pathological and so myopic, not only does it rationalise the vicious barbarity of any pronounced anti-westerner, but it desensitises him to common decency. Which morally decent person would, in an immediate reaction to a wanton act of murder, contend that the west had it coming?

But, isn’t this a critique, a necessary critique, of western exceptionalism? A view which propounds that the west is an exceptionally benign force in geopolitical global affairs. Such a view is absolute baloney of course? Right? What about the irredeemably disastrous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the alliance with wicked gulf states such as Saudi Arabia who export a toxic version of Islam; Wahhabism? What about them, hey? But of course by concentrating all of your rage, anger and moral indignation exclusively at the West one is not offering a non-partisan or cogent exegesis on western exceptionalism. Rather, what one is expressing is a foul version of it’s doppelgänger – “westisexceptionallybadism”. Such a viewpoint can be bifurcated into two key elements, dysphemistically admonishing the various imperfections of the West in one instance. And then euphemistically rationalising the malignant, and often irreducibly internecine motivations of anti-western actors. All this is demonstrative of what I consider to be an alternate type of imperialism-inverser imperialism. A viewpoint that analyses geopolitics (especially of the third world) through a parochial framework which abrogates non-western actors of moral agency and concentrates blame exclusively on the West.

One column which exemplifies some of the elements of inverser imperialism is a Huffington Post piece by Jennifer Izaakson – who is, incredibly, a Phd student at UCL. The piece is from last December, and follows the sentencing of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale – The Woolwich killers. In the piece, Izaakson says two especially noteworthy things. She first says:

It is the politicians who have radicalised young Muslim men.

And then she says:

Keep in mind who really has blood on their hands- the politicians.

Why can’t the people who have blood on their hands be the people who literally have blood on their hands? In other words, what is functional significance of expressing such a statement? To me it’s quite clear. Like all dogmatic doctrines, Inverser Imperialism is predicated on certain a priori assumptions. The subaltern – the victim of the oppression – are infantilised as ethereal victims. The oppressor West, even in the face of being unambiguously attacked, are the primary agent of all moral turpitude that is visited upon itself. Now to me this sounds like a politicised version of Stockholm syndrome, a diluted version that fits the peculiar dynamics of political discourse, but retaining the same essence: extroverted self-loathing.

Furthermore, inverser imperialists view the subaltern as resistors rather than instigators, as revolutionaries rather than reactionaries but who react rather than act out of their own volition. Because to act of one’s own volition would be to acquire moral agency – moral agency being an essential component of moral responsibility. Being a moral agent is also a status that is attendant with personhood. However, the incorrigible burden of the white man means that the victims of our imperialism are impervious to the possibility of personhood. The victim-victimser dialectic is retained and entrenched. Rather than assigning them the moral status of persons, they’re the vessels of western animosity. Rather than viewing them as ends in themselves (to quote Kant) they’re a projection of western self-loathing.

I’ll go on: rather than emboldening them and seeking to inspire in them the universal values of democracy and human rights, we persist in subordinating them to codes, barriers and immutable conventions. Supposing for example, that the authentic subaltern is inherently reactionary – that is to say female oppression, execution of gay people and suicide bombing are their by the by status as victims – is a racist view. Racist, as it conjugates values with identity. Enlightenment and progressive values are not therefore the inalienable rights of man, but are, ipso facto, the realisation of being white/western. Conversely, believing in divinely ordained oppressive laws, rather than man made civil laws are, if not an essential component of being (for arguments sake) a Muslim, one which should at least be tolerated and treated with equanimity. I’m sorry, you can tolerate the persecution of gay people and apostates and the delegitimisation of women’s autonomy all you want – but don’t traduce those who refuse to tolerate these ignominies by labelling them racists. The irrational and indeed pathological hatred of Muslims does exist and ought to be combated unequivocally. What is noteworthy of course is that bigots and inverser imperialists share a belief that to be authentically Muslim entails espousing a set of views that happen to be retrograde. Bigots generally believe that liberal secular Muslims practice taqiyya – are in essence closet extremists – whereas inverser imperialists belief that liberal, secular Muslims are raving neocon stooges for the establishment. Their difference is a superficial one; the difference between indiscriminate hostility and indiscriminate masochism.

Why is there still a visible taboo in extending full solidarity to unapologetic liberal, secular Muslims like Maajid Nawaz and Sara Khan? Why does a Muslim, who for example argues that homosexuality and Islam are not incompatible and supports the right to represent the prophet Muhammed, still induce elementary feelings of confusion, bewilderment and surprise even amongst seemingly secular, liberal non-muslims? And concomitant to this, why are the strident opponents of people who believe in the innate malfeasance of homosexuality and the strict impermissiblity of religious representations, viewed with more opprobrium than the people who support these illiberal, anti-secular ideas? People who loathe liberal democracies and the values it endorses.

I have an answer: the West as it is, and connected to the West are the values it endorses, ought be resisted because the ethereal victims of the West’s undying oppression side against the West and the values it endorses, and so we must also side against the West and the values it endorses. This is the perfidious implications of such a doctrine, warped in its sense of nobility. “Anti-imperialist” “pro-peace” “pro-justice” “sympathy with the oppressed” “tolerance”. But at its essence it’s just warped and not noble. Anti-imperialist, ss long as it’s against the West. Pro peace, as long as it’s “peace” for the victims and only the victims of the West. Pro-justice, as long as it’s justice against the West. Sympathy with the oppressed, as long as it’s the oppressed of the West. Tolerance, even if it will mean tolerating groups that are intolerant of your very existence.

I don’t mean to sound orotund, but I think it’s fair to say the left are in the midst of an intellectual civil war. Sectarianism has always existed in the left but in the past few decades the conflict has become particularly more pronounced around certain issues. This is a war that is fought between unapologetic, anti-totalitarian cultural objectivists and the hierophants of inverser imperialism, who to varying degrees rationalise, excuse and apologise for the most extreme version of the subaltern. Who view them as collective vehicles for self-flagellation, rather than individual ends in themselves. Who misunderstand indissoluble hatred for reasoned resistance, and who are desecrating a great intellectual tradition.

Stephen Cohen Disgraces Himself… Again


Vladimir Putin, in happier times.

by Kyle W. Orton (@KyleWOrton)

Since the Ukraine crisis began earlier this year, Stephen Cohen has acquired quite the reputation for apologetics for the Putin dictatorship and its aggression against Ukraine. Cohen, a scholar of Russia, especially the Bolshevik Revolution, has printed most of his pieces in support of Vladimir Putin in The Nation, a magazine edited by his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel. Now he has done so again. Credit where it is due: each salvo has been more hysterical than the last. This time it was his prepared remarks for an upcoming speech to the U.S.-Russia Forum in Washington, D.C., organised by the same group who run the Russia World Forum, another annual confab of Putin apologists. For a flavour of the Russia World Forum, I quote from James Kirchick, who had the misfortune to attend the last one:

There was Webster Tarpley, former operative in the Lyndon LaRouche cult, 9/11 Truther, and all-around conspiracy theorist … There was Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who, when I debated him a few months ago on television, analogized 9/11 to the ‘Reichstag fire’ … There was a representative from an American ‘pro-family’ organization praising Putin’s standing up to his own country on issues like homosexuality and family planning.

Cohen was present here too—and with some of the same script by the sound of it.

Cohen’s article/speech in The Nation this time started so very badly, not only by putting all the blame on America for “escalating sanctions [that] will only deepen and institutionalize [this Second Cold War],” but by making reference to the “mysterious shoot down” of flight MH17. This is especially interesting since even commentators sympathetic to Vladimir Putin had largely conceded the factual matter that Moscow-backed insurgents brought down the Malaysian plane – they just had elaborate excuses why it shouldn’t be blamed on the Kremlin, or not in a way that carried any serious consequences anyway. It was straight downhill from there.

Cohen frames this in the way all of Putin’s apologists do: the no-longer-deniably-Russian-orchestrated mayhem in eastern Ukraine is claimed as a defensive action, stemming initially from NATO’s “expansion”. NATO, of course, is a voluntary association, but in Cohen’s world it is an instrument of Western imperialism, taking over states and forcing itself against Russia’s borders. His evidence for this extraordinary claim? An article in the Washington Post in 2004! (I am not making this up.) Cohen’s summation is that “twenty years of US policy have led to this fateful American-Russian confrontation.”

In this present crisis, Cohen sees the real crime as being a U.S./E.U./NATO coup d’état in Kyiv that drove from power Viktor Yanukovych. In one of the most tortured distortions of the English language on record, Cohen says Brussels and Washington initiated this crisis with their “velvet aggression” against Yanukovych to bring Ukraine into the Western fold. The “reckless provocation” Cohen is able to identify in Ukraine is the E.U. offer of the Association Agreement to Kyiv. Cohen makes reference to the “radicalized Maidan protests, strongly influenced by extreme nationalist and even semi-fascist street forces” who brought down the corrupt, increasingly authoritarian, Moscow-allied Yanukovych government. You perhaps have noticed that Russian propaganda outlets have run with the theme that the new authorities in Kyiv are fascists or Nazis (1,2,3,4,5).

In response to this, with Russia unable to match NATO in conventional terms any longer, poor Putin might be forced to use nuclear weapons, and the “ongoing U.S.-NATO encirclement of Russia with bases, as well as land and sea-based missile defense, only increases this possibility”. This from a self-styled progressive! There was a time when this faction was against nuclear weapons, though more and more it looks as if they were only against NATO’s counter-nukes to the massive Soviet build-up in the 1970s.

It is near-incredible to see Cohen speak of “the surreal demonization of … Vladimir Putin” (“a kind of personal vilification without any real precedent in the past,” indeed). Putin heads one of the most reactionary authoritarian governments on the planet, so this must be especially galling to those progressives who think of Cohen as an ally. But it must be even worse when Cohen cites Henry Kissinger as an authority for this claim.

The most hilarious part of the article is when Cohen’s cup of self-pity runneth over. He bemoans the fact that Moscow fellow-travellers are in such short supply these days. This is actually a lament without very much substance: the Kremlin still does have legions of supporters in the West, the only difference being they tend to come from the extreme-Right this time around. But Cohen should cheer up: with he and his wife around, Moscow will never lack for Left-wing advocates. Acknowledging that the analogy is “imperfect,” Cohen nonetheless compares himself and his co-thinkers, who seek to exculpate Putin for the Ukraine crisis, with the Soviet dissidents in the 1970s and 80s. Cohen worries of the “neo-McCarthyites [who] are trying to stifle democratic debate by stigmatizing us”. This sounds an awful lot like those bigots who demand respect for their views by claiming to just be the other side of a legitimate debate. Cohen then goes clean over the edge:

We should not worry, for example, if our arguments sometimes coincide with what Moscow is saying; doing so is self-censorship.

The bravery of it! If you are tempted to tone down your pro-Putinism: resist the urge!

The reaction keeps on coming. Channelling Barry Goldwater, Cohen says that “moderation for its own sake is no virtue”: moderation “becomes conformism, and conformism becomes complicity.” Again, Cohen self-consciously tries to remove the brakes that might tell decent people that their argument is leading them into disreputable territory.

If Cohen sticks to Moscow’s line on “encirclement” by NATO and “aggression” with the Western-orchestrated “coup” in Kyiv as causes of this crisis, his proposed solutions are even more noticeably drawn from the Kremlin’s playbook.

Cohen’s entire talk is based around the idea that wicked people have engaged in “distortions” to present “any American who seeks to understand Moscow’s perspectives [as] a ‘Putin apologist’,” when in reality Cohen and his allies are the “true American democrats and the real patriots of US national security.” His solutions are thus phrased in terms of national security: “demonizing of Putin is already costing Washington an essential partner in … vital areas of US security—from Iran, Syria and Afghanistan to efforts to counter nuclear proliferation and international terrorism.” Let us put aside the Putin dictatorship’s defence of Bashar al-Assad from even condemnation at the United Nations and the Kremlin’s well-orchestrated defeat of President Obama to prevent military strikes against its client in the Levant for gassing 1,400 civilians to death in a morning. Let us leave aside, too, the Kremlin’s assistance to Iran in building its nuclear weapons facilities and proposal to sell it air defences for these facilities. The destruction of the city of Grozny as Russian counter-terrorism policy can also be set aside.

Cohen first blames “the US-backed regime in Kiev” for inflicting “needless devastation, a humanitarian disaster and possibly war crimes on its own citizens in eastern Ukraine,” and even makes reference to “Kiev’s destruction of Luhansk, Donetsk or other Ukrainian cities,” something the insurgents had seemed to be rather taking the lead at. He then suggests that “[i]f Kiev’s assault ends, Putin probably can compel the rebels to negotiate.” This is ridiculous: the insurgency in eastern Ukraine is an enterprise wholly owned by Russian military intelligence (GRU). But the actual negotiating parameters set forward by Cohen are even more suspect, namely a “federal or sufficiently decentralized state,” which Cohen tells us would make Ukraine into a Federal Republic like Canada or Germany, and: “Ukraine must not be aligned with any military alliance, including NATO”. Moscow’s intention to control Ukraine’s foreign policy is long-standing, and for all Cohen’s talk of securing a “politically independent” Ukraine, he well-knows that this demand that Ukraine not be allowed to choose to join Western institutions is a victory for Moscow. The “Federal” option is really partition by another name, and is Moscow’s fall-back position. If western Ukraine cannot be controlled, the Kremlin can at least hold on to the east and keep it weak and dependent—a Ukrainian version of Transnistria.

Assuming Cohen is not among those who are paid to disseminate a pro-Moscow line, his views are a little confusing. Why would a Western progressive dedicate himself to a regime that persecutes homosexuals, revels in racial incitement, and menaces its neighbours? Perhaps old habits simply die hard. Or maybe, as so often, anti-Americanism simply trumps all.