Stephen F. Cohen
Know all ye by these presents that Sam Adams Associates honors Professor Stephen F. Cohen with a posthumous tribute for his exemplary scholarship, integrity, and courage.
Stephen Cohen is still with us — in the hearts of those who knew him and try to emulate his courage. The word comes from cor – Latin for heart. It means “to speak one’s mind AND heart”. Aristotle saw courage as the sine qua non for all other virtue. In plain-speak, it doesn’t matter how much you know, if you lack courage.
Steve knew a lot about Russia. But at his courageous core, he was also a Mensch — influencing hearts as well as minds — whether the hearts of kids playing schoolyard basketball on the Upper West Side, or the hearts of presidents in Washington and Moscow. And it was Steve’s courageous commitment to historical truth that set him apart from self-styled specialists on Russia bowing to prevailing Russophobic winds.
Though Steve often was an outlier, his scholarship and advice were valued by top U.S. and Russian leaders alike. Three weeks after the Berlin Wall fell, Steve and his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel were with President George H. W. Bush at the summit in Malta at which Bush reassured Mikhail Gorbachev that the U.S. would not take advantage of the ferment in Eastern Europe. Under Bush’s successors NATO crept east — right up to Russia’s border, despite George Kennan’s warning that this “would restore the atmosphere of the cold war”.
Ever the historian, Steve put both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin in context, showing that Putin assumed power in a country on the verge of collapse, Yeltsin having allowed the plundering of Russia’s wealth. After the February 2014 coup on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine, Steve quickly explained — with a candor unwelcome in Washington — why Russiareacted the way it did. Steve was “controversialized” and put in “Putin’s pocket”.
We veteran Russia-watchers took encouragement in knowing that Steve’s analysis was congruent with our own. Particularly welcome was the seal of approval given by Steve and Katrina to a newly coined acronym enumerating the main forces behind the campaign to portray Russia as enemy: MICIMATT — the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex.
Fortunately, Steve did not have to resort to samizdat. He had a close friend at a highly respected periodical — one known for its hospitality to serious scholarship and to views shunned elsewhere. The Nation. Our deepest thanks go out to its publisher, who faced into the prevailing winds and gave Steve a platform for his uniquely astute views on Russia, the country he and Katrina had come to know so well.
Presented this 17th day of March 2021 at the World Ethical Data Forum by admirers of the courageous example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.694