To close out the year, I thought it appropriate to pay tribute to the Committee’s late and much missed founder, Professor Stephen F. Cohen, by posting this documentary film from 1994 by Rosemarie Reed featuring conversations between Professor Cohen and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Stephen F. Cohen was Professor of Politics at Princeton University, where for many years he was also director of the Russian Studies Program, and Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and History at New York University.
He grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky, received his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Indiana University, and his Ph.D. at Columbia University.
For his scholarly work, Cohen received several honors, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a National Book Award nomination.
Throughout his long and storied career, Cohen visited and lived in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia regularly for more than forty years.
Steve was a frequent contributor to American media, including for many years as a CBS News commentator where he covered the historic Bush-Gorbachev Summit in Malta. With the producer Rosemary Reed, he served as a project adviser and correspondent for three PBS documentary films about Russia.
Cohen served on the Board of the original American Committee on East-West Accord in the 1970s and 80s and served as the founding Board member of the second iteration of the Committee in 2015. The current American Committee for US-Russia Accord hopes to carry on Steve’s considerable legacy.
As we disregarded Russian fears and ignored the chance for a true partnership, Steve worried about the resumption of hostile relations between our two countries and possibly a new Cold War.
The DC apparatchiks couldn’t discredit Steve’s credentials or track record – he’d predicted events in Ukraine and elsewhere years before they occurred. They couldn’t intimidate him – he’d faced far worse threats, like the KGB. Instead, they set out to turn him into an America-hating, Putin-loving pariah.
He was courageous and fearless in continuing to question the increasingly rigid orthodoxies about the Soviet Union and Russia. But in the last months, such criticism did take its toll on him. Along with others who sought to avert a new and more dangerous Cold War, Steve despaired that the public debate so desperately needed had become increasingly impossible in mainstream politics or media.
In 2017 the AJC Global Forum featured Stephen F. Cohen; journalist Julia Ioffe; and Andrew Weiss, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.