Why the ‘Progressive’ Historian Stephen Cohen Refuses to Call a U.S. Coup a “Coup”

Eric Zuesse

The most important historical event of recent times was a coup that occurred in 2014 and caused what’s now called ‘the new Cold War’, which is even worse than the original one was; and, yet, Western ‘news’media never reported the coup as being anything like what it was, when it happened; and, it still isn’t being recognized by Western ‘historians’ to have happened, as it did, and to have been a coup — much less who was behind it. The event is instead covered-up, by lies, in the major (and many minor) news media and historical discussions. This is the most dangerous lie and cover-up operation in modern times, because it’s leading toward war between Russia and the United States, unless the truth starts soon to be told in the U.S. and its allied countries. However, instead of informing the public about the event, Western publics have been told only the PR, the propaganda, the myth, that the U.S. regime has presented about the event. These lies have been the ‘news’ about it, and, then, the ‘history’ about it, that Western publics today know about the event. And, as will be demonstrated here, the lies about it, such as that it wasn’t a coup but instead a ‘democratic revolution’, are even more dangerous than if the event hadn’t been mentioned at all — had been simply blacked-out entirely — in The West. Sometimes, false ‘history’ can be even worse than no history at all.

Not only was the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 a coup, which ended Ukraine’s brief democracy and destroyed the country, but it was an extremely bloody coup, which was perpetrated by the U.S. Government; and, yet, U.S. ‘news’media still even today refuse to call it a “coup” at all; and none acknowledge that it had been long planned and was carried out under the direction of, the Administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who constantly lied through his teeth about the entire matter and blamed Russia for everything, and even had the gall to impose economic sanctions against Russia for Russia’s entirely reasonable and just reaction to it. In other words, this was, not only — as the head of the private CIA firm Stratfor admitted — “the most blatant coup in history,” but it was a U.S. coup, which America’s ’news’media (which are owned by the same billionaires who effectively own the U.S. Government) continue to hide from their audiences and to lie about, even when their media refer to it at all.

America’s so-called ‘progressive’ so-called ’news’media claim to be bastions of honesty in American journalism, but their coverage of Ukraine and of Russia since the coup in Ukraine, and of the resultant return of “The Cold War” — which are massively important historical developments that have shaken, to the core, and transformed, international relations — has been and remains a blatant lie, as will be documented here, with special attention to a prominent contributing editor at The Nation, and elite scholar of Russian history, the putatively ‘progressive’ Stephen F. Cohen, who beats around the bush as to what it actually was, refuses to refer to it as an American coup, and refuses to state clearly the fact that this coup had nothing at all to do with U.S. national security, but was purely a criminal U.S. operation, from start to finish, which President Donald Trump is continuing, by stepping-up U.S. weapons-sales to the fascist regime that Obama had installed.

Cohen’s article was published in The Nation on January 3rd, and titled, “Four Years of Ukraine and the Myths of Maidan: The history of the Ukrainian crisis, which has made everything it affected worse, is distorted by political myths and American media malpractice.” It’s allegedly “By Stephen F. Cohen,” but there’s no clarity on why it says such things as “Cohen sees,” “Which brings Cohen to,” “Cohen points out,” and “Cohen concludes.” It seems to be such an amateurishly edited and badly written article, that one can’t safely attribute any quotation in it to Professor Cohen himself, and one can only trust that the person who did write it was being entirely accurate in the paraphrases of Cohen that the article employs. However, as we shall see, there’s good reason to distrust the magazine itself, even if that article represents with 100% accuracy Dr. Cohen’s expressed views (and I think that it does truthfully represent his actual statements).

The article opens by saying:

Cohen argues that the Ukrainian crisis, which unfolded in late 2013 and early 2014 and which led to Crimea’s annexation by (or “reunification with”) Russia and to the still ongoing US-Russian proxy war in eastern Ukraine, is a seminal event of the 21st century.

Later it says:

Two conflicting narratives of the Ukrainian crisis have been a major factor in preventing its resolution. One, promoted by Washington and the US-backed [note that it doesn’t say “US-installed”] government in Kiev, blames only “aggression” by the Kremlin and specifically by Russian President Putin. The other, promoted by Moscow and rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, which it supports, blames “aggression” by the European Union and NATO, both inspired by Washington. Cohen sees enough bad intent, misconceptions, and misperceptions to go around, but on balance thinks Moscow’s narrative, almost entirely deleted from US mass media, is closer to the historical realities of 2013–2014:

Then it starts building a case that, if the overthrow of Yanukovych wasn’t really a democratic action, then the EU is to blame — the very idea that the U.S. Government might have been the perpetrator is entirely absent from this obscurantist screed. It says that, in 2013,

for whatever reason, … the EU leadership … refused

Ukraine’s very reasonable offer for joining the EU. However, it hides the key facts here, which include especially that the EU was insisting upon terms, for accepting Ukraine’s application for membership in the European Union, which Ukraine’s academy of sciences estimated would cost the Ukrainian Government “$160 billion by 2017” (and see more on that here). (Furthermore, the evidence is clear that the leadership of the EU were shocked, after the fact, to find out that it had actually been a coup, and this proves that they hadn’t been anticipating anything of the sort — which means that The Nation’s article misrepresents by suggesting that maybe the source of what happened in Ukraine was “the EU leadership.”) Then, it says:

The “march” on Ukraine had long been under way. The EU agreement — purportedly only economic and civilizational — included provisions binding the new “partner” to NATO “military and security” policy. (The intent was clear, with President George W. Bush having proposed to fast-track NATO membership for Ukraine in 2008, only to be vetoed by Germany and France.)

This way of suggesting that the EU was moving forward with the Republican President Bush’s plan here, indicates clearly that there was very long-term coordination of policy between the U.S. Government and the EU, to lure Ukraine into the EU, and that there was no requirement from the U.S. side that the EU’s offer to Ukraine would be at all attractive to Ukraine’s Government. And that much in the article is true. In other words: This was a set-up, by the U.S.-EU team, but The Nation isn’t indicating which of those two — the U.S, or the EU — was the leader of the team. Ignorance of the answer to that key question is inexcusable, however, because the answer to it had already been made very clear on 4 February 2014, 22 days prior to the overthrow itself, which was the moment when Obama’s agent handling the Ukraine matter, Victoria Nuland, informed the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine whom to get appointed to run the post-coup regime, and when she blurted out “F—k the EU!” because the EU leadership had wanted a moderate, Wladimir Klitschko, to head the new government, and she insisted on a rabidly anti-Russian fascist, “Yats” Yatsenyuk, who did receive the appointment — and then this “Yats” promptly started an ethnic cleansing operation in eastern Ukraine to eliminate the over 90% of the people there who had voted for the man whom Obama had just ousted. The new Ukrainian regime needed to get rid of those people if it were to have any likelihood of being able to remain in power beyond its first election. The only (and merely vague) reference to any of this reality, in The Nation’s article of slippery words, is the merely parenthetical:

(A phone conversation between the leading State Department official involved and the US ambassador to Ukraine plotting the makeup of a successor government became public.)

Then comes:

Which brings Cohen to another prevailing media myth: that what occurred on Maidan in February 2014 was a “democratic revolution.” Whether it was in fact a “revolution” can be left to future historians.

It was actually “the most blatant coup in history.” And then comes:

As for “democratic,” removing a legally elected president by threatening his life hardly qualifies.

Then, comes the remarkable statement asserting vaguely, and only in a subordinate clause so that it’s presumed to be not very important, that “this was a coup,” but that it was either “spontaneous” (which would mean that it wasn’t planned by the U.S. or anyone and was therefore no coup at all but more like an un-led riot) or else “by high-level actors in the West” — and here is that obscurantist and confusing passage (and, as always, author unknown, though supposedly “By Stephen C. Cohen”):

Though the overthrow involved people in the streets, this was a coup. How much of it was spontaneous and how much directed, or inspired, by high-level actors in the West also remains unclear.

Then comes the article’s only actual description of the event, and only reference to its violence (“snipers”):

The rush to seize Yanukovych’s residence was triggered by snipers who killed some 80 or more protesters and policemen on Maidan. It was long said that the snipers had been sent by Yanukovych, but it has now been virtually proven that the shooters were instead from the neo-fascist group Right Sector among the protesters on the square. (See, for example, the reports of the scholar Ivan Katchanovski.)

The antidemocratic origins of today’s Kiev regime continue to afflict it.

Whether those “antidemocratic origins” even included the U.S. regime in Washington — which had actually (since at least 2011) planned and led the whole thing and then dictated whom the new Ukrainian leaders would be — wasn’t mentioned. Where it says “the reports of the scholar Ivan Katchanovski,” the link is to an article which likewise doesn’t use the word “coup” to describe it, and which links to Kathchanovski’s paper, which itself uses the word “coup” twice, first saying that Yanukovych called it a “coup” (which doesn’t prove anything), and second again referring to Yanukovych’s having called it a “coup.” So: The Nation has here left its readers twice removed from two vague assertions that the man who was overthrown called it a “coup.” Furthermore, that description attributes the violence solely to Ukraine’s own Right Sector Party, not at all to its paymaster, much less to a foreign government, much less to the U.S. Government (which might as well have written The Nation’s entire article, in order to keep the Democratic Party’s voters’ support of the fascist Ukrainian regime that the Democrat, Obama, had installed).

Then, the article says:

Indeed, Cohen concludes, if the media insists on condemning Trump for mangled narratives and dubious international entanglements, they might want to focus on former vice president Joseph Biden. It has long been known that President Obama put him in charge of the administration’s “Ukrainian project.”

So: The Nation’s argument here is that Trump continues not Obama’s policy but Biden’s policy. Now, why would they say that? Perhaps in order to smear both Biden and Trump but not Obama and also not the actual person who handled this assignment, who was Victoria Nuland, who worked under Hillary Clinton in the State Department, and whom Obama forced upon John Kerry when he took over as Secretary of State, and Nuland and Kerry were practically at war against each other, under Obama, who repeatedly backed her against him, again, and again. And he did it also on Syria-policy. (And, regarding the case of Syria, Obama sided yet again with Nuland against Kerry.) The sweet-talking slickster Obama was the problem in all of this. But a ‘news’medium that’s beholden to Democratic Party billionaires in order to stay in business is no more trustworthy than is a ‘news’medium that’s beholden to Republican Party billionaires in order to stay in business.

Now, if one reads here, one will find out that the ownership of The Nation has always been in the hands of ‘progressive’ aristocrats. The current owner is also mentioned there, Katrina vanden Heuvel. She happens to be Stephen Cohen’s wife. Her father is also discussed there: William J. vanden Heuvel. His role in the CIA’s first coup, which overthrew Thailand’s Government in 1948 and replaced it with a “police state,” is briefly mentioned. Also, his having been the “special assistant” to Robert F. Kennedy is mentioned. RFK was at that time a Cold-War super-hawk, who was among the group of his brother, JFK’s, advisors who was supporting secret proposals for the U.S. to create a pretext to start a hot war — a nuclear war — with the Soviet Union, in the belief that if they started it they would win it. His brother (JFK) decided not to follow that advice. According to David Talbot’s indispensable The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (p. 360), “The Dulles brothers were slow to realize that if young Senator [J.F.] Kennedy was their pupil, he was an increasingly rebellious one. Kennedy began questioning the rigid Cold War paradigm that dominated Washington policy-making as early as 1951.” JFK’s fact-finding visit to Vietnam persuaded him, even that early, against the CIA’s view of the matter. But RFK remained a Cold War super-hawk for yet a decade more. As I previously noted:

When Kennedy became President, he found himself surrounded by advisors who were urging him such as, on 22 March 1962, John Kennedy’s own brother and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy urged, when RFK held a meeting to discuss “the possibility of U.S. manufacture or acquisition of Soviet aircraft”, because:

“There is a possibility that such aircraft could be used in a deception operation designed to confuse enemy planes in the air, to launch a surprise attack against enemy installations or in a provocation operation in which Soviet aircraft would appear to attack U.S. or friendly installations in order to provide an excuse for U.S. intervention. If the planes were to be used in such covert operations, it would seem preferable to manufacture them in the United States.”

And, also like this (on 12 April 1962, from a Major General and CIA officer — see it on page 16):

“We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of a Cuban agent and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”

Even JFK’s own brother RFK, and Secretary of ‘Defense’ Robert McNamara, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk — plus lots of holdovers from the Eisenhower Administration — thought that this sort of thing would be worth the President of the United States considering. Fortunately, JFK didn’t. If he had been like them, World War III would surely have occurred.

RFK became increasingly liberal after his brother’s death; but, when, in 1967, the “Dump Johnson Movement” among grass-roots Democrats to replace the neoconservative Lyndon Johnson as the Democratic Party’s 1968 Presidential nominee, urged RFK to compete against Johnson in Democratic Party primaries so as to give Democratic voters a say in whether to replace Johnson by an anti-Vietnam-War nominee on this the most important public-policy issue of that era, RFK said no, but then his fellow Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy promptly took on the task, to give the Party’s voters a choice on whether or not the Vietnam War should continue being a signature project of the Democratic Party. RFK jumped into the Democratic primaries right after McCarthy came close to beating Johnson in the 12 March 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Party Presidential primary, knowing that his entry into the Democratic Party primaries would split the progressive vote between himself and McCarthy and so would virtually assure that Johnson’s man V.P. Hubert Humphrey (who replaced Johnson as the “pro-war Democrat” when Johnson quit the primary contest on 31 March, but his name never appeared on any primary’s ballot) would receive the nomination, thus continuing this extremely unpopular war as bearing the Democratic Party brand upon it and thus virtually assuring that whomever the Republicans would choose as their nominee would win, which turned out to be Richard Nixon. RFK was assassinated on June 6th, but though the Democratic primary contest was again between one anti-war candidate, now versus whomever the Party’s establishment would prefer, the “bad blood’ which had developed in the interim between the supporters of RFK and the supporters of McCarthy, produced little resistance when the people who controlled the Party handed the nomination to the pro-war Humphrey; and, so, Nixon became the U.S. President. RFK had expected that McCarthy’s supporters would simply flock to him, against the initially far less well-known McCarthy; but, by the time of RFK’s death on the night of his California primary victory, McCarthy had won 5 primaries, and RFK had won 3. Primaries were held in only 15 states. By the time the primaries-season had ended on June 11th, McCarthy had won 7, Johnson had won 1, and RFK had won 4 — those three, plus South Dakota on the same night as his California victory. (The only remaining primary was Illinois, on June 11th, which McCarthy won.) The Democratic Party’s leadership handed their nomination to Humphrey, though Humphrey hadn’t won even a single primary. This in a country that calls itself a ‘democracy’. America’s billionaires and centi-millionaires had their way, regardless of what the public wanted.

In the 1944 U.S. Presidential contest, the Democratic Party’s controllers forced FDR to accept as his running-mate and (since FDR was then known to be near death) successor, the unpopular Senator Harry S. Truman, despite the President’s strong desire to be succeeded by the much more progressive and vastly more popular Henry A. Wallace; and, so, the Party almost lost the 1948 Presidential election to the even-more-unpopular Eastern Establishment’s New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey. The billionaires will choose a loser rather than choose a winner who will win against themselves. FDR had become the candidate in 1932 only because the billionaires were terrified that otherwise there might be a revolution. But, after FDR, the billionaires and centi-millionaires have increasingly controlled this ‘democracy’.

Although historians (Talbot included) haven’t yet integrated into their accounts this important distinction between the geo-strategic views of JFK and RFK (JFK having been the more progressive of the two), this policy-difference was real and very important; but so too was RFK’s unshakable loyalty to his brother, which loyalty overrode everything during JFK’s Presidency, and so the brothers worked well together as a team. However, the Deep State, which is solidly neoconservative and which created neoconservatism, and which consists of the aristocracies of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States, now controls both of America’s Parties equally. Even the Democratic Party’s propaganda-media are neoconservatives, now. And the least-neoconservative of them all is The Nation. But even The Nation straddles the fence between neoconservative and not. It’s anti-neocon when the neocon is Republican, but neutral when the neocon (or pro-imperialist) is Democratic. And, virtually every Republican in the U.S. Congress, and every Republican Presidential nominee after Wendell Wilkie’s defeat to FDR in 1940, has likewise been a neocon. In today’s U.S. Government, almost everyone whose responsibilities include foreign affairs — the military, diplomatic, and intelligence, communities — is neoconservative. Neoconservatism is the norm, throughout. And, so, all of the ‘news’media are, likewise, supporters of expanding the American empire.

Unless there is public recognition that the Ukrainian situation that produced Obama’s outrageous sanctions against Russia was caused actually by a U.S. coup, which has no legitimacy, and which installed a racist-fascist anti-Russian regime, the movement toward U.S.-Russia war will continue. The issue here has not been whether “Russia’s narrative is closer to the truth”; it is instead that the U.S. government has been viciously lying — and so has its press. They must now publicly acknowledge this fact. Unless they all want World War III — in which case, everyone needs to condemn all of them, because otherwise there will be WW III, which will be the worst outcome of all, but which is where we are heading.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.