Did Trump Scam Russia’s Putin?

Now that the FBI might be investigating Russian involvement in the U.S. 2016 election, we need to ask ourselves a serious question: Did Vladimir Putin just become another misled investor scammed in a Trump deal?

Buyer’s remorse

Given the shoddy ROI of then-mogul Trump’s real estate deals, Russian President Putin may want to reconsider what — if anything — he bought from the @RealDonaldTrump Administration. Did Moscow make as big a miscalculation dealing with President @RDP as American voters made by voting for him? Did our Ice-to-Eskimo selling Commander in Chief just sell Borscht to the Kremlin?

Seriously. Someone tell me what they think the ultimate benefits are for Russia or what Russia’s ultimate threat is to the USA here, in terms of this being worth the cost (triggering a serious anti-Russia backlash).

Is the @RealDonaldTrump Administration going to make more classified U.S. intelligence data available to Moscow, to the detriment of U.S. allies in Europe, Israel, etc.? Is Bannon going to sell Alaska back to Russia? Is the U.S. going to start importing billions of dollars of Russian oil? Is the U.S. going to provide financial/material support to the Russian military to invade/occupy Eastern Europe, or maybe re-invading Afghanistan?

That first one does seem realistic. Add to it the idea that a Russia-influenced @RDP Administration will weaken NATO: if not by reducing or delaying U.S. financial/material support, then by influencing other NATO members to do the same.

But if those are one’s concerns (they are among mine), then why would either of those matter? What is NATO for, someone like Bernie Sanders might argue, except preparing for military conflicts that NATO’s very existence might be helping create?

And putting this in the context of Russia and the world…Broadly speaking the strategic options for Russia, Putin’s Smiling Autocracy aside, is either (a) translating natural resources (oil, gas, minerals) into more innovation and economic growth outside of those extractive industries or (b) decline and vulnerability relative to neighboring EU and China. It’s hard to imagine how one gets to Option (A) without more cultural and economic engagement with the rest of the world — more trade, more liberalization, etc. Putin’s approach to that will be more like that of similarly autocratic-capitalist China and the Gulf States, but that doesn’t change the overall trend.

So really, it seems like the most substantial reason to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election is *that there was involvement*, more than what that involvement might yield. It’s the fact that the @RealDonaldTrump crew made shady plans with agents of the Russian government, even if the ineptitude of their schemes reach Bluth-like levels.

Or am I missing something?

Overreaching for Impeaching

We need to keep their impeachment expectations low, fun as it is read in tea leaves this GOP’s intrapersonal dialogue (Russia Hawks vs Solidarity vs What Happened to My Party).

  1. Does anyone really see a strong and cause-effect link between the leaking of Clinton’s emails (the only direct Russian interference, right?) and (a) the low overall voter turnout, (b) the deliberate DNC sabotage of the Sanders campaign (the email hack only made it public), or © the appeal of key Trump Campaign platforms like repealing “Obamacare”, the Mexico/USA wall, and ethnically targeted deportations?
  2. Putting too much hope in impeachment means even *more* of a burnout/stressor when it doesn’t come about…and that should be more of a concern in the long term, when you look at the buoying public appeal of a military-intel coup.

https://giphy.com/gifs/xT5LMuGtpLan0hTlHG/html5

And the “Treason matters more than sexual indiscretion” argument gets snagged on reality — the GOP and DNC leadership’s takeaway from Special Counsel investigations (Clinton, Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2, Obama) was that these investigations are dangerous double-edged swords, so they turned those blades into nerf foam.

Resource:

http://www.vox.com/2017/2/20/14636954/the-weeds-trump-russia-ezra-matt-sarah

Russia and @RealDonaldTrump: Tsar You Joking?

Given @RealDonaldTrump’s charismatic manipulation of the masses and his storied relationship with Russia, can we call him the Moscow Mule (that’s a Foundation reference).

Source: https://www.facebook.com/senatorsanders/videos/10155641573577908/

Anyway. Now that the loveable Grump Muppet Sen. Sanders is channelling his inner Nancy Grace (he’s just asking questions, amiright?), my guess is this @RealDonaldTrump-Russia story is going to be something like when the Reagan Campaign maybe colluded a smidge with the Iranian government to delay the release of American hostages¹…allegations and reasonable conjecture, but no solid “conclusion”.

The main things muddying the water here:

– Most news and intel agencies (as single entities) seem to dislike @RDT, so it’s hard to even pretend objectivity (if Hillary’s campaign had done this, there would likely be a counter-narrative of “this is just serious diplomacy”)

– Russian intel agencies are good at hiding and getting away with things

– A GOP Congress faces the prospect of investigating a (pseudo) GOP president, and probably says “Nah.”

– This kind of situation is murky by nature and not without precedent as de facto “ok”: see also backchannel talks with Iran, Cuba, China, etc.²

– Trump’s actual *known* business relations with Russia are sad. A flopped Miss Universe pageant, a failed vodka (how do you fail with vodka in Russia?), a failed Trump Tower…these are not the same as say, former German PM Shroeder’s sitting on the board of Russian energy giant Gazprom³.

So as with everything @RealDonaldTrump, the potential scandal/drama might more with his team and not the man itself. (This is a U.S. Presidential tradition if not a hallmark of top-level leadership, where your team does the dirty work). The name that stands out isn’t the scapegoated Flynn (whose public evisceration is totally disproportionate to his actual transgression of being a trusting idiot tripped up by his own ambition) but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who by virtue of being a Big Name at Exxon Mobil is the @RealDonaldTrump Administration’s closest link to Russian national interests — oil and gas.

But here’s the thing about Russia and its energy industry and sanctions. Geography and history have not kind to Russia, and its oil/gas industry is what keeps Russia from collapsing (even as it sustains a dangerous system of autocracy and oligarchy). One of the ways the USA “won” the Cold War was to use economic leverage points to punch the USSR repeatedly in the nuts. So while the Obama Administration instituted sanctions against Russia, the Obama Administration’s intent would *never* have been to force Russia to collapse with sanctions.

Oil/gas aside, there are plenty of non-@RealDonaldTrump and Tillerson reasons that a 2017 U.S. President would have dealings with Russia on its agenda. Carrot and stick. There is no substantive Syria policy without Russia. There is no substantive climate change policy without Russia (world’s 5th largest source of CO2 emissions). There is no substantive U.S.-Europe policy without Russia. There is no nuclear proliferation policy without Russia. And there is damn sure no U.S.-China policy without Russia.

Sen. Sanders mentions concern about American allies trusting the @RealDonaldTrump Administration with intelligence. That is a curious statement, not just given the history of Russian/USSR intelligence operations in Europe from the 1900’s on (hint, everybody has had at least one morning waking up in bed with the Russian Bear). U.S. allies, especially European governments, are very familiar with this awkward relationship with Moscow. Russia is Mr. Burns to Europe’s Springfield, with a dash of Sauron for a perpetual threat of doom and domination. That’s why European heads of state regularly have to talk about normalizing and improving ties with Russia, finding ways of trading and dealing with Russia, even while considering Russia a threat and a rival.

So, nothing is simple here. You can call it “determinism” if you want, and there is no doubt that the @RealDonaldTrump Administration is shaping U.S.-Russia policy according to its own definition of interests. But dealing with Putin’s Russia does *not* mean the U.S. Presidency is compromised.

The U.S.-Russia connection I find most troubling is the cultural engagement between White Supremacists/Nationalists in Russia and the USA, who do have quite a lot in common. That is similar, but not the same as, why Infowars.com and Alex Jones can shake one fist at the UN/Illuminati/One World Government while bumping the other fist with the most blatant Putin-directed media. The enemy of his enemy is his friend.

http://www.infowars.com/alex-jones-exposes-secret-russian-ties-to-us/

Meanwhile, this @RealDonaldTrump-Russia story will mostly be political theater and showboating, elbow jabs, plenty of news agencies digging into a juicy unprovable scandal, and a nice fat punching bag for vocal opponents of the @RealDonaldTrump administration.

But an actual, provable case for treason or impeachment? I’m not sure.

Footnotes:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Surprise_conspiracy_theory

2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/inside-the-secret-us-north-korea-track-2-diplomacy/2016/08/28/ef33b2d4-6bc0-11e6-ba32-5a4bf5aad4fa_story.html

3. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/11/politics/trump-ties-with-russia/

The Moscow City Shuffle — Overthinking the Shifting American Right/Left Positions Towards Putin and…

This is an interesting piece from Debka File (Debka is a somewhat Israel-Aligned Intelligence Analysis website). Would love to get ya’ll’s thoughts on this. (Article Link: http://www.debka.com/article/25875/Why-Trump-and-US-intel-clash-over-Russia)

Growing up with books like “Political Pilgrims” (http://a.co/cYa9PA8), there is quite a shift from the Cold War days with the Popular Left’s turn against Russia/Moscow — not just being against Putin, but indiscrimintely using “Russia” and “Moscow”.

Likewise from what little I ever learned about KGB “Dezinformatsiya” and even more contemporary information about the extent of Russian intelligence operations in the USA, it is surprising to see how quick people are to leap to the conclusion that they have out-sleuthed a generations-old spy culture that was dogfighting the British Empire back when the USA was in World Power diapers.

The shift among the American Right is harder to read. The neoconservatives still seem to look at Russia as if the Cold War never ended, and in plenty of ways I think they are right. But maybe it is the break with the Bush/Rice era that the vigilance against Russia is seen as outdated or ignorant or maybe just unpopular.

And how odd to see the Left praising the efficiency and principles of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies! How glad they are to see the CIA, NSA, et al. weighing in on domestic politics now.

I am uncomfortable with the New Right (or “Alt Right” as Huffington Post et al. label them) pundits seem to cheer Putin. I worry about their grounding in history, and perhaps being this Russia’s new wave of fellow travelers in the USA.

I wonder how much of these shifts are intentional and how much are unintended “drifts”. I can imagine that many of the U.S. Elite now see China as the Long Term Enemy with Radical Islam as the Short Term Enemy, with Russia as an ally in both fights.

Pres-elect Trump says he is taking back the Winston Churchill bust that the Obama Administration ineptly rejected. Maybe the Trump Team is resuming Churchhill’s complicated relationship with the Russia of Stalin’s USSR?

Perhaps they see Putin’s victories in George and Ukraine as signs that it is better to work with him than to beat him, especially when working against “The Real Enemies”. Then maybe they see the precedent of recent decades — Putin/Medvedev playing the role of “Beneficent Dictator” for USA logistics and military operations in Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria etc. — as a sign that Russia is easier to work with when you give in.

How successful will these be?

For one thing, the Chinese threat isn’t really “China” but the Recidivist/New Chinese Right (the new generation of Political Military Elite who grew up believing their own rhetoric of Superiority over the USA, as well as real Chinese successes in technology and economic growth).

In that context, how will the -Stans see a U.S. lean/deference towards Russia, and will this incline them more towards a China that is already building out more and more infrastructure and investment?

What effect will this have on NATO? And when European governments like Germany’s come to another moment of Restructuring their Relationship with Russia (they still get a lot of natural gas from Russia, increasingly trade more with Russia, and have at least one ex-PM who works for the European-side of a Russian oil/gas company), will they lean more towards Russia/Putin? And in what way will this stir the forces straining the capacity of the European Union?

We could play the Counterfactual/Alternate Future game all day (and I’d love to, if anyone wants to posit anything in the Comment section).

Also, I wonder what roles the Israeli Government factions and Israeli Lobbies in America are playing in this shift.

Is there some hubris on the American side? Probably. And maybe the Trump Admin and New Right think that they can play Putin.

But I imagine it could more easily work the other way around.

What do you all think?