Is Trump Putins man in the US

Is Trump Putins man in the US

Sure looks like it


Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump. Over the past decade, Russia has boosted right-wing populists across Europe. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France, well-documented transfusions of cash to keep her presidential campaign alive. Such largesse also wended its way to the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who profited “personally and handsomely” from Russian energy deals, as an American ambassador to Rome once put it. (Berlusconi also shared a 240-year-old bottle of Crimean wine with Putin and apparently makes ample use of a bed gifted to him by the Russian president.)

There’s a clear pattern: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He’s been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.” Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexit—a campaign Russia’s many propaganda organs bombastically promoted.

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The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States. Until recently, Putin has only focused glancing attention on American elections. Then along came the presumptive Republican nominee.

Donald Trump is like the Kremlin’s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trump’s statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he added, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush.” When Putin ripped American exceptionalism in a New York Times op-ed in 2013, Trump called it “a masterpiece.” Despite ample evidence, Trump denies that Putin has assassinated his opponents: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.” In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven: “At least he’s a leader.” And not just any old head of state: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”

That’s a highly abridged sampling of Trump’s odes to Putin. Why wouldn’t the Russians offer him the same furtive assistance they’ve lavished on Le Pen, Berlusconi, and the rest? Indeed, according to Politico’s Michael Crowley, Russian propaganda has gone full throttle for Trump, using its Russia Today apparatus to thrash Hillary Clinton and hail the courage of Trump’s foreign policy. (Sample headline: “Trump Sparks NATO Debate: ‘Obsolete’ or ‘Tripwire That Could Lead to World War III.’ ”) Russian intelligence services hacked the Democratic National Committee’s servers, purloining its opposition research files on Trump and just about everything else it could find. They also wormed their way into the computers of the Clinton Foundation, a breach reported by Bloomberg. And though it may be a mere coincidence, Trump’s inner circle is populated with advisers and operatives who have long careers advancing the interests of the Kremlin.

We shouldn’t overstate Putin’s efforts, which will hardly determine the outcome of the election. Still, we should think of the Trump campaign as the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace’s communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948, albeit less sincere and idealistic than that. A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.


* * *

Donald Trump’s interest in Russia dates back to Soviet times. In fact, there’s extraordinary footage of him shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbachev. It comes from 1988, the peak of perestroika and Gorbachev’s efforts to charm the American public. On his legendary trip to Washington and New York, the Soviet in chief left the confines of his limousine and security cordon to glad-hand with the American people. Donald Trump suggested to reporters that the Soviet leader would be making his way to Trump Tower, a crucial station on his journey to capitalism. This was, in fact, a self-aggrandizing fabrication that Trump himself planted in the tabloids, but it was a convincing lie. A year earlier, Trump had traveled to Russia at the invitation of the Soviets. They wanted Trump to develop luxury hotels in Moscow and Leningrad to feed the regime’s new appetite for Western business. “The idea of building two monuments in the U.S.S.R. has captured his imagination,” Newsweek reported.

Trump likely reveled in the newspaper stories that reported Gorbachev’s forthcoming visit to his HQ as fact. But surely even he never expected his fake story to become reality. He must have been gobsmacked when he received word that Gorbachev wanted to pay a spontaneous visit to Trump Tower. The skyscraper’s namesake rushed down from his penthouse office to pay obeisance. From the video, we can see the blotched head of Gorbachev emerge from his car. Trump and his retinue push through the crowd. “Great, great honor,” the mogul says as he pumps the hand of the Soviet supremo.

One of Trump’s vulnerabilities is that he doesn’t always vet his people, whether it’s business partners, the dubious characters he retweets, or the foreign leaders who show up at his door. As it turns out, this Gorbachev wasn’t really the Soviet leader but an impersonator called Ronald Knapp. Trump was lavishing praise on the winner of a look-alike contest.



It was merely the first instance of Trump carelessly sucking up to Russian power in the hopes of securing business. Those Soviet hotel projects never went anywhere. But over the years, Trump has returned to the idea of building in Russia again and again. Effective real estate developers are genuine seers; they can conjure mental images of glorious structures and vibrant neighborhoods where other mortals see mere blight. Trump had the brashness to imagine developing hotels in Moscow when that was a fatal enterprise. In 1996, a Kalashnikov sprayed the American hotelier Paul Tatum, who had the temerity to complain about the Chechen mafia and the less-than-scrupulous business culture he endured. Yet it wasn’t hard to see the appeal of Russia, to both the bottom line and the ego. An article in the Moscow Times described Trump as the city’s first grand builder since Stalin. Indeed, he later planned a development on the site where Stalin once hoped to construct the Palace of Soviet Congresses.

Five separate times Trump attempted Russian projects, hotels, apartments, and retail on the grandest scale. In one iteration, he promised an ice rink, a “members club,” and a spa, for “the finest residences in Moscow.” Another project he described as “the largest hotel in the world.” His gaudy style appealed to Russian nouveau riche, and he knew it. “The Russian market is attracted to me,” he once boasted. He registered his name as a trademark in Moscow and even licensed it to a liquor company, which sold Trump Super Premium Vodka. Government officials claimed that they wanted to do business with Trump because they also considered him super premium. In the mid-’90s, the general-turned-politician Alexander Lebed told him, “If Trump goes to Moscow, I think America will follow.”

Trump never could quite simultaneously align all the elements—investment, approval—to actually break ground. Yet his foray into Russia should be considered a smashing success; Trump set himself up for triumph even as he failed. With each doomed real estate project, he lavished praise on the key constituency that blesses deals, namely Russian politicians. (In front of a pack of reporters he told Lebed, “We’ve been reading a lot of great things about this gentleman and his country.”) The praise encouraged Russian officials to keep inviting Trump back for big potential deals. Each time he traveled to Moscow for a high profile visit, he attracted press attention and his stature increased. (After one trip, he bragged about a meeting where “almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.”) This elevated profile ultimately attracted investors. Russians helped finance his projects in Toronto and SoHo; they snapped up units in his buildings around the world—so much so that he came to target them, hosting cocktail parties in Moscow to recruit buyers. (His tenants included a Russian mobster, who ran an illegal poker ring in the Trump Tower and accompanied Trump to the staging of the Miss Universe contest in Moscow.) Even when he built a tower in Panama, he narrowcast his sales efforts to draw Russians, as the Washington Post has reported. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., bragged. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The nature of the Donald Trump campaign is its fundamental blurring of his political and business interests—on display just recently in Scotland, when he praised the Brexit vote as a boon for his golf courses. As one campaign finance expert told the New York Times, “Historically, candidates would separate themselves from their business interests when running for office. Trump has done the opposite by promoting his businesses while running for office.” Such mercantilist motives likely undergird Trump’s ornate praise of Putin, too. Having a friend in the Kremlin would help Trump fulfill his longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline—a dream that he pursued even as he organized his presidential campaign. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he once said. “We will be in Moscow at some point.”

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By: gypsy (2927.00)

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