Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin (The Washington Post - link): Trump’s relationship with Putin and his warm views toward Russia, which began in the 1980s when the country was still part of the Soviet Union, have emerged as one of the more curious aspects of his presidential campaign.
The overwhelming consensus among American political and national security leaders has held that Putin is a pariah who disregards human rights and has violated international norms in seeking to regain influence and territory in the former Soviet bloc. In 2012, one year before Trump brought his beauty pageant to Moscow, then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Russia the United States’ top geopolitical threat — an assessment that has only gained currency since then.
Trump has conveyed a different view, informed in part through his business ambitions. Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Does Donald Trump Have A Subversive Partnership With Vladimir Putin's Propaganda Machine? (Newsweek - link) The opponent wields a “firehose of falsehood” with “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.” He “entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience” with exaggerations and unfounded rumors. His technique is entirely new, confounding decades of conventional wisdom that says effective political messages should stay close to the truth.
Donald Trump? No, Vladimir Putin, who has piloted “a remarkable evolution in Russia's approach to propaganda,” according to a new study from RAND, a think tank based in Santa Monica, California, which has been supplying the Pentagon and CIA with ideas since 1948. Despite ignoring past principles of propaganda, RAND says, Putin has “enjoyed some success” in his main goal: undermining Western unity, and specifically its military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.
His success stories: The rise of Moscow-backed right-wing “populist” movements in Europe, along with Western disunity over Ukraine, Turkey, Syria and how to deal with Syrian refugees. And now Donald Trump?
In an interview with The New York Times, Trump said the U.S. would not provide military aid to NATO members unless they put 2 percent of their GDP toward the alliance. “Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments drew the ire of both U.S. defense officials and of NATO. Officially, the Pentagon refused to chime in, desperate to keep the wall between politics and the troops. But around the proverbial Pentagon water cooler, the talk among some is quite different. Officials noted that many member nations are trying to meet their financial obligation, which is aspirational, not a condition of the alliance. Such rhetoric, some fear, could encourage Putin to seek additional territory from nations like Poland and the Baltic states.
“Let’s just move forward with plans to hand Eastern Europe to Russia,” one U.S. defense official scoffed.
Why Russia is rejoicing over Trump (Politico - link): MOSCOW — Excited by Donald Trump’s pledge to promote “easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia,” the Kremlin establishment earlier this month invited Trump adviser Carter Page to speak before graduating students of Russian School of Economics. Page did not disappoint. In his remarks, Page condemned current American policy for its “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” When a Russian student asked Page whether he really believed that American society was liberal and democratic, Trump’s adviser grinned and delivered a line that might have come from Vladimir Putin himself. “I surround the word ‘liberal’ with quotes,” he said. ”I tend to agree with you that it’s not always as liberal as it may seem,” he said. “I’m with you.”
It was thus perfectly in keeping with Trump campaign’s entente with the Kremlin that last week Trump aides reportedly watered down the new Republican platform on Russia, removing language that called for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces. Page, an energy expert, has close ties to Russian business and relationships with executives at Gazprom, the giant state-run gas company. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has worked as a lobbyist for former Ukraine’s former Russia-aligned president, Viktor Yanukovych.
For Putin, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. Shunned and sanctioned by western leaders for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Putin now sees a future ally riding into view. The Kremlin and its right-wing supporters also enthusiastically applaud the isolationist they see in Trump, who has suggested he might curtail U.S. involvement in NATO and European affairs, and who derides the same political “mainstream” that has deemed Putin a pariah.
It's Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin (The Atlantic - link): The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower.
I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is employed by Putin—though his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of “strength” often associated with dictators.
Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.
Putin’s wager on Trump is paying off already (The Salt Lake Tribune - link): The secret plot to control America, launched from abroad, is an old theme in American pop culture. "The Manchurian Candidate," a film made in 1962, imagined a Chinese scheme to engineer a coup d'etat. Aficionados of paranoid thrillers may also recall "Lucky Bastard," a 1998 Charles McCarry novel, which featured a U.S. president controlled by a Soviet case officer who happens to be his wife.
But now it is 2016, truth is stranger than fiction, and we finally have a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, with direct and indirect links to a foreign dictator, Vladimir Putin, whose policies he promotes. And yet it is not secret, it is not a plot, there is no conspiracy. No one has been hypnotized or recruited by foreign intelligence. Just as Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, openly accepts Russian money, the Trump campaign advertises its Russian links and pays no real political price.
He has also surrounded himself with people whose deep links to the corrupt world of Russian business would normally disqualify them from U.S. politics. He brought in a foreign policy aide, Carter Page, who has long-standing connections to Russian companies, including Gazprom, and has supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, worked for many years in Ukraine on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian president ousted in 2014. While living in Kiev, Manafort had plenty of time to absorb the disinformation tactics perfected by the Kremlin, all of which are now being put to use: the thugs at meetings, the appeal to extreme emotions — those bereaved mothers at the convention — and, of course, fake websites and Internet trolls.
Russia is clearly participating in the Trump campaign. The theft of material from the Democratic National Committee a few weeks ago was the work of Russian hackers. Russian state media and social media, together with a host of fake websites and Twitter accounts with Russian origins, actively support Trump and are contributing to some of the hysteria on the Internet. I'm not arguing that any of this has been decisive. But whatever resources Putin wagered on Trump, they are paying off.
|Donnie! Come give Vlad a big kiss!|
The Real Winner of the RNC: Vladimir Putin (Slate - link): Donald Trump’s convention has been marked by gross incompetence in all areas save one: He’s been highly effective in moving the Republican Party toward Vladimir Putin. The deftness of this reversal of policy is so anomalous that we need to consider its causes, as well as its consequences.
To recap: The Trump campaign showed little interest in the writing of the Republican Party platform, even as the document evolved to undermine the nominee’s political strategy and took stances at odds with his own. But his aides did intervene aggressively in one committee meeting. They pushed hard to soften the platform’s stance on providing military assistance to Ukraine. When pressed about this change, Trump aides literally ran in the other direction.
Then, on Wednesday, Trump told the New York Times that he would abandon our nearly seven decades–old commitment to collective security in Europe. If Putin rolled tanks into Eastern Europe, Trump would have to check whether those countries paid their fair share to NATO before fulfilling our obligations to protect them.
For his part, Putin has recognized the opportunity that the Trump campaign presents. He has thrown Russian propaganda behind it; his intelligence services have purloined documents from Democratic Party servers, and they have begun publishing them on the internet.
And why not? Trump is Putin’s geo-strategic dream. NATO has been effective at curbing Putin’s military adventurism. Russia may mess around in eastern Ukraine, but it won’t set foot in Estonia or Poland. That’s because it has little interest in fighting a war with an alliance obligated to protect those countries. Rather than facing a resolute, unified West, he prefers conducting a negotiation with a fragmented one and has sought to destabilize Europe through support of Trump-like figures in France, Italy, and elsewhere. Nobody believes in the art of the deal more than Vladimir Putin—and in Trump, he sees a naïve, egomaniac whom he can roll.
Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin’s enabler: Understanding the Republican frontrunner's fondness for Russia's strongman (New York Daily News - link): It’s too easy to imagine the horror with which statesmen like Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan would view Donald Trump’s rampage through the GOP. I’d like to hear instead from the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the founding father of the Red Scare in the 1950s, or from his fellow redbaiter Richard Nixon.
I can imagine them waving a stack of papers and shouting, “I hold here in my hand a list of names of people at the highest levels of the Trump campaign who have worked for the Russian government under the direction of a former agent of the KGB!”
This charge would be entirely accurate, although it’s always been dubious that there is anything former at all about Vladimir Putin’s KGB status. It’s well-established that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and two of Trump’s top advisers, Carter Page and Michael Flynn, have ties to Russia and the Kremlin.
Manafort worked for years as the chief political fixer for Viktor Yanukovych, Putin’s puppet ruler of Ukraine. Page used to work for Russian energy giant Gazprom and was recently in Moscow on Trump’s behalf to explain that America shouldn’t interfere in global affairs (especially Putin’s), talking points that come straight from Russian state-controlled TV. Trump himself has frequently praised Putin’s “strength” while suggesting that the two of them would get along very well.
Meanwhile, Putin’s giant global propaganda machine promoted Trump through the GOP primary and makes it quite apparent that Moscow would much prefer him to Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s replacement. What had been lacking until now was any tangible return on the Kremlin’s investment.
That changed last week when members of the Trump campaign worked with pro-Trump delegates to change a GOP platform amendment on American aid to Ukraine, which was invaded by Putin in 2014 and where Russian forces maintain a destabilizing conflict. The amendment originally followed the recommendation of nearly every top U.S. military and security official to “provide lethal defensive weapons” that would help Ukraine’s fragile democracy defend itself.
The Trump staff got the language changed to “appropriate assistance,” a meaningfully meaningless phrase that no doubt pleased Putin very much.
Mod: Perhaps the most devastating article of all is next. Spend some time with this one. The payoff is big.
Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing (Talking Points Memo - link)
Mod: There are plenty more stories just like the above available on the Internet. Just go to Google News and tap in "Trump + Putin." Literally pages of articles will pop up. This is one of the truly great political scandals of our time. Donald "Treason" Trump could very well be a traitor to the United States of America.