Trouble on the Horizon for the Trump Administration – Part 1: Trump and Putin

The American people who voted for Trump are sooner or later to find out what you and I already know; that Don is a con. He is already backing away from many of the most unrealistic promises during the campaign, like putting Hillary Clinton in jail, but disappointing his most ardent followers is probably the least of his worries.

And there is no doubt in my mind that serious problems of one kind or another are inevitable with Donald Trump in charge.  Over the last couple of weeks have been writing an article which discusses in detail all of the issues which will be extremely problematic for the Trump administration.  However, that piece grew to be much too long. Again and again as I finished writing about one area where Trump’s character or simplistic view of the world might lead to disaster for himself and/or the country, another would pop into my brain.

Unwilling to subject my readers to an extensive narrative of Trump’s potential for disaster; I did the only humane thing possible. I broke the article in sections which I will publish separately. That way if a reader is not totally bummed out by the first installment, he/she can come back for another dose.  As the title of this post implies, this first installment will cover Trump’s love affair with the Russians.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have engaged in a very public bromance throughout the campaign with Trump praising the Russian president/dictator on multiple occasions with Putin returning the complements. Meanwhile cyber warfare groups in the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU, and the FSB, the new designation for the KGB, were hacking into email systems of Democratic National Committee and the email accounts of senior members of Clinton’s campaign organization and Republican political operatives such as Colin Powell.  Of course those emails were ultimately leaked to the press via Wikileaks and other similar websites.

It is not surprising that word was recently leaked to the press that the CIA had determined through multiple sources that Russia had attempted to interfere with Presidential election with the aim of helping Trump win.  They have also concluded that the hacking had to be authorized at the highest level of the Russian government – by Vladimir Putin himself. Donald Trump, in his typical fashion has called those reports “ridiculous”.  He is obviously afraid that the CIA’s findings will discredit his legitimacy as the victor of the Presidential election and I believe that those fears are well founded.

Trump won the Electoral College by wining three states by razor thin margins while losing the popular vote by more than 2.8 million ballots.  Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory was larger than those of the last nine presidential elections.  If and when the general public learns definitively that Trump was aided by an unfriendly government run by a former KGB operative, his legitimacy as Presidency will be greatly damaged.

There is also ample evidence that there was continual communication between the Russian government and the Trump organization through out the campaign.  Computer experts looking for hacks into the US election system found that a server located in Trump Towers in NYC was dedicated to exchange human conversations with two servers belonging to Alpha Bank in Moscow.  Alpha is the largest bank in Russia and Alpha officials are known to have very close ties to Putin.  After the election a highly placed Russian government official admitted that his government did communicate with the Trump campaign throughout the election period.

Until now these stories have not been adequately covered by the press, but are now receiving new attention as Congressmen and Senators are calling for a thorough investigation into Russia’s blatant attempts to influence our Presidential election. With the Republicans firmly in control of both the House and the Senate, and able to dictate the agendas of Congress’ various committees, it is important to note that the calls for investigations aren’t only coming from Democrats.  Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both important Republican voices in the Senate have stated that there must be impartial investigations of Russia’s actions. Both Senators have called the Russian meddling into our election system “an act of war”.  Breaking with the Trump camp, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is apparently also very concerned.  He was quoted as saying, “The Russians are not our friends. Any foreign breach of our cyber security measures is disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts.  This simply cannot be a partisan issue.”

With McConnell on board, Congressional investigations into the Russian interference in our election are inevitable.  Most Republicans totally distrust the Putin and the investigations will serve their purposes by warning Trump he shouldn’t get too chummy with the Russian President in the future.  In addition, President Obama has demanded a thorough interagency report on the Russian actions be delivered to his desk before he leaves office. To the extent possible, I believe that the President will declassify that report so that the American people can be told exactly what occurred.  By comparison, Trump’s assertions that the hacker might have been a 400 lb. man lying on his bed e will look completely silly.

So as the Trump administration assumes office, and before it can conduct the first piece of business with the Russians, it will be haunted by the revelations that Donald Trump owes his presence in the White House, at least in part, to an unfriendly foreign power which has acted consistently to undermine our country’s interests.  It is under that shadow which Trump’s State Department must deal with its Russian contemporizes.  In addition another shadow will be cast over US/Russian relations by Trump’s past relations with important Russian businessmen with close ties to Putin.

While the Trump transition team claims that Trump has no financial ties with Russians, there is ample evidence to the contrary.  Aras Agalarov, a Moscow billionaire, who served as a liaison between Trump and the Putin when Trump brought his Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow in 2013, has publicly stated that he and Trump signed an agreement to build a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow.  Trump’s son, Eric, told Russian journalists that “the best property buyers are now Russian” while his son, Donald Jr, has been quoted as saying “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”.

It also doesn’t appear to be coincidental that General Michael Flynn, named by Trump to be his National Security Adviser, as well as Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, and Carter Page, former Trump foreign adviser all have close ties to Moscow.  In addition Trump has just named ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, as his nominee for Secretary of State.  Tillerson is known for his close friendship with Putin.

While Trump seems to be concentrating on his business interests in Russia, evidently he doesn’t realize and/or doesn’t care that Vladimir Putin’s interests are centered on remaining in power.  Putin has been able to stay very popular in Russia despite the fact that low oil prices and world sanctions which resulted from Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimea pushed Russia into a serious recession in 2015 which deepened this year. Putin’s has maintained his popularity by catering to his population’s desire to return Russia to the status of a great world power which it enjoyed under the Czars and the USSR.  To many Russians this means returning the Russia to a position of dominance over the 15 former Soviet Republics in Eastern Europe which is now independent countries.  Many of those countries are now members of NATO and the US is obliged by treaty to defend them in the case of a military attack. This puts Russia in direct conflict with the interests of the US and its European allies.

Early on, both the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to improve our relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  In both cases Putin ultimately rewarded their efforts with treachery as he sought to increase Russia dominance and influence over Eastern European countries which were formally members of the USSR. Late in the Bush administration Russian armies invaded Georgia and, after a 5 day war, annexed two provinces in northern Georgia with majority ethnic Russian populations. More recently Putin responded to the Obama administrations efforts to “reset’ relations with Russia by annexing the Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and sending his army into eastern Ukraine to aid the military efforts of separatists forces against the Ukrainian army.

Trump has done more than trying to play nice with Russia.  Former Rep. Jack Kingston, (R-Ga), a Trump surrogate, is in Russia as I write this conferencing with American businessmen who very much want our sanctions on Russia removed because they are eating into their profits.  Kingston seems to be echoing the statement which Trump made during the campaign that he might be agreeable to removing the sanctions which our country and our allies placed on Russia for annexing the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. According to a NPR article, Kinston told an NPR reporter in Moscow, “Trump can look at sanctions. They’ve been in place long enough.  Has the desired result been reached?  He doesn’t have to abide by the Obama foreign policy. That gives him a fresh start.” (Note that this view prevails in the Trump camp despite the fact that Putin shows absolutely no intention returning Crimea to the Ukrainian government.)

However, none of this is happening in a vacuum.  The election is over, there is no longer any need by the press to maintain the false equivalency with a Democratic candidate.  All of the press’ attention will be focused on Trumps actions and the reasons behind those actions.  Look for investigative reporters to focus on exposing business ties in Russia and establishing whether a quid pro quo relationship exist between Trump’s moves to assist Putin by actions like eliminating  Russians sanctions in response for Putin’s assistance in getting him elected. If you think Trump’s relationship with the press is bad now, wait until the press focuses its substantial resources on his dealing with Russia and serious questions will be raised whether Trump’s motives conflict with the best interests of the American people.

In addition, Trump will not have the luxury of claiming that this press attention is solely a partisan effort.  It is primarily the Republicans in Congress, not the Democrats, who have been most concerned about Putin’s aggressive actions. This is why they are joining their Democrats colleagues in calling for Congressional investigations into the Russian hackings.  Hard line Congressional Republicans are not going to be happy with any attempt by Trump to get in bed with Putin’s Russia and they will not be shy about expressing their feelings and doing whatever they can to keep it from happening.  This could well cause a split between Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration on other contentious issues as well.  In addition, the expressed objections of other Republicans will blunt any attempt by the Trump administration to label the press’ investigation of Trump’s actions as a partisan witch hunt.

However, the most dangerous aspect Trump/Putin bromance may take some time to develop.  It is obviously in Putin’s best interests to continue to pursue his goal of returning Russia to what he believes is its rightful place as world super power.  This is not only his personal mindset, but as noted earlier; it is also the key maintaining his political power in Russia. Trump’s overtures to Putin coupled with statements that he may not be willing to live up to this country’s NATO commitments could be interpreted by Putin as an invitation to continue his military aggression in Eastern Europe.  If Putin were to again stir up separatists the Ukraine, or even more blatantly sends his tanks across a NATO country border, how would Trump react?

I think that we have learned that Trump has no real interest in keeping abreast of world affairs to the extent that former Presidents have in order to be knowledgeable enough to handle any future crisis. Witness his claim that he doesn’t need daily intelligence briefings. This is a man who naively believes the can wing his way through any situation.  In the event of a crisis, he will be totally dependent on his advisors and he will not have the background knowledge to ask the questions which allow him to master the important details of a dangerous situation quickly. In a crisis his advisors will not be uniform in their recommendations.  Without a firm background he will have a difficult time determining what advice to accept and which to reject.

Regardless the situation, we have learned not to expect Trump to be calm and measured in his response to a crisis.  He is no Barack Obama.  So will he back off in deference to his pal Putin and leave it to the Europeans to try to defend Eastern Europe’s integrity? Or will he over respond and start a regional war.  What is scary is that we don’t have a clue how he will respond.  And it is clear that he doesn’t know either.  This man who won’t sit still for regular intelligence briefing and who says he knows more than the generals has proven that he has no desire to be learn and prepare for such an eventuality.  As usual Trump will again try “to wing it” and we have seen in the past how well that works. Sooner or later the American People we see through the con façade and have clear view of the fraud which they have elected to be leader of the free world. Let’s hope that by that time it’s not too late for our county.

Cajun     12/15/2016

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