Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20, 2017--From Russia With Malice

The one and likely only good thing that Donald Trump as the new president seemed to have had a chance of contributing to stability in the world--an improved relationship with Russia, actually with Vladimir Putin--may no longer be much of a possibility.

Trump alluded to this during Thursday's hallucinatory press conference, saying maybe he won't be able to "get along" with Putin. Of course blaming the changing situation to attacks by the media and the torrent of leaks that have began to detail the many contacts between members of his team and the Russians, possible even intelligence operatives. Carryings-on Putin will want to be able to plausibly deny.

During the campaign a budding bromance seemed to be developing between Trump and Putin. This was widely mocked in progressive circles as naive on Trump's part, that Putin was not only president of an increasingly belligerent Russia but also a thug and murderer. Trump, though, shrugged this off, saying admiring things about Putin (how "strong" and "smart" he is) and telling Bill O'Reilly that we Americans are not so "innocent"--we also kill people, including heads of state.

Trump brushed this aside, claiming, in my view correctly, that it is in our best interest to have working relationships with all foreign leaders, even unhinged tyrants such as Kim Jong-un of North Korea, who he said during the campaign, he would be willing to talk with, meet with if there was the possibility of making advantageous deals to ratchet back their nuclear capabilities.

But now, because of the unravelling of the Trump administration and perhaps Trump himself, on embarrassing public view during the 77-minute press conference, the Russians appear to be backing away from working with him. This may have been accelerated by Trump's off-hand comment about how popular it would make him if he "shot that [Russian spy] ship right out of the water."

Welcome to World War III.

Hopefully Putin doesn't seem ready for that. He has his own $100 billion fortune to protect.

So ex-KGB agent Putin is not taking too kindly to the evolving revelations about the working connections between representatives of his government and members of the Trump team, including Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, both of whom have had lucrative relationships with Russia, including with Putin, who likely played them, softening them up for future use as the Trump insurgency built momentum.

As evidence of this cooling bromance, the Times noted late last week that the Russian news channel, Rossiya 24, which had General Flynn on its payroll, "halted its usually glowing coverage of the American president in an apparent sign of displeasure by the Kremlin." Read, by Putin.

Putin certainly knows all about the Russian collaboration with Trump staff that intensified during the run up to Trump's nomination and the likely coordination between Flynn and Manafort among others and the Russian hackers who helped bring down Hillary Clinton's campaign. One does not have to be conspiratorial-minded to connect these dots. Nothing of this magnitude would have been possible without Putin's full knowledge and sign-off.

And, is it too much of a stretch to assume the same thing is true about Trump, who reportedly was obsessed and directly involved with even the smallest details of his campaign, including the signage?

Further, though it seems like years ago, there is that 35-page dossier which was released just a month ago by BuzzFeed that includes compromising material about Trump's peccadilloes while in Moscow for the 2015 Mss Universe Pageant.

And let us not forget--though it has been barely reported--what Donald Junior had to say back in 2008, nine years ago, about the Trump Organization's financial deals with Russia.

Finally reported by the Washington Post last July at a real estate conference in New York, Don Jr. revealed that "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. . . . We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

He may be referring to Russian billionaire oligarchs buying 9-figure penthouses in various Trump towers with laundered cash, but then again, without Trump's tax records, who knows.

Once more using Occam's Razor to connect the dots in an effort to come up with the simplest and best explanation for seemingly disparate and contradictory events, one sees an increasingly compromised and perhaps cornered President Trump, now untethered by Putin who is watching the shredding of the Trump presidency and perhaps elements of American democracy. Also, with the goods on Trump's people and perhaps Trump himself, Putin does not have to do very much to have his way with us or extend his imperial reach beyond Russia's borders in the Middle East and Central Europe.

On the other hand, when desperate people feel cornered, they are often at their most dangerous.

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