A few months ago, I got an anonymous letter in the mail from someone, I’m presuming, who was responding to one of my letters to the editor, probably one that had supported Hillary. What it said was: “Go back to Russia, you Commie.”
Russia? Really now, Russia?
I might point out to my clandestine critic that Russia isn’t Communist anymore, hasn’t been, actually, for a long time. I might also point out that I have never recommended either Stalin’s or Putin’s Russia to anyone. Since I am an advocate of civil liberties, universal health care, free college education, renewable energy, environmental responsibility, social justice, feminism, pacifism, and all such similar things, perhaps I might better suffer the consequences of my wayward ways by being exiled to Sweden?
That would show me!
I might make more fun of my clandestine critic’s ignorance, but I prefer to wallow in the irony of being condemned to exile in Russia now that Trump has been elected president. It increasingly seems I don’t need to travel to Russia to find out what it is like to be governed by Vladimir Putin; I can stay right here.
The American intelligence community recently released a report claiming high confidence that Putin intervened in our last election, trying to take it from Hillary and give it to Trump. The word is, Putin might have “kompromat” on Trump. (“Kompromat might be translated as blackmail, but inadequately so. The Russians have made blackmail into an art form, routinely carried out on prominent people like Trump whenever they visit Russia.) Our intelligence community also thinks Putin was paying Hillary back for condemning him for stuffing ballot boxes to win an election in Russia, invading the Ukraine, murdering journalists for exposing his lies, and jailing dissidents by the thousands.
According to a former British Intelligence agent, the kompromat Putin might have on Trump ranges from sex tapes, to Russian mob loans, to proof Trump and his aides were not just benefiting from Russian intervention during the election but actively collaborating with Russian intelligence. This report was described as “unsubstantiated” when it first came out, even though the British agent was well respected by his peers, but now American intelligence agencies have corroborated at least some of his claims.
However, Putin might not need this kompromat on Trump. He might have something much better. Instead of “kompromating” him, he might have made it into Trump’s self-interest to make Russia great again by giving him a big piece of the Russian economy.
According to the former British Intelligence agent’s sources in Russia, Putin offered Trump a fifth of the mostly state-owned Russian oil company, Rosneft if he won and lifted the sanctions the Obama Administration had imposed for invading the Ukraine. By coincidence, about a fifth of Rosneft was sold back in December, after the election. The new owner of the stock is a Cayman Island firm. Of course, in all fairness to Trump, Cayman Island firms, being what they are, there is no way of knowing who actually owns it.
So, it could be just a coincidence that a Russian source said that Putin promised Trump he would get a fifth of Rosneft if he won the election and did as Putin asked, and then after the election, when Trump did indeed win, a fifth of Rosneft is promptly sold and traded through a secret Cayman account. These things happen all the time in Russia, and the press there never bothers to investigate. Why should ours?
Trump has not released his income tax returns, and so we don’t know what his financial ties to Russia are, but years ago his son was quoted saying that their money was increasingly coming from Russia. Aside from Deutsche Bank, a financially troubled bank based in Germany which has loaned Trump $360 million, few banks are willing to deal with Trump after all his bankruptcies. Despite being based in Germany, it should be noted, Deutsche Bank has longstanding ties to Russia and, more recently, the Russian mob, which pretty much is just Putin and his band of oligarchs.
If we saw Trump’s tax returns, we might have some idea of just how beholden Trump was to Putin, but the fact that we haven’t yet, says there is something incredibly toxic in them. Until we see them, we have every reason to wonder if Putin owns Trump, lock, stock, and ego. Unfortunately, the people who might be able to clear this up are either dying at an unusually tragic rate or disappearing into Putin’s prison system.
But if we step back and look at the big picture, we don’t need to resort to speculation about what’s going on in Cayman Island bank accounts. The proof that Putin owns Trump is out in the open if you just pay attention to the obvious. Look, for example, at how eager Trump is to do Putin’s every bidding—supporting Assad in Syria, undermining NATO, unraveling the European Union, allowing Russia to expand its sphere influence into eastern Europe, and supporting authoritarian nationalism around the world. When Obama slapped sanctions on Russia for interfering in our election, and Putin, contrary to expectations, did not retaliate in kind, Trump praised Putin for being “smart.” Trump has so far threatened to invade Mexico, hung up on the leader of Austrailia, and roared like a rabid lion at every Muslim country in the world, but with Putin, he is like a puppy dog licking the hand of his master.
During the Watergate scandal, Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s source, famously told them to “follow the money.” Good advice, but perhaps, with Trump, it would be better to follow our noses, tracking the stench of money to its source, crude oil. (Which, by the way, might also explain why Trump is so insistent about denying the climate crisis, calling global warming a hoax created by the Chinese to weaken our economy.) The thing that reeks the most is the appointment of Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, to be Secretary of State.
After the Ukrainian people had overthrown a very corrupt government that Putin controlled, Putin invaded the Ukraine to take back his influence. Alarmed at Putin’s expansionism, the Obama administration imposed severe sanctions on Russia for interfering in the Ukraine, stopping a half trillion dollar deal Exxon was negotiating with Russia, which was perhaps the largest in human history, to develop Russia’s oilfields above the Arctic circle.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian economy collapsed with it, never fully recovering, and the only thing it had going for it was money from oil and gas. Russia’s economy is so dependent on oil now, John McCain has described it as a filling station masquerading as a country. So Putin needed the Exxon deal to make Russia great again, and he might do anything to get it, including buying a U.S. president.
For half a century, the U.S. and Russia fought a Cold War, our two nations repeatedly risking nuclear war, the destruction of the ecosystem, and the collapse of civilization. Throughout that whole era, claiming to be the champions of national security, the right in America relentlessly demonized everything Soviet, launching unsubstantiated paranoid witch hunts against anyone who might truck with the enemy. And so it amazes me that Republicans would be willing to turn a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence that Putin, a former KGB agent, has intervened in our political process, and very possibly installed a president who is under his control.
Just what is it with Republicans? Where is their fear of Russian infiltration into our political process when our own intelligence agencies confidently say it actually happened?