The First Russian President of the United States
Reviewed in Canada on 14 August 2018
Malcolm Nance is an American intelligence and national security expert. “The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies are Undermining America and Dismantling the West” is one of four books that have been released recently, that explore exactly how Russia elected 72-year-old Trump. This plot was first uncovered in the top-secret dossier compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, that was revealed on BuzzFeed (“These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties to Russia”).
The other three books are Seth Hettena’s “Trump/ Russia”; Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump”; and Luke Harding’s “Collusion”.
They are all worth reading, since the extent of the plot is mind-boggling. Each of these books takes a somewhat different angle.
Harding’s offers portraits of several key players:
Carter Page (“I Think He’s An Idiot”), Michael Flynn (“General Misha”), Paul Manafort (“He Does B-stards”), Aras Agalarov (“Collusion”), and Dmitry Rybolovlev (“From Russia with Cash”).
Isikoff and Corn’s offers further details:
Aras Agalarov: “A native Azerbaijani, Aras Agalarov was known as ‘Putin’s Builder,’ He had accumulated a billion-dollar plus real estate fortune in part by catering, like Trump, to the super-wealthy. The construction of soccer stadiums for the World Cup in Russia and the building of a superhighway around Moscow had earned Agalarov Putin’s gratitude. Later in 2013, Putin would pin a medal on Agalarov’s lapel, ‘Order of Honor of the Russian Federation.’”
Oleg Deripaska: “During their meetings, the Russian minister kept asking Clinton to intervene on behalf of a billionaire Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, who had been periodically blocked from entering the United States because U.S. officials suspected he was tied to organized crime in Russia… It wouldn’t be until years later that the public would learn that one of Deripaska’s U.S. business partners was a controversial American lobbyist and political consultant named Paul Manafort.”
Yury Kovalchuk: “The Kremlin was divided, a source told the U.S. official. There were relative moderates, led by Lavrov and Peskov, who urged caution, but they were being outgunned by a clique of hardliners. This group included Yury Kovalchuk, a billionaire owner of Rossiya bank, who was a friend of the president from St. Petersburg and known as ‘Putin’s banker,’… There was more disturbing intelligence from this Russian official. Putin and his inner circle had nothing but utter contempt for Obama and his administration – much of it cast in racist terms. In Putin’s presence, Obama would be called a ‘monkey’, and it was not uncommon for the American president to be referred to as the N-word.”
Hettena’s book shines a light particularly on Trump’s and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s links with the Russian Mafiya based in Brighton Beach, New York. This angle is interesting due to the raid on Cohen by the FBI, and the revelation that he received $500,000 from the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
It’s critical to understand that Vladimir Putin is himself the top dog among oligarchs. Although Jeff Bezos is now at the top of Forbes’ list of billionaires, in fact Putin is now the richest person on Earth, with a fortune estimated at $200 billion (How Rich is Vladimir Putin?, CNN, March 14, 2018). So he has the means to get what he wants.
“The plot to hack America, given the FBI code name Operation GRIZZLEY STEPPE, was executed early in the summer of 2015. Russian Military Intelligence hackers executed a long-term plan to penetrate the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The Russian GRU used the lax security of the Americans, which allowed their spies to gain access to the servers. The Russian army spies ran rampant for as long as 7 to 10 months before they were detected. They copied what they wanted and left no part of the DNC untouched…
Yet while the GRU was successful in owning the DNC, a very specific attack was carried out by another spy entity known as APT-28 and nicknamed FANCY BEAR. This malware belonged to the cyber spies of the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, the heir to the KGB… The Republicans had 17 candidates and the Democrats had folders on each, but the FSB stole the folder for one specific person: Donald J. Trump…
As early as July 27, 2016, Trump appealed to Moscow to hack and release even more emails. Trump said, ‘By the way, if they hacked, they probably have 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have Hillary’s 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted… Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.’
Trump was suspected to be a Russian asset much earlier than his ‘Russia, if you’re listening’ speech. One person with doubts was John Brennan, the Director of the CIA. Early in 2016 he sent out feelers to intelligence agencies around the world for information. Soon, three allied foreign intelligence agencies would bring him and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper unambiguous intelligence that Russia was going in strong to win the election for Donald Trump...
The NRA-Russian money cat would be out of the bag on January 18, 2018 when McClatchy news reported that the FBI was investigating Russian money ties to the NRA for the Trump campaign. The NRA had funneled what was known to be $30 million to the Trump campaign but whispers that this number could be as high as $70 million, including contributions from Russian oligarchs, pro-Moscow businessmen, and the Kremlin itself…
Campaign finance reports show numerous Russian donors to Trump and the Republicans including Len Blavatnik, a dual US/UK citizen who was one of the top donors in the 2016 campaign, and is considered the wealthiest man in the UK - net worth $20 billion… (cf. ‘Read The Full Russia Oligarch List released by the US Treasury’ on CNBC).
Advertisements, tweets and Facebook posts from the Russian Internet Research Agency were seen by as many as 150,000,000 Americans during the 2016 election…
When the votes were finally tallied, Trump won three critical Electoral College-filled states by flipping just 77,000 former Obama voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin…
The personal and financial debt owed by Trump on November 9, 2016, was not a mere humble obligation to return a polite courtesy to the Russian leader and his allies who kept the faith. No, the election was fixed to benefit him personally. Russia set up for four years to put Trump in the position to win by the smallest of margins. They expended large quantities of illegal, covertly appropriated money; they used a large part of its clandestine and covert intelligence services and the power and goodwill of Putin himself. Donald J. Trump was now a debtor. He owed Moscow, who bought for him Cambridge Analytica, Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, the evangelicals, and even more money from the NRA than all before him. He is the first American populist president and it is all owed to Moscow. It is a debt in the manner of a drug dealer who owes millions to a Colombian drug lord or Mafia chief…”
Trump’s mission is now twofold: Make Putin’s oligarchs and himself even richer; and Make Russia Great Again.
“Trump’s usefulness to Moscow was critical to their goal of breaking links between America and its traditional allies… In less than a few months, Trump had done more damage to America’s political world order than any event since World War II (cf. the Gallup international poll ‘World’s Approval of U.S. Leadership Drops to New Low’, January 2018). Divide and conquer.
Although money – billions and billions of dollars - is clearly the main motive for both Putin’s oligarchs and for Trump, Orthodox and evangelical “Strict Father” morality is the public face they are putting on their alliance, which explains how billionaires have been able to sell their agenda to credulous pawns in search of a “strong leader."
Nance writes that “The Russian Orthodox Church was key to Putin’s success… After almost a century of murder and repression, Putin knew the powerful draw of God in the post-Soviet world. He portrays himself as a man of God quite publicly, often praying in front of television cameras…
In his article “Understanding Trump” George Lakoff points out that both Trump and Putin play the role of “Strict Father” to their followers, appealing to the ultimate “Strict Father”, God:
“In the Strict Father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right. When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. What if his children don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. The poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it…
The Strict Father logic extends further. The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the Strict Father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated SHOULD dominate. The hierarchy is: God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak), the Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, America above other countries. The hierarchy extends to Men above women, Whites above nonwhites, Christians above nonChristians, Straights above gays.”
In their election of Trump, Putin, Aras Agalarov, Len Blavatnik, Oleg Deripaska, Yury Kovalchuk, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Viktor Vekselberg and other Russian oligarchs have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. But they did not elect Trump on their own, they merely put him over the top by reinforcing xenophobic Strict Father values that were already latent in a large proportion of the American population.
In his article “Trump and the Xenophobic Populist Parties”, as well as in his new book Cultural Evolution, Ronald Inglehart, head of the World Values Survey, traces the rise of these xenophobic values first in Russia, and now unfortunately also in the United States and in Europe.
Nance sums it up:
“On November 8, 2016, Vladimir Putin became the first Russian President of the United States. What could arguably be called the greatest intelligence operation in the history of the world had been executed and the result was the candidate Moscow had supported had won.”
What happens next is anybody’s guess!
10 people found this helpful