Trump administration U.S. – Russia relations 2019

Written by  //  September 23, 2020  //  Russia, U.S.  //  1 Comment

Trump administration U.S. – Russia relations 2017-18
Jamestown Foundation: Eurasia Daily Monitor
Russia Picked Donald Trump and Ran Him for President,
Former Israeli Intelligence Officer Says
(27 December 2018)

22-23 September
CIA clamps down on flow of Russia intelligence to White House
Critics of the shift in approach say it seems designed to appease the president.
The heightened scrutiny within the CIA comes as the Justice Department, through prosecutor John Durham, continues to investigate the intelligence community’s findings about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — and particularly the conclusion drawn by Russia analysts that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered specifically to boost Trump’s candidacy rather than just sow chaos.
Trump, who has publicly railed against the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in 2016 to bolster his candidacy, has also been working to bring the intelligence community further under his control since his impeachment acquittal in February. He has installed loyalists in top positions like director of national intelligence and the senior-most intelligence post on the NSC staff.
Heather Cox Richardson: Letters from an American
“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November.”
Thus reads the first line of a top-secret CIA assessment, published on August 31 but reported today. The report details how Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Treasury Department is a Russian agent, is disseminating false stories about Democratic nominee Joe Biden through congressmembers, lobbyists, the media, and people close to the president. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been openly working with Derkach for several months.
Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden
(WaPo) Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.
On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in the November election in an internal, highly classified report called the CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review, the sources said.
… The CIA assessment described Derkach’s efforts in detail and said that his activities have included working through lobbyists, members of Congress and U.S. media organizations to disseminate and amplify his anti-Biden information.

7 August
Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Try to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says
But a new assessment says China would prefer to see the president defeated, though it is not clear Beijing is doing much to meddle in the 2020 campaign to help Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials said Friday in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help President Trump. … The assessment, included in a statement released by William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, suggested the intelligence community was treading carefully, reflecting the political heat generated by previous findings.

12 July
I Was a Counterterrorism Chief. Trump Knew What Russia Was Doing.
Neglecting aggression by Vladimir Putin inevitably invites more of it.
Mr. Trump took no action against Moscow. He could have signaled discontent with Russia diplomatically, economically or through back-channel intelligence conduits. Instead, to make matters worse, he pressured the U.S. intelligence community to invest time and resources in potential counterterrorist cooperation. It backfired: Russia was not forthcoming and sought to manipulate the engagement to influence policymakers and target Russian dissidents.
As any observer of Russia knows, neglecting aggression inevitably invites more of it — to expand Russian influence and power at American expense. For examples, look at Ukraine, Syria and increasingly Libya, Africa and even Europe.
In Afghanistan, the aggression apparently took the form of more audacious Russian behavior like bounties.

2 July
Putin still plays by the ruthless rules of the Cold War. Because Trump lets him.
By Tim Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has written histories of the FBI and the CIA, is the author of the forthcoming “The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare, 1945-2020.
Active measures’ like spying, hacking and, yes, proxy armies, are a feature of the Russian president’s grand strategy to weaken the U.S.
(WaPo) Vladimir Putin clearly swears by a maxim attributed to Lenin: “Probe with bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw,” writes Tim Weiner. He has met his enemy and encountered mush, and so he strives to advance his authoritarian agenda throughout the world, in every nation where President Trump no longer cares to defend American interests — including, ultimately, America.
The bounty program, according to the New York Times, the first to report on it, was run by Unit 29155, one of Putin’s favorite political-warfare weapons, a team inside the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service. Its members have included Afghan war veterans. It has tried to assassinate Putin’s enemies abroad, notably executing a nerve-agent attack on a GRU defector in Britain. Another GRU team ran the 2016 election hack designed to put Trump in the White House. Two years before, in a brazen assault on Ukraine, the GRU’s cyberattacks allowed Putin to annex the Crimean Peninsula without firing a shot. As you read this, the GRU and its sister intelligence services in Russia are seeking ways to disrupt the 2020 election, to pour salt into the wounds of American society, to deepen our divisions, all in the hope that the United States might come apart.

1 July
Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy
High-level clearance is not required to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War.
The intelligence finding that Russia was most likely paying a bounty for the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan has evoked a strange silence from President Trump and his top national security officials. He insists he never saw the intelligence, though it was part of the President’s Daily Brief just days before a peace deal was signed with the Taliban in February. The White House says it was not even appropriate for him to be briefed because the president only sees “verified” intelligence — prompting derision from officials who have spent years working on the daily brief and say it is most valuable when filled with dissenting interpretations and alternative explanations.
… There have been new cyberattacks on Americans working from home to exploit vulnerabilities in their corporate systems and continued concern about new playbooks for Russian actors seeking to influence the November election. Off the coast of Alaska, Russian jets have been testing American air defenses, sending U.S. warplanes scrambling to intercept them.
It is all part of what Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Monday was “the latest in a series of escalations from Putin’s regime.”
Yet missing from all this is a strategy for pushing back — old-fashioned deterrence, to pluck a phrase from the depths of the Cold War — that could be employed from Afghanistan to Ukraine, from the deserts of Libya to the vulnerable voter registration rolls in battleground states.
Pentagon report says Russia working with the Taliban and others to expedite US withdrawal from Afghanistan
(CNN) Russia has been actively working with the Taliban and other groups inside Afghanistan in order to expedite the withdrawal of US troops from that country, according to a congressionally mandated Pentagon report released Wednesday.
While the US military has long accused Moscow of maintaining links to the Taliban, the latest Pentagon assessment comes amid ongoing scrutiny about the Trump administration’s response to intelligence indicating that Russian operatives had offered bounties to Taliban linked militants for killing US and UK service members in Afghanistan.
“As of February, the Russian government was working with the central government, regional countries, and the Taliban to gain increased influence in Afghanistan, expedite a U.S. military withdrawal, and address security challenges that might arise from a withdrawal,” the report said, which covers the period of December 2019 to May 2020.

25-30 June
Susan Rice: Why Does Trump Put Russia First?
It’s exceedingly difficult to believe that no one told the president about the intelligence on Russian efforts to harm Americans in Afghanistan.
Trump says no ‘credible’ intel Russia offered Taliban bounty payments to kill Americans
(NBC) In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a senior figure inside the Kremlin, denied Russian intelligence officers had offered these bounties.
“You know, maybe I can say it’s a little bit rude but this is 100 percent bulls—,” Peskov said when asked about the U.S. intelligence. “It’s an undiplomatic thing, but it’s bulls—.”
On whether any officials in the U.S. had raised the subject with their Russian counterparts, Peskov said, “As far as I’m concerned none of the American representatives have ever raised this question” with their Russian counterparts through government or diplomatic channels.
Peskov also said that he was unaware of any conversations between the U.S. and Russian militaries because “they have their own dialogue system” that contained “restricted information.
Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says
The Trump administration has been deliberating for months about what to do about a stunning intelligence assessment.
American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

22 June
What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House
The senior fellow at Brookings and expert on modern Russia had hoped to guide the U.S.-Russia relationship. President Trump had other ideas.
Hill did not realize where her real challenges lay: “I know the intrigue in Russia better than the intrigue at home.”


12 December
Trump’s Ukraine Extortion Scheme Was Financed by Russia
By Jonathan Chait
(New York) … federal prosecutors charged yesterday evening that Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump who represented him in Ukraine, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest. Which is to say, Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.
What did Russia get in return? Quite a bit. Trump attempted to hold up military aid that had been passed by Congress by margins Trump couldn’t block. He has continued to withhold a desperately sought meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky, which the Ukrainian president believed would serve as a signal of American support, and give Ukraine leverage against Russia. Instead, Trump met this week in the White House with Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov, sending the opposite of the signal Ukraine wanted. Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace, tells the New York Times, “The Russians surely arranged the Lavrov visit to capitalize on all of this and to send a message to the Ukrainians that they’re basically on their own now and need to cut the best deal they can since the U.S. backstop is largely inoperative.”
Trump and Pompeo Spoke to Russian Official About U.S. Elections. Did Only One Deliver a Warning?
The visit of Sergey Lavrov to Washington came at a delicate moment in the relationship between President Trump and Russia.
Asked about the recent assertions by Mr. Trump and his allies that Ukraine, a rival neighboring power of Russia, had interfered in 2016, Mr. Lavrov said: “It has nothing to do with us. That is an issue for two sovereign states.”
Officials at American intelligence agencies and Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who recently left Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, have said the idea that Ukraine organized interference in the 2016 election was part of a disinformation campaign started by Russia in early 2017.
…  Mr. Pompeo himself, a stalwart Trump ally, has said in recent weeks that the United States should look into potential interference by Ukraine. But on Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo emphasized an earlier position he had taken, when he was the C.I.A. director: that it was Russia that had run an interference campaign in 2016. “We don’t think there’s any mistake about what really transpired there,” he said.

27 October
Russia: Trump’s Baghdadi Victory Lap Is Nothing But ‘Propaganda’
The Russian Defense Ministry also disputed claims that Russia provided access to U.S. air units entering airspace it controls
(Daily Beast) Kremlin-controlled Russian state media shot down President Trump’s announcement, with headlines that read: “The Russian Defense Ministry does not believe in al-Baghdadi’s liquidation.” Major General Igor Konashenkov scoffed at the changing details of the operation, with Trump adding alleged participants and various countries that supposedly took part in the raid, “each with completely contradictory details,” which Konashenkov said “raises reasonable questions and doubts about [the operation’s] veracity, not to mention success.”
Konashenkov skeptically pointed out that al-Baghdadi was already supposedly “eliminated” multiple times, with such claims being later disproven. In fact, Russia itself, as well as the Assad regime, have falsely claimed to have killed the ISIS leader multiple times.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman further emphasized that even if al-Baghdadi were to be eliminated, that wouldn’t change facts on the ground in Syria or make any difference with respect to the multiple escaped ISIS fighters.

15 October
Trump Is Being Impeached Because He Keeps Doing What Russia Wants
(New York) Trump is facing impeachment over his campaign to withhold diplomatic recognition and military aid from Ukraine while working covertly in an alliance with pro-Russian political actors in that country. Meanwhile, Trump suddenly and impulsively engineered a U-turn in American policy toward Syria to the direct benefit of Russia and its regional proxies.

29 August
US spies say Trump’s G7 performance suggests he’s either a ‘Russian asset’ or a ‘useful idiot’ for Putin
Trump’s attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia’s military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.
(Business Insider) At the summit, Trump aggressively lobbied for Russia to be readmitted into the G7, refused to hold it accountable for violating international law, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
One former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was the FBI director, told Insider Trump’s behavior was “directly out of the Putin playbook. We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.”
A former CIA operative told Insider the evidence is “overwhelming” that Trump is a Russian asset, but another CIA and NSA veteran said it was more likely Trump was currying favor with Putin for future business deals.

2 August
McConnell’s new posture toward Moscow
By Dana Milbank
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the Senate floor Monday, denounced critics (including me) who say his recent blocking of efforts to fortify defenses against another Russian attack on U.S. elections are aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin.
“For decades, I have used my Senate seat to stand up to Russia,” the Kentucky Republican protested.
Unfortunately for McConnell, two days later came a reminder that he has taken a rather different posture toward Russia of late. Indeed, it appears, he has been key to helping Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin skirt U.S. sanctions and invest in an aluminum mill in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.
Citing Senate lobbying disclosures, Politico reported Wednesday that two former McConnell staffers had signed on as lobbyists for the Braidy Industries mill, which is 40 percent owned by Russian aluminum giant Rusal. That company has long been controlled by Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who, the United States alleges, has said “he does not separate himself from the Russian state.” Braidy also hired a PR firm founded by yet another former McConnell aide, the outlet reported Friday.
…McConnell himself had championed the oligarchs’ cause before. After the Trump administration last year exempted Deripaska-related enterprises from sanctions, a bipartisan rebellion attempted to reinstate the sanctions (House Republicans joined Democrats in a 362-to-53 vote), but McConnell led a successful effort in the Senate to thwart the rebellion, which he called a “political stunt.” (In exchange for sanctions relief, Deripaska agreed to reduce his ownership in Rusal’s parent company, but Deripaska could retain de facto control .) Three months later, the Russian aluminum giant announced its $200 million investment in Kentucky. McConnell declared in May that his vote to exempt Deripaska enterprises from sanctions was “completely unrelated.”

6 June
Kremlin Rejects US Suggestions That Russian Military Personnel Are Pulling out of Venezuela
(Eurasia Daily Monitor) Until now, despite Russia’s poor relationship with the US and the abundance of anti-American state propaganda, Russian officialdom has avoided calling Trump names, instead portraying him as the only honorable person in Washington, DC. The executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Sergei Lebedev, recently told a session of the CIS Defense Ministers’ Council, in the Black Sea resort city of Anapa, “Regional and global security order is collapsing because of US and NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] pushing to expand their sphere of influence and domination.” According to Lebedev, there is a distinct threat of war beginning in Venezuela and in the Gulf with Iran (, June 5).

16 May
Putin and Lavrov Rebuff Pompeo’s Overtures in Sochi
(Eurasia Daily Monitor) The US is in a trade war with China and a standoff with Iran, which may escalate into possible military clashes with Iranian or pro-Iranian proxy forces. The Venezuelan crisis may deteriorate into armed violence that could require a US military response. If the Venezuelan and Iranian crises begin to escalate simultaneously, the US and its military would be torn between two conflicts putting strain on Washington’s ability to act decisively. In these circumstances, attempting to make a deal with Russia looks logical: Moscow may terminate its support for Nicolás Maduro in Caracas and also put pressure on Havana to do the same. A swift collapse of the Maduro regime could then theoretically begin a period of democratic reconstruction and recovery of the Venezuelan oil industry, which, in turn, might help balance the global oil market if armed skirmishes break out in the Gulf and disrupt the flow of this strategic energy resource to international customers. In Syria, pro-Iranian proxies may attack US or allied forces, and the reaction of locally deployed Russian forces, or lack thereof, would also be of critical strategic importance. To facilitate a possible US-Russian deal, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo recently went into shuttle diplomacy mode, first meeting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 6, in Finland, and then traveling to Sochi, Russia, on May 14 for more talks with his counterpart. Even more importantly, Pompeo’s visit to Russia’s “southern capital” held hope for direct engagement with Putin to figure out the likelihood of a deal and the possibility of a future Trump-Putin summit (Kommersant, May 13).
Moscow will resist by all means any attempts to oust Maduro or US efforts to strangulate Iran by sanctions or military pressure. Russia will also resist US intentions to drive a “wedge” between Moscow and Beijing on key issues. Indeed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Sochi a day before Pompeo to meet with Putin and Lavrov. Both parties used the occasion to jointly denounce Washington and its policies (Kommersant, May 14). Russia will do its best to humiliate the United States and undermine the latter country’s credibility in order to further strain Western alliances and isolate the US as much as possible. In the future, as Putin has indicated, the time may come for substantive negotiations, when the US is already significantly weakened and after Russia has increased its military power by deploying new superweapons (see EDM, March 8, 15, 2018).

14 May
Pompeo came to Putin seeking to reset U.S. ties. They could only agree that many issues stand in the way.
“There are places that our two countries can find where we can be cooperative, we can be productive, we can be accumulative, we can work together to make each of our two peoples more successful and frankly the world more successful, too,” Pompeo told Putin at the start of their meeting. “President Trump wants to do everything we can.”
On Iran, Venezuela, and Russian interference in U.S. elections, Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced sharp disagreement at a joint news conference. Still, Pompeo’s first trip to Russia as secretary of state represented a remarkable new attempt by the Trump administration to find fresh footing in its most politically treacherous international relationship.
With global tensions rising over Iran — a Russian ally — Lavrov said Russia was prepared to do what it could to avoid “a war scenario.” The United States has warned of an increasing threat from Iran and has dispatched additional forces to the region.
Some commentators and politicians in Moscow have voiced hope that with the end of the Mueller investigation, Trump may be in a better position to make good on his stated desire to improve relations with Russia. But others caution that even if Trump were to have more room to maneuver at home, the interests of the two countries continue to diverge around the world.
“The domestic political atmosphere in the United States might seem to have become more favorable,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a Russian international affairs analyst who has advised the Kremlin. “But in terms of foreign policy, things just keep getting worse.” (Trump orders staff to prepare arms-control push with Russia and China 25 April)

5 May
Putin Is Ready to Give Up Venezuela for the Right Price
Sergei Lavrov and Mike Pompeo will soon meet in Helsinki to discuss Venezuela’s future.
By Vladimir Frolov
(Moscow Times) Last week, Russia and Cuba may have thwarted a U.S. backed plot to engineer a peaceful transfer of power from Nicolas Maduro to a transitional government led by interim president Juan Guaido and Venezuela’s top officials, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno.
On May 3, U.S. President Donald Trump called Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to flag American concerns over Russia’s “disruptive role” in Venezuela and stress his country’s determination to ensure Venezuela’s return to democratic rule.
But, as common in his personal interactions with Putin, Trump quickly lost the initiative, allowing the discussion on Venezuela to drift towards the softer subject of humanitarian aid.
Putin expressed Russia’s displeasure with U.S interference in Venezuela while convincing Trump that he “was not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela”.
…the U.S.-Russia geopolitical stand-off in Venezuela now threatens to derail the few remaining cooperative lanes in the relationship. White House national security advisor John Bolton made it clear on May 1: “This is our hemisphere — it’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering”. Three weeks ago, the same point, in even more forceful terms, was privately made by Fiona Hill, NSC Senior Director for Europe, Russia and Eurasia during her visit to Moscow
The Kremlin was struck by Hill’s prioritization of Venezuela as the most important issue in the relationship due to its direct impact on U.S. politics and the 2020 presidential race in Florida. Moscow concluded then it found an issue it could use to force the U.S. to grant concession elsewhere, most notably in Ukraine.
For Moscow, a deal of equals on Venezuela where Russia helps the U.S. diffuse the crisis by engineering a constitutional transition, should involve an equally significant concession by the U.S. (on a par with JFK-Khrushchev deal to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba and Turkey) to pressure Kiev into fully implementing the Minsk-2 agreements that would truncate Ukraine’s sovereignty and allow Moscow to retain some degree of control over Kiev’s security policies.

Russia Claims Trump Reached Out to Putin for Lengthy Friday Call
By Matt Stieb
(New York) On Sunday, the Russian Embassy stated on Facebook that the hour and a half conversation between the two leaders was initiated by President Trump, who called to discuss “a shared commitment to step up dialogue in various areas, including on issues of strategic ability.” That diplomatic pablum breaks down to a conversation in which foreign-policy expert Donald Trump took the advice of traditional American ally Vladimir Putin on the crises of North Korea and Venezuela.
Assuming the Russian Embassy’s information is true, it now appears that the president is actively seeking out the advice of Putin, preferring the word of the autocrat to that of his own intelligence community and their briefs that he doesn’t read.

21 February
Putin to U.S.: I’m ready for another Cuban Missile-style crisis if you want one
(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is militarily ready for a Cuban Missile-style crisis if the United States wanted one and threatened to place hypersonic nuclear missiles on ships or submarines near U.S. territorial waters.
… tensions are rising again over Russian fears that the United States might deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe, as a landmark Cold War-era arms-control treaty unravels.
Putin’s comments, made to Russian media late on Wednesday, follow his warning that Moscow will match any U.S. move to deploy new missiles closer to Russia by stationing its own missiles closer to the United States or by deploying faster missiles or both.
Putin detailed his warning for the first time, saying Russia could deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines which could lurk outside U.S. territorial waters if Washington now moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
The INF pact bans Russia and the United States from stationing short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe. Washington announced on Feb. 1 it will withdraw from the treaty in six months unless Moscow ends its alleged violations.
Analyst Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association think tank said Putin may be seeking to signal that Russia can keep up with the United States, to distract from its internal problems or to deflect blame for the parlous state of the INF treaty.

The Trump-Russia Investigation and the Mafia State
By Masha Gessen
(The New Yorker) It’s been a strange two and a half years. From the first allegations, in July, 2016, of Russian meddling in the U.S. election campaign to the arrest of President Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone last week, many of us who write about Russia professionally, or who are Russian, have struggled to square what we know with the emerging narrative. In this story, Russia waged a sophisticated and audacious operation to subvert American elections and install a President of its choice—it pulled off a coup. Tell that to your average American liberal, and you’ll get a nod of recognition. Tell it to your average Russian liberal (admittedly a much smaller category), and you’ll get uproarious laughter. Russians know that their state lacks the competence to mount a sophisticated sabotage effort, that the Kremlin was even more surprised by Trump’s election than was the candidate himself, and that Russian-American relations are at their most dysfunctional since the height of the Cold War. And yet the indictments keep coming.
I’ve figured out how to think about what we know and not go crazy. The answer lies in the concept of the Mafia state. … What we are observing is not most accurately described as the subversion of American democracy by a hostile power. Instead, it is an attempt at state capture by an international crime syndicate. What unites Yanukovych, Veselnitskaya, Manafort, Stone, WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange, the Russian troll factory, the Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos and his partners in crime, the “Professor” (whose academic credentials are in doubt), and the “Female Russian National” (who appears to have fraudulently presented herself as Putin’s niece) is that they are all crooks and frauds. This is not a moral assessment, or an attempt to downplay their importance. It is an attempt to stop talking in terms of states and geopolitics and begin looking at Mafias and profits.
The Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar, who created the concept of the “post-Communist mafia state,” has just finished editing a new collection of articles called “Stubborn Structures: Reconceptualizing Post-Communist Regimes”. In one of his own pieces in the collection, using Russia as an example, Magyar describes the Mafia state as one run by a “patron” and his “court”—put another way, the boss and his clan—who appropriate public resources and the institutions of the state for their private use and profit. … he told me that Trump is “like a Mafia boss without a Mafia. Trump cannot transform the United States into a Mafia state, of course, but he still acts like a Mafia boss.” Putin, on the other hand, “is a Mafia boss with a real Mafia, which has turned the whole state into a criminal state.” Still, he said, “the behavior at the top is the same.”
Most of what Trump has given the Russian state has come through inaction: he has barely reacted to continued Russian aggression in Ukraine; he has failed to support NATO; and he has said that the U.S. will withdraw from Syria, although it looks like the withdrawal is unlikely to be fast or total. At the same time, diplomatic relations between Russia and the U.S. have deteriorated to the point of near-total dysfunction, and, despite considerable foot-dragging by the White House, the U.S. has continued to impose new sanctions on Russia.
By the metrics of a Mafia state, though, the Trump Presidency has yielded great results for Russia. A Mafia boss craves respect, loyalty, and perceived power. Trump’s deference to Putin and the widespread public perception of Putin’s influence over Trump have lifted Putin’s stature beyond what I suspect could have been his wildest dreams. (31 January 2019)

27 January
Treasury Dept. Lifts Sanctions on Russian Oligarch’s Companies
(NYT) The Treasury Department had announced the sanctions against Mr. Deripaska, six other oligarchs and their companies in April as retaliation for Russia’s “malign activity” around the world.
Most of the sanctions went into effect, including against Mr. Deripaska personally. But their implementation was repeatedly delayed against Mr. Deripaska’s giant aluminum company, Rusal, as well as two linked firms, including EN+, the holding company that owned much of Rusal. The companies financed a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign arguing that the sanctions would disrupt the aluminum market and damage companies in the United States and allied countries.

15 January
Republicans Break Ranks Over Move to Lift Sanctions on Russian Oligarch’s Firms

One Comment on "Trump administration U.S. – Russia relations 2019"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson July 4, 2020 at 12:45 pm · Reply

    On Syria, I guess one could say that Russia “was handed Syria” by US distancing from the problem. But Russia’s main motivation – and significant contribution, frankly – was to stop the caliphate from taking over Syria (and providing them disastrously with an actual state) by providing close air to ground tactical support for depleted Syrian and Hezbollah fighters, that turned the tide against ISIS. It has indeed enhanced Russian stature in the area, but the Russian public overall does not seem very enthused about what is viewed as an expensive over-extension. So, Russia’s a bit like the dog who caught the bus. They really don’t know what to do about the Syria they’ve caught and its leader for whom they have zero affection. I suspect that for all the anti-US static coming out of Russia, what they really want is a US counterpart/rival they can respect, that respects them and thereby awards the world-class status they miss. JK

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