“What’s next?” That question will be answered, at least in speculative terms, at the end of this blog. But first, it is important to examine in some detail the series of events that lead to the begging of this query. Note that no attempt has been made to put these events in chronological order. What is crucial is the recognition that all of them have taken place since Trump became the GOP’s nominee for president.
Retreat, accommodation and weakness
In June 2016, just before the Republican national convention, Paul Manafort took over as head of Trump’s campaign. At the time, little attention was being paid to the new honcho’s questionable history of work in the Ukraine for the corrupt then-pro-Russian government that was in place.
Trump accepts the nomination but only thereafter do we learn that the GOP’s election platform had been stripped of a commitment to arm the pro-Western/anti-Communist forces in the Ukraine. This must be seen as a consequential pro-Russia shift since it had troops fighting in eastern Ukraine against the new, democratically elected government of its neighboring country. Where did this retreat come from; a Manafort-Trump connection?
Trump now proceeds to campaign for election. In the process, he repeatedly heaps lavish, fawning praise on Russian president Vladimir Putin. The former’s history of murder, and tyranny against his own people seem lost on the nominee.
Trump’s election on November 9, 2016 is followed about two months’ later on January 6, 2017, by a report from our Intel community detailing how Russia, with a heavy controlling hand by Putin, meddled in our election with the intent of helping Trump win office. How does the new president react to this information and how does he move forward viz a viz Russia and Putin?
Our first inkling comes when we learn that in an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats Lavrov and Kislyak, 45 impulsively blurts out an Israeli state secret. This is followed up by his travel to Germany for the G-20 conference where he goes one-on-one with Putin.
In a two-hour talk with the Russian ruler, 45 refuses to aggressively confront his counterpart with the Intel community’s findings. Rather than taking an “How dare you” stance, Trump meekly asks “Did you do it?” Not only did this signal weakness; it implicitly reflected Trump’s still ongoing unwillingness to accept what our intelligence people had discovered. In turn, that fed a counter-narrative making the rounds among 45’s most rabid supporters that agencies of our government cannot be trusted.
Before the G-20 meeting ended, Trump held at least one other intimate conversation with Putin. Estimates are that this confab lasted for about an hour. 45 claims less. Initially, he writes off this tete-a-tete as about nothing but “pleasantries” only to end by saying that it was about “adoptions “. Innocent as this may sound, it needs to be understood that Putin ended American citizens’ adoption of Russian orphans as payback for our imposing on his country, sanctions within the context of the Magnitsky Act; named after a Russian anti-Putin agitator who was beaten to death. Therefore, any talk about “adoptions” is tantamount to discussing the aforementioned legislation and sanctions.
Back home, Trump’s acquiescence to Putin raises its’ head again. This time, it comes in the form of 45’s announcement that he is ending US support for the pro-Western/anti-Assad forces in Syria. This news must have caused glasses to be raised in the Kremlin since Russia has been propping up Assad for years. Trump has now made it easier for Putin to keep the Syrian dictator afloat.
Before leaving office, President Obama seized two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland as part of a broader regimen of sanctions against Russia for its interference in our election. Given the uninterrupted pattern of retreat, accommodation and weakness exhibited by Trump for what is now a full year, the prediction here is that Trump will gin up some rationale for giving those properties back to Putin.
If that “hand-back” takes place, it will only serve to reinforce the growing belief that 45 is colluding with Russia/Putin, either as a willing partner or an unwitting one. There is also the possibility that Trump is being blackmailed into behaving as he has. We have to hope that Special Prosecutor Mueller will unravel all this for us in a way that is so credible that our nation comes together and accepts his findings.