We can help you win, said the spider to the fly
As I followed the news last week an uncomfortable picture began to emerge from the haze of information swirling around Trump’s Russian problem.
What if Russia’s traditional tactics of luring unwitting agents – in this case with the promise of business deals and aid to the campaign – have been applied for years around the world as well as to Trump, his family and business associates. It certainly seems so, according the the latest Wall Street Journal article stating an unusual “volume” of Russian contacts with Trump’s business associates in 2015 had worried U.S. intelligence.
What if Putin simply gets lucky here and there, as he did in the U.S. where his slew of dirty tricks – the leaked DNC emails, the fake news, the social media bots – pushed a close election over the top so his man won.
What if the end game is not only to place operatives – such as U.S., Flynn and Manafort, who were directly paid by Russia – in the White House, but to pull as many people in the Trump administration into compromised positions, so there will be no possibility of an easy break with pro-Russian policies without the threat of disclosure. His allies, in effect, turn into victims.
What if there is no downside for Putin to leak the contents of all those Trump clan meetings if he does not get what he wants, because it will still throw an adversary nation – one that has stood up to his criminal acts over and over again – into chaos.
What if, as a Russian friend believes, Trump, like pro-nationalist leaders throughout Europe, is already a defacto Russian agent.
Russian “spycraft” has evolved over the years. It is subtle and weblike. But once the fly is caught in the net of invisible leverage, you know that they know that you know that they know. And they could tell.
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I only reached this observation after Trump’s absurd pronouncement of a fantastical cyber security agreement with Russia. He is either that bat crap stupid, or blackmailed into testing an idea that is clearly treasonous.
And my opinion was deepened by his son’s excited email reply to a request to meet a Russian operative with “dirt on Hillary,” which is probably illegal to take much less help disseminate. Although we don’t really know who said during the meeting (was the Russian lawyer wearing a wire?), suggested timing of when to release the dirt “late in the summer” was already in the Kushner’s email. And what is clear is that Putin does know what was said, and that becomes part of his leverage.
To Putin, how son-in-law Kushner managed to perjured himself to hide the meeting is just another a lucky break. Cha ching!
The idea that Russia has successfully recruited our heads of government, is not farfetched given the history of Russia’s – and Putin’s – relationship to espionage on a massive national scale.
Last year, MSNBC’s incredibly well-researched and award-winning, Rachel Maddow Show walked through Russia’s cultural and political history of espionage. Blackmail was, in fact, institutionalised under Stalin’s KGB, as all foreigners were required to book through state owned InTourists travel agency, while all of the hotels, also state-owned, were rigged with cameras and recording devices in special rooms where anyone of importance would stay.
The hotels’ staffs were entirely composed of operatives, including waiters, bellmen, maids, drivers and cooks in addition to prostitutes. Maddow’s show is amazing at acquiring interesting video footage, and she shows a spy museum on the 23rd floor of a hotel in Estonia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, where the new owner showcases all the spy devices removed after he purchased it.
Putin’s own career is inseparable from the use and abuse of espionage. In the post-Gorbachev years, the Russian press was still relatively free. Yeltsyn, was skimming money in to private bank accounts, but far from robbery of whole industries that would transpire later.
The judiciary was not yet neutered, and a powerful federal prosecutor began look into Yeltsyn’s finances. Suddenly a grainy hotel room video appeared showed the prosecutor with two prostitutes. It was hard to really tell who the man was, but Putin, then head of the FSB, got on television and swore it was, in fact, the prosecutor, who was forced to resign.
Yeltsyn named Putin his Prime Minister, and soon resigned making Putin President. Putin, of course, passed laws making prosecution for corruption of current or past presidents illegal. Quid pro quo.
The rest is history, Putin consolidated power, shut down the free press, appointed his own judges and divided privatised industries between a few loyal oligarchs, while keeping his own large blocks of stock.
Since then Russia has changed its strategy towards the west by shifting investment from its military into widespread espionage operations that effect elections – hacking, fake news as well as courting and compromising key people in other countries. He has taken cyber warfare to a whole new level.
Putin’s biggest coup, certainly, has been the election of Trump, whose administration is too incompetent to be strategic, friendly to Russia and compromised by conversations that Putin surely knows and may have recorded.
Now he would like the passwords to the c-panels of our election software.
In fact, a Putin-led “cyber security alliance” among nations led by pro-Trump nationalists could be a substitute for NATO, serving to ensure that they and their allies stay in power.
Like the proverbial frog in the pot, Trump’s warm relationship with Russia has slowly heated up, degree by degree over the years to a temperature that is life threatening to his presidency and our country.