Owned – or not yet proven?

As I used to say on this blog, most early stories of Trump’s connections to the Kremlin seemed to have no legs to stand on. Almost always they came from unscrupulous journalists, biased academic or self-serving politicians. In the summer of 2018, Trump’s record on Russia didn’t look bad at all if judged by America’s actions rather than its president’s words.

But the Helsinki meeting also happened in the summer of 2018. Trump’s declaration of trust in Putin was an action, not merely an accident of speech: a symbolic act to the detriment of American intelligence services and the country’s global standing.

Perhaps the charlatans and the hacks weren’t entirely wrong, after all. One should always keep in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (as N. N. Taleb keeps reminding the world), and insufficient proof is not proof of innocence except in the strictly legal sense. Perhaps I’m being selectively blind, and Trump’s anti-Russian moves in 2017-18 were merely the minimum required at that time for his political survival. He could have done more, and would have if his heart had been in it; at any rate, he lost interest in pressuring Russia after 2018.

He could have sanctioned more Russian tycoons more severely. He scared the hell out of them with his Rusal move but didn’t follow up on the initial progress.

He could have inflicted greater damage on the Russian forces in Syria. The bloodbath of February 7, 2018, still makes one shudder at the thought of worst-case scenarios.

He could have placed senior Russian officials on the list of terrorism sponsors and drug lords. The terrorism link would have been easy to justify. Soleimani’s death was a lively illustration of the downside of being so blacklisted. The Russian drug connection was exposed in February 2018, when bags of cocaine were found in the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires. That bizarre incident left inquiring minds with few options besides concluding that one of Putin’s key lieutenants was overseeing an international drug running network. Incidentally, Manuel Noriega had died less than a year before the Buenos Aires fiasco.

Still, none of this is evidence of Trump’s being vulnerable to blackmail or manipulation from the Kremlin. It’s all tangential indications “consistent with” this hypothesis, as faux criminologists would say. And yet Trump’s psychological vassalage to Putin is no longer a transient phantom of someone’s hostile imagination. How can you ignore the latest sign, the tre45son outrage? The source is the NYT – unreliable and biased, yes, but too unimaginative to invent this story out of thin air:

…Trump was informed by U.S. intelligence in March that a Russian military intelligence unit offered rewards to Islamist militants last year for successful attacks on American and coalition troops. American intelligence believed that some bounty money was paid…

Despite being informed of the situation, Trump took no action… Not only that, but he offered to invite Putin to attend the G-7 Summit in September…

It must be kompromat, then? As a working hypothesis, something personal rather than political. A video that would completely destroy Trump psychologically if made public. More likely, files that would bankrupt his family business and/or lead to charges against some of the family members.

Discover more from Winterings in Trans-Scythia

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading