Monday, February 18, 2019

What you (and especially your Trump supporting friends and family) should know and what you should ask yourself about Russia and Trump

Russia is a criminal enterprise. The Russian government does not operate for the benefit of its people but for the purpose of accumulating great wealth for its elite, the oligarchs.
Russia is the name of what’s left of the country that was formerly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR. This was a communist regime and the second most powerful country in the world. They strove for dominance over Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and elsewhere through military power and police state tactics. The USSR was the antithesis of US values of peace, liberty, and free enterprise. The US and the USSR were adversaries. Their only common interest was not to be blown up in a nuclear war.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-1990 was a great event for many countries that had been under the domination of the Soviets, and on the surface appeared to be a relief to Americans for the promise of an end to the Cold War or at least a reduction of the threat of nuclear holocaust. However, to the politicians who rose to power after the fall, the “new” Russia presented a harsh reality as well as incredible opportunities. The reality was that the former Soviet economy was not a powerhouse among nations, and its military might was not respected as a world-domineering threat. The opportunities were that all of the means of production, natural resources, and financial institutions that had belonged to the citizens of the Soviet Union were “up for grabs”. Those in power and their friends essentially assumed control of the people’s national assets for the benefit of themselves and thus became incredibly wealthy. These powerful people became the Russian Oligarchs, men who raided their country and stole its wealth for their personal benefit. Their actions were criminal, and Russia evolved from a socialist state to a kleptocracy, a criminal enterprise. The head of that criminal enterprise is Vladimir Putin. Putin and the US continue to share one and only one common interest, which is not getting blown up in a nuclear war. This is true for most Americans, but not all Americans.
This is a basic truth that must be recognized in any discussion of current politics and foreign affairs.
How do the US and its allies keep Russia’s military and political aggressions in check?
While Russia and Putin’s motives center around money and the accumulation of wealth, these motives go hand in hand with the desire to return the country of Russia to the power and geopolitical dominance that had defined its place in the world order during the Soviet era. This desire was manifested in aggressions against the former Soviet republic of Georgia and later against Ukraine and Crimea. There are basically three possible approaches to countering actions by an adversary: war, diplomacy, or sanctions. Of course diplomacy is the most desired approach, war is the least, and sanctions are useful when diplomacy fails and war is to be avoided. The response to these aggressions by the US and its allies was to impose strict sanctions against Russia intended to severely punish its economy and restrict the criminal activities of its oligarchs. The sanctions included freezing the oligarchs’ assets held in Western countries and banning their travel to and within these countries. In short, the sanctions kept the oligarchs away from their money, billions upon billions of dollars that they could not touch. It has been estimated that Putin alone has as much as $230 billion of dollars frozen by sanctions.
The sanctions have been put in place by the US and its allies to put enough “hurt” on Russia that they will abandon their aggressive tactics against other countries. And those sanctions are hurting the oligarchs and are keeping Russia’s power in check. Because of this, Putin and his oligarchs want more than anything to get these sanctions lifted so that they can get their hands on their money and resume their criminal activities.
In the US sanctions against Russia have been imposed by the government and widely supported on a bipartisan basis in the Congress and in the Executive Branch. Bush and Obama imposed sanctions, and Hillary Clinton, Obama’s Secretary Of State, of course strongly supported the imposition and continuation of sanctions against Putin and the oligarchs.
This is a very important point. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was a strong proponent of keeping Vladimir Putin and his mob away from their money.
Donald Trump maintains that it was Hillary Clinton who “colluded” with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign, and that highly placed employees of the FBI aided and abetted that collusion for the benefit of Clinton and for the purpose of her being elected as the next US president.
This begs the question. One, why would Putin and those who worked under him assist the candidate who strongly supported the economically crippling sanctions that were keeping them away from their money and who would surely continue or expand such sanctions once she became president? And two, why would a presidential candidate who was highly favored to win the presidential election up until the final few weeks of the campaign seek assistance from a foreign adversary who she sought to keep in check and who she had every reason to suspect was vehemently opposed to her likely victory?
Next up: Why would Putin want to help Trump win the US presidency, and why would Trump seek or at least accept that help?


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