Opinion by : Brett Arends
Is Vladimir Putin secretly financing Donald Trump and backing his campaign?
Was Russian intelligence behind the break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers?
Outside of the Trump inner circle and the Kremlin, nobody knows for certain. Accusations were flying over the weekend after the attack on the DNC.
But here’s one thing we do know for certain: Whether or not President Donald Trump would make America great again, he’d certainly make Russia great again.
The Republican candidate, who has a number of ties with Russia, has announced positions that would enormously help Putin, Russia’s sinister and sociopathic dictator, at the expense of the West and countries in Asia. And when challenged, he’s doubled down.
He’d be the first U.S. president of either party to question the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the cornerstone of western security since 1945 and by far the strongest check to Putin’s international power.
Trump calls it “obsolete,” and last week he stunned America’s allies around the world when he promised that as president he would weaken its support for countries in the Baltics — countries that Putin considers part of “Greater Russia.”
Meanwhile, Trump has made a cornerstone of his campaign the promise of dividing America from other countries, including allies, with trade wars. (There is really no other appropriate term.) He’s portrayed many of them as villains who are “laughing” at America and has promised to hit back, with currency devaluations and tariffs.
Few things could do more to foment division within the western alliance or to help Russia.
Trump has promised to be especially tough on China and Japan, whom he has repeatedly targeted in his speeches. Those two countries are, of course, Russia’s main rivals in Asia. Dividing them from America, and each other, would be a gift to the Kremlin.
I always thought that if Trump looked like he was winning in November, we’d all need to invest in gold bullion, as Trump has promised to use dollar devaluation as a major tool against other countries. But maybe we need to invest in Russian stocks as well. They would surely benefit.
Luckily, there are a number of U.S.-traded exchange traded funds that will let you invest in the Russian stock market easily, such as the iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF ERUS, +0.29%
Yes, it may seem fanciful to suggest the Republican nominee for president is in cahoots with the Kremlin.
But we already know for certain of a number of ties between Trump and Putin, and others are strongly suspected. Trump has gone out of his way to praise Putin in public, and Putin has returned the compliment.
On July 24, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort went on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” to call the accusations “absurd.”
“There’s no basis to it,” he said. It’s “pure obfuscation.”
Unfortunately, this is the same Paul Manafort who himself admitted on Fox News as recently as April that he had received a lot of money from a Putin proxy in eastern Europe.
Manafort confirmed he had worked as a lobbyist for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin president of the Ukraine who was ousted in a revolution in 2014 — and who now lives in exile in Putin’s Russia.
Manafort, a Washington lobbyist since the 1980s, has in the past also worked for former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi.
When interviewed by Fox’s Chris Wallace, he admitted to his work for Putin’s man in the Ukraine but glossed over how deep his ties were in the country.
Those interested should take a look at an astonishing report on PolitiFact, the neutral, non-partisan, fact-checking website. It details links between Manafort and various oligarchs in Ukraine going back at least 10 years.
And, like I said, this is the man who went on national TV to say how absurd it was to suggest the Trump campaign is somehow in bed with Vladimir Putin and his proxies.
Meanwhile, turns out it’s a mysterious Russian or eastern European hacker, known as Guccifer 2.0, who has claimed responsibility for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s email server and releasing thousands of emails. Guccifer has denied working for Russian intelligence, but when he shared his official story online earlier this year, he raised as many questions as he answered.
If the attack weren’t a deliberate move by someone to help Trump, why would Guccifer have, bizarrely, decided not to hack the Republicans as well? Funny, that.
In 1972, a couple of Cubans helped Richard Nixon’s the Committee to Re-elect the President break into the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex. But they were exiles, not agents of Fidel Castro. Oddly enough, Americans back then considered the break-in itself to be a major scandal. How times have changed. Now we only care about what Jake Tapper’s producer wrote to some TV guest. The break-in itself? Who cares?
Richard Nixon must be spinning in his grave.
Vladimir Putin is a billionaire sociopath who has all but destroyed democracy in Russia. He has ruled the country since 1999, and a surprising number of bad things seem to happen to anyone who opposes him.
He began his career working for the notorious intelligence service, the KGB, under the Soviet Union.
On his watch, Russian intelligence has been implicated in assassinating critics, even abroad, and Putin makes no secret of his desire to restore Russian greatness.
Russian greatness usually means a “Greater Russia” — meaning Russian rule or dominance over neighboring states. Putin, via Paul Manafort’s former client, was involved in trying to subvert Ukrainian independence and, after Manafort’s client was ousted from power, backed an invasion of the eastern part of the country.
Naturally, therefore, the most interesting part of the DNC email affair isn’t that the Kremlin may actually be engaged in trying take over the U.S. government, but the absolutely staggering and astonishing news that on balance people at the Democratic National Committee were more pro-Clinton than pro-Sanders in the primaries. You could have knocked me down with a feather, etc.
The Russian takeover of the government is just a footnote. If you want to see a movie about it, “The Manchurian Candidate” — where a bombastic right-wing Republican presidential candidate is a secret agent of the Kremlin — is pretty good. Naturally it has nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening in America right now.
Brett Arends is an award-winning financial columnist with many years experience writing about markets, economics and personal finance.