How deep is Putin’s hold over Trump?

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 7. Global news

Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Editorial Writer.

Last week we commented on U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to re-admit the Russian Federation to the G-7, creating a new G-8, from which Moscow was expelled following its invasion of Crimea and Donbas.

We stated that unfortunately, the bid to readmit Russia to the G-7 may come up again next year, as the rotating Presidency of the G-7 goes to the United States and Donald Trump, and the agenda will be in his hands.

Well, since that writing, Trump has not only signalled his intention to bring the issue up again, but actually invite his good friend Vladimir Putin to the summit, which he proposed be held at his own resort, the Trump National Doral Miami – at taxpayers’ expense, naturally.

“I’d certainly invite him,” Trump told a news conference at the end of the summit.

Then, two days later, Politico Magazine reported, citing a senior administration official, that Trump is attempting to block US$250 million in aid to Ukraine that has been allocated by Congress for fiscal 2019. This involves security aid to Ukraine, including money for weapons, training, equipment and intelligence support. Specifically, he has asked his national security team to review the funding program, known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, in order to ensure the money is being used in the best interests of the United States.

The problem here is that the funds for Ukraine can’t be spent while they’re under review and the money expires at the September 30 end of this fiscal year. Thus, even a delay can effectively block the aid. This account was originally created by defense policy legislation enacted in late 2015 to help Ukraine battle Russian aggression in Donbas and Crimea.

Trump’s proposal has prompted bipartisan anger.

Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voiced his strong opposition to that idea in a tweet August 29: “This is unacceptable. It was wrong when Obama failed to stand up to Putin in Ukraine, and it’s wrong now.”

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez released a statement accusing the administration of circumventing Congress and “undermining a key policy priority that has broad and deep bipartisan support.”

“In willfully delaying these funds, the Trump Administration is once again trying to circumvent Congress’ Constitutional prerogative of appropriating funds for U.S. government agencies. It is also undermining a key policy priority that has broad and deep bipartisan support,” he said.

“Enough is enough. President Trump should stop worrying about disappointing Vladimir Putin and stand up for U.S. national security priorities,” Menendez added.

That such a proposal should spark outrage on both sides of the political divide in the United States is not surprising. For one thing containment of Russian imperial expansion has been the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. And which president was the most uncompromising when it came to containing Russian aggression? None other than the icon of modern American conservatism, Ronald Reagan. All of which makes one wonder how people who consider themselves principled conservatives can continue to support Trump.

So, what makes Trump act like a lapdog for Vladimir Putin, as one U.S. Senator put it. For one thing, Trump likes dictators. He would like to become one himself, but keeps getting thwarted by such minor irritants like the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

For another, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion revealed three major connections between Donald Trump and people who worked for or with Russia:

  • Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort had several shady connections with people who worked for or with the Russian government.
  • Several Trump staffers, including Trump’s son Don Jr., were willing to work with Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats.
  • And Trump was working on a lucrative real estate deal in Moscow — and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was the main negotiator. Cohen reached out to top Vladimir Putin officials to help grease the wheels. (The deal didn’t end up going through.)

But it goes much further than that and dates back decades.

Back in the days when major banks stopped lending Trump money due to his multiple bankruptcies, the desperate businessman started turning to Russian financial interests with close ties to the Putin regime in order to continue funding his various business ventures.

It is not clear exactly how many Trump ventures are connected to Russia, because Trump has tried to hide as much of this information as he could. Nevertheless, several are known including Trump Soho, a Trump resort in Phoenix and two Trump projects in Fort Lauderdale. A Trump building constructed in Panama almost exclusively served wealthy Russian clients and was described to NBC News “as a magnet for international organized crime, particularly from Russia.”

Then, of course, there is Trump Tower in Manhattan itself, which became headquarters for numerous Russian criminal interests. And let’s not forget, Trump wants to build a similar tower in Moscow.

Back in 2008, Donald Trump Jr. admitted that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” according to the Washington Post.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more connections have been unearthed by investigative journalists around the world and they are just too numerous to mention.

We don’t really know how deeply Putin’s hold over Trump extends. All we can say for sure is that Trump’s policy regarding the Russian Federation is outrageous, immoral, slavish and contrary to all the principles the United States has stood for since the republic was created in 1776.