Following up on my posts nearly a year ago about The Muscovian Candidate, here are my recent “musings” on the possibility that Donald Trump is one of the “active measures,” активные мероприятия, cultivated by Russian intelligence agents to subvert US government policy. Much of the information about how Trump has been “played” or, if you prefer, “worked” by Russian agents since the 1980s has been gleaned from Luke Harding’s Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. Harding digs up a lot of evidence that supports the dossier on Donald Trump compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele.
If you don’t read Collusion, you might want to catch Terry Gross’ NPR interview with Harding: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/21/565654507/journalist-investigating-trump-and-russia-says-full-picture-is-one-of-collusion.
The Steele dossier is here: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3259984/Trump-Intelligence-Allegations.pdf
Gen. Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov was head of foreign-intelligence gathering (1974-1988) and then under Mikhail Gorbachev, KGB chairman (1988–1991). Kryuchkov is credited with expanding Soviet foreign intelligence and bringing greater professionalism to Russian spycraft. He called for better use of special, unofficial and confidential contacts. “These should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science.” These “special, unofficial and confidential contacts,” Доверительная связь, should supply valuable information but also “actively influence” their country’s foreign policy “in a direction of advantage to the USSR.”
Espionage depends on various levels of recruitment: Intelligence-gathering involves not only “agents” but also contacts who can be groomed to provide increasingly more valuable types of information. Over time, the ideal candidates can be cultivated to use their status to move information in the other direction, actively influencing opinion and policy in their own country that is favorable to Russia.
In 1984, Kryuchkov was concerned that, in spite of having expanded the cadre of foreign-intelligence agents four-fold to 12,000, the KGB was having little success in the US. He issued a series of classified memos suggesting creative ways to improve recruitment of “prominent figures in the West” who might be drawn “into some form of collaboration with us, as an agent, or confidential, special or unofficial contact.” He urged wider use of friendly (and more disciplined) intelligence services, like the Czech StB, Státní bezpečnost, and East German Stasi, Staatssicherheitsdienst.
Kryuchkov developed a secret personality profile listing qualities case officers should look for: What was the likelihood that the “subject would come to power (occupy the post of president or prime minister)?” “Are pride, arrogance, egoism, ambition or vanity among subject’s natural characteristics?” “Compromising information about subject, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft…and exploitation of his position to enrich himself’” and any other information that would compromise the subject in his country.
Do these character traits seem familiar?
Donald Trump first came to the attention of Soviet agents in the late 1970s when he dated, then married Ivana Marie Zelníčková, a smart, good-looking, 28-year-old Czech skier and model. The StB had been keeping an eye on Ivana since as a teenager she left Zlin, her hometown in Moravia, with her ski instructor, George Syrovatka, with whom she was living when Trump met her in Montreal. In the early ’70s, Syrovatka had arranged Ivana’s marriage to Austrian real estate agent Alfred Winklemayr so she could get a Western passport to leave her homeland.
By the mid-’80s Trump was a sufficiently promising object of study to warrant an all-expenses-paid trip to Moscow arranged by Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin ostensibly to explore a joint hotel venture.