Turning Trump: Our Muscovian President

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

Доверительная связь

Vladimir Kryuchkov.jpg

Vladimir Kryuchkov

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 StBStátní 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.

Presidential unravelings

 

I was not paying very close attention in the early ’70s to the shenanigans that eventually brought down the Nixon presidency, but recently I’ve been getting that déjà vu feeling. I recall that Watergate was named for the hotel that housed the offices of the Democratic National Committee, which Nixon’s “plumbers” burglarized. How long, I wondered, did it take for that attempt to influence the 1972 presidential election to catch up to Nixon and bring him down.

So, with the help of Mother Jones, I pulled together a timeline of the key events between the Watergate DNC break-in and Nixon’s resignation a little more than two years later:

Watergate Timeline:

Sept. 9, 1971 “Plumbers” Unit burglarizes Ellsberg’s shrink’s office.
June 17, 1972 Five men arrested bugging DNC’s Watergate headquarters
June–Sept., 1972 Washington Post reports various connections
Oct. 10, 1972 FBI establishes Watergate part of massive spying & sabotage by Nixon campaign
Nov. 11, 1972 Nixon reelected by a landslide
Jan. 30, 1973 Former Nixon aides Liddy & McCord + 5 others convicted in Watergate break-in
April 30, 1973 WH staff Haldeman, Ehrlichman, AG Kleindienst resign; counsel Dean, fired
May 18, 1973 Senate Watergate hearings begin, special prosecutor appointed
June-July more & more dirt dug up, revealed
Oct. 20, 1973 Saturday Night Massacre: Nixon fires spec. prosecutor, AG resigns
Nov. ’73–July, ’74 More dirt, Nixon won’t cooperate, Supremes order him to
July 27, 1974 Hs Jud. Comm. passes 1st of 3 articles of impeachment, for obstruction of justice
Aug. 8, 1974 Nixon resigns—2 yrs after DNC break-in, 22 mos. after the election he rigged

I have not made a point-by-point comparison with the current fiasco. The lines between legitimate campaign tactics and criminal intent seem even more blurred these days than in the days of Nixon’s “dirty tricks,” with fewer courageous Republicans willing to challenge the president.

The FBI has identified Russian attempts to swing the 2016 US presidential election. The intelligence community has identified several questionable and possibly unconstitutional contacts of members of Trump’s campaign with Russian officials dabbling in US foreign affairs prior to Trump’s being sworn in and possibly conspiring to swing the election itself.

How much did he know, and when did he know it? The kind of obfuscation we’ve been getting from the White House is reminiscent of Nixon’s and his staff’s stonewalling throughout the beginning of his second term, until his resignation nearly two years after his reelection.

The Muscovian Candidate

“When truth is gone, nothing is stable, and no one is safe.”
For several weeks, I’ve been toying with the notion of a wealthy international real estate tycoon coming under the influence of, say, a beautiful eastern-European model, whom he marries. She becomes integral to the magnate’s empire, an expert in the operations of his business…& his mind. As both a child of Stalinist Soviet society and a fashion model, she is familiar with manipulation of appearances and other stimuli to produce a programmed response. She teaches the tycoon well, & he rises to the highest levels of prominence in the land. After they divorce, she remains a trusted, invisible power behind the throne….

Then, recently, I came across this “Slate” article which explores “the psychology of the nationalized lie.” Here are a few excerpts:

“Trump shares several important traits with his ally Vladimir Putin—foremost among them, the deployment of outrageous lies as a political tool.”

“When falsehood invades the highest offices in the land, it forces the population into a surreal doubleness where there are two sets of memories, two account books, two realities that must be contended with. This chokes those who want to operate through a legal framework, according to the rules, since the rules now apply to a fantasy; a complicated strategic triangulation is always necessary to produce a real result. Opponents have to struggle continually with cognitive dissonance.”

“A regime can work a population so that they don’t object to even the most bald-faced lie. There is no safety in numbers, even vast numbers, if no one speaks up.”

“This gives some idea of the costs that can be incurred when truth is inundated by falsehood. The parallels are useful both for understanding the psychology of the nationalized lie and for glimpsing a worst-case scenario. But the worst-case scenario is exactly that, as we should remember before plunging ourselves into sensationalist panic. Trump seems most interested in kleptocratic plundering, a model of misgovernment very different than the mass murder of Stalinism. On the other hand, it’s hard to precisely calibrate an appropriate sense of disaster when the president-elect’s campaign promises (soft truths, to be sure) include locking up and inciting violence against his opponents, and rounding up and deporting millions of Americans based on national origin or religion. In the barrage of untruths, no one can tell which whoppers Trump plans to make good on. His unreliability is for this reason seen as a plus by his most humane followers, who tell themselves he has lied about the bad parts. It is also one of the things that destabilizes resistance to him—either by the left or the right.”

The mainstream media and a sizable chunk of the general populace have been sucked in by Mr. Trump mind-fucking techniques. I’m glad, finally, to see some analysis of the psycho-social aspects of the Trump phenomenon.

Donald Trump shares several important traits with his ally Vladimir Putin—foremost among them, the deployment of outrageous lies as a political tool. P …
SLATE.COM
Caitlin Gibson has done a Washington Post piece about Trump’s “Gaslighting”: a deliberate attempt to deceive someone into questioning their own perception of reality, i.e., mind-fucking.
The Post’s Michael Kranish & Marc Fisher have published Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. Kranish did an insightful Trump’s backgrounder, “A fierce will to win pushed Donald Trump to the top” & “Trump says he has ‘nothing to do with Russia.’ The past 30 years show otherwise.” Another Post article examines Trump’s various Russian connections in more detail: Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin.
On the advice of my financial advisor, with whom I raised an eyebrow about The Donald’s East European entanglements, I am reading Bill Browder’s Red Notice, which promises to detail how Putin and a few dozen oligarchs control Russia. Browder ran a very successful hedge fund that prospered by investing in the privatization of former Soviet economies. I’m hoping for insight into how Trump may have dealt with that system. Perhaps his tax returns, which rumor says will soon be (Wiki?)leaked, will have clues.