Saturday, January 14, 2017

Moscow on the Potomac


Background:

When I first submitted my op-ed, “Moscow on the Potomac,” on December 20, 2016 to The Washington Post, I had no idea that the Trump-Russian connection was about to explode into the headlines with the CNN/BuzzFeed exposé?  Three weeks ago, I believed I had put together a rather cogent analysis on the possible repercussions of what seemed to be a rather strange, yet cozy, Trump-Putin relationship.  In fact, I went on to submit my op-ed to several other publications without much success.  Now, given some of the shocking political developments this week, I would first like to present my original take on what I thought was a disconcerting situation even back then before Christmas.  Following my op-ed, I have listed in a postscript all of the startling events that unfolded this week and have been reported in various national media.

Moscow on the Potomac:

In December 2016, we marked the 25th anniversary of the Western world’s victory over the Soviet Union in a metaphorical “Cold War” that spanned much of the second-half of the 20th century.  But this seminal victory might turn out to be pyrrhic, if President-elect Trump refuses to recognize that Russia, which emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union, is no longer akin to a friendly western ally that its then President Boris Yeltsin wanted it to become?

U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, have concluded based upon a preponderance of evidence that the Russians clearly interfered in this year’s U.S. presidential elections, which are a quintessential part of our democracy.  In fact, the DNI’s “intel” consensus was that Russian President Putin directly approved of cyber efforts to help “Comrade Trump” win the White House.  With Trump in the White House, Putin believes that his dream of returning Russia to the heyday of the Soviet Union will be given a new impetus. 

In fact, and more ominously, with Trump’s appointment of “Comrade Tillerson” as U.S. Secretary of State, Putin must sense that the resurrection, of what then President Reagan so derisively called the “evil empire,” will gain momentum.  In all likelihood, Putin will be allowed to keep Crimea and Secretary Tillerson might even choose to turn a blind eye to Eastern Ukraine.  Putin would then be free to re-deploy his 2008 Georgian annexation (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) “you don’t ask, we don’t tell” model in Eastern Ukraine without any further badgering by the West?  Thus, the resurrection of a new “evil empire” will have begun – with Putin’s “near abroad” strategy firmly taking hold in the first year of the Trump presidency. 

It won’t be too long before Putin’s tentacles start spreading to the Baltics and Eastern Europe, especially if Trump restructures NATO to deemphasize its post-Cold War members.  Mother Russia with her enormous natural gas and oil reserves remains Putin’s “trump” card.  With rising energy prices, Putin could then resume playing this trump card to pressurize Western Europe into lifting sanctions against Russia.  If “Comrade Tillerson” sides with Putin on this critical issue, which can be quickly determined by the Trump administration’s policy on Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the sanctions regime would immediately collapse.  Putin’s “near abroad” strategy will then enter a more penetrative “further abroad” phase.  

In choosing to bring Russia closer to the United States, Trump is simultaneously seeking to distance us from China.  It appears to be a foreign policy strategy based on economic power, in which Trump views China’s economic strength as a threat, but does not see Russia’s military strength in the same vein.  More distressingly, Trump seems completely unfazed by the cyber threat Russia poses against the West.  Many American pundits believe that Trump will change his tune after taking office and when the linkage between his presidential victory and the role played by Russian cyber espionage begins to fade in the American public’s memory. 

But the political opposition, anti-communist patriots, and the news media are not likely to let go and there will be ongoing questions about whether we have a “Moscow on the Potomac” situation at home?  However, unlike in the 1984 movie, “Moscow on the Hudson” – in which a Russian Robin Williams is trying to defect in a New York Bloomingdale’s department store – this won’t be a laughing matter!  In our current real life situation, Democrats and Reagan conservatives alike will wonder whether we have an American president in the Oval Office kowtowing to the Kremlin?  Trump might not want his presidential victory to be tainted by claims of Russian interference, but he simply cannot place the integrity of our intelligence agencies below that of Putin’s cyber thugs.  After all, these selfsame agencies will be critical to the success of his presidency – they might have flubbed on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, but they also helped President Obama nail Osama bin Laden!

Sadly, to use a Trumpian term, ignoring Russia’s cyber threat in this highly and hyper connected world could cause the West to lose the Cyber War – a more sophisticated 21st century version than its metaphorical 20th century cousin, the Cold War, which took us almost five decades to win.  The Cyber War’s devastating impact could cripple western economies, which are so dependent on the Internet, without any physical WMD being actually deployed?  So it is imperative for President Trump to understand that the Cyber War is a war that no president can afford to lose.  He must begin by acknowledging the problem – Putin has his cyber sights set on the West and the interference into our 2016 elections was only a sampler battle; the bigger war is yet to come!

***

Post Script:

1.     CNN online report, datelined January 10, 2017, with the headline, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him”:
 
“A salacious 35-page document, a summary of which was presented to President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump last week, included allegations that Russian operatives claim to possess “compromising personal and financial information” on Trump, CNN first reported, citing multiple U.S. officials.”

2.     Senator Marco Rubio asked Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, at his January 11, 2017 confirmation hearing: “Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?”

Mr. Tillerson replied: “I would not use that term.”

3.     David Ignatius revealed the following in his January 12, 2017 Washington Post op-ed online, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?”:

“According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking.”

4.     Matthew Miller in his January 13, 2017 Time magazine report online, “James Comey Cannot Be Trusted With a Trump-Russia Investigation”:

“It was always going to be difficult for FBI Director Jim Comey to oversee an investigation into ties between President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Thursday’s announcement that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General will investigate Comey’s conduct during last year’s presidential election makes it impossible.”

5.     On late Friday evening January 13, 2017, NBC News reported:

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said it will conduct a bipartisan inquiry into possible Russian intelligence agencies' involvement in the U.S. election, and the probe's scope includes interviewing officials in the Obama and Trump administrations.”

Moscow might have tried to soft land on the Potomac, but unfortunately it has been caught making a big splash – the consequences of which are yet to be fully determined!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Trump - I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

On December 30, 2016 I penned this ode to DJT. With apologies to the Beatles, whose classic album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” celebrates it’s 50th anniversary in 2017, here's the Trump version of “With A Little Help From My Friends”:

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Putin, the GRU and 400-pound Russians sitting on bed ends
I asked them to find Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 lost emails
So they hacked into the DNC and Podesta’s GMails
From Russia with love… it’s how I became Mr. President!

Now I think we ought to get on with our lives
Because I won the greatest electoral landslide
Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me
But my friends in the Kremlin simply don’t agree
They would’ve faked news about his countless Muslim ties  

I can’t understand why the Democrats are so bitter
It might help if they learned how to use Twitter
I’m just trying to make America great again
By letting Putin back into the superpower pen
I’ll counter cheating China by making Russia fitter

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.
Mmm, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.
Oh, I get high with a little help from my friends.
Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends,
With a little help from my friends. Ah.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

TRUMP, TAXES & PUTIN-Y ON THE BOUNTY!

We have to unearth a mother lode of Trump treasure
So why doesn’t the media keep up the pressure?
Americans need to learn more about his finances
Like did this billionaire pay his fair share of taxes?

An IRS audit is a charade behind which Trump hides
He fears that releasing his returns will turn the tide
Why even Trump’s base might be upset to find out
That his wealth, taxes, charity, etc. are all a washout!

Then there is this entire “Putin-y on the Bounty” facet?
Russians holding an uneven cross-section of Trump assets
Why penalize China for decade-old currency manipulation?
It’s not really a problem, more like a Trump exaggeration!

So if he hangs on to his returns with his usual string of lies
Losing an election won’t really hurt the Trump enterprise
But if he ascends to the Oval Office without coming clean
We might as well just let him paint the White House green!  

Now if he offered full disclosure but lost the presidency
Then the Trump brand will surely lose some currency
But if releasing returns is followed by a victory at the polls
God save this nation, as President Trump will be on a roll!

We simply cannot afford to chance it with this great nation
Informed voters can wittingly preempt a Trump administration
By putting country before party, even the Gipper would agree
Be like Bush 41; vote for Hillary Clinton and also save the GOP!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Let Trump Be Trump!

After a six-year hiatus Donald J. Trump has "pulled me back in" into political blogging.  It's not that I don't write any more, but I have been focused more on my day job, where I blog as well.  Nonetheless, over the past 15 months, Trump has provided all sorts of opportunities for us political hacks to chime in.  Thus far, I have resisted, but can't hold out any longer.  So let me jump back in with an ode to Trump that I have titled, "Let Trump Be Trump," which pretty much encapsulates what this means to me.


LET TRUMP BE TRUMP!

They’re saying to get over the hump
We must let Trump be Trump
So they added new campaign staff
To control the man’s routine gaffes
But will this make his poll numbers jump?

Kellyanne Conway is a master of spin
Bannon always goes for the chin
Manafort’s style just did not work
As Trump continued to be a jerk
But can this new team make him win?

After they repackaged Trump as Trump
He expressed his first regret on the stump
But without any specific sort of apology
It sounded like the same old tautology
Hillary’s the devil that we need to dump!

Americans are tired of his constant smears
Inciting the worst in us and stoking our fears
What happened to the shining city on a hill?
That Reagan made us aspire to, if you will
Not this apocalypse that Trump says nears!

After all trust is what each one of us earns
Trump must begin by releasing his tax returns
And he must absolutely stop with the name-calling
It’s simply childish, un-presidential and galling
Dignity and decency is what the nation yearns!

So from now until November the eighth 
Pray tell us why America is not already great
We need to hear details in the Trump plan
Debate your differences woman-to-man
And convince the skeptics that it is not too late!

Else Madam President it is going to be
With a likely Democratic Senate majority
She will shape the courts for a generation
In many ways that will transform our nation
And Trump will be Trump—destroyer of the GOP!