Monday, February 20, 2017

The quid for the quo

Evromaidan, November 2013, via Wikipedia. Of course some people will still tell you this was arranged by George Soros and Victoria Nuland. But they're the same people that think Putin is a leftist.
So the stakes Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is playing for just clarified themselves, in a big way, in this Times story by Megan Twohey and Scott Shane: It's not just relief from sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation over its seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, though that's included; it's really the restoration of the Russian Empire (not the USSR, which aspired toward socialism, but the older, murkily religious and violently patriarchal thing, where Moscow used to refer to itself as the "Third Rome", the successor to Byzantium, the uniter of Europe and Asia under the banner of Christ and Orthodoxy).

Which has to go somewhat beyond the story Twohey and Shane (constricted by the rules of proper journalism) are telling, which is basically about palace intrigue in Washington, and a proposal for lifting sanctions that was working its way through the National Security Council at the time old Flynn got himself fired:
But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The name that leaps out there for a lot of readers is that of Felix Sater, a Russian émigré who is managing director of Bayrock Group LLC, a real estate conglomerate headquartered in Trump Tower (where the company's principal, Tevfik Arif, lives), which played a central role in the development of Trump Tower Soho from 2006 to 2010, and a colorful character who has done time for an assault in 1991
at the El Rio Grande restaurant and bar in New York. According to court documents, Sater allegedly told a man at the bar, “I’ll kill you. I’ll rip your f****** head off and stick it down your throat.” Sater then allegedly grabbed a frozen margarita from the bar, flung the contents in the air, smashed the glass on the bar, and stabbed the man in the cheek and neck, breaking his cheek and jaw, lacerating face and neck and severing nerves.
and a 1998 conviction for racketeering in a $40-million stock fraud in which the Genovese an Bonanno crime families played a part. Trump keeps trying to detach himself from the man—
“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like,” Trump testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit [in 2013].... Asked [in December 2015] about Sater by The Associated Press, Trump again seemed unable to retrieve a solid memory of the man. "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," he told the reporter. "I'm not that familiar with him."
—but he keeps coming back, notably just a few weeks ago when he was the chief source for a Times story by Twohey and Steve Eder on Trump's endlessly frustrated quest for a Trump Tower in Moscow and other deals, between (at least) 2005 and 2015, in which Sater played a vital role. Trump hasn't denied that one yet. Presumably the reporter who'd like to ask him doesn't work for Fox or the Daily Caller and doesn't get called on.

What stuck out especially for me, though, is that Ukrainian politician:
the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.
Artemenko belongs to the Russia-friendly movement of former president Viktor Yanukovych, a client, as you'll no doubt remember, of political consultant Paul Manafort, who has also advised Donald Trump and who also lives, like the Bayrock chariman Arif, in Trump Tower.

Yanukovych has the distinction of having been thrown out of office twice by people power: the first time in 2004, when shameless fraud in his run-off election against Viktor Yushchenko (victim of a memorable attempt during the campaign of assassination by poison*) led to the so-called Orange Revolution of that year and a second run-off which Yushchenko won; and the second time in 2013-14, triggered by Yanukovych's sudden and unexpected decision to reject a hard-negotiated treatment of association with the European Union, under severe pressure from Russia**, which brought young Ukrainians into the Independence Square or Maidan of Kiyiv and similar locations in other cities to protest, which they did to such effect that Yanukovych ended up fleeing to Russia, while the protestors swarmed his $75-million forest estate at Mezhyhirya, marveling at the corruption-bought luxury and almost Trump-level tastelessness (I ran a picture in a post in July).

Evidently this "peace plan" involves a kind of legal coup in Kiyiv, overthrowing President Poroshenko on the evidence of documents cyberpilfered by Russian intelligence (maybe WikiLeaks can help with the editorial and publishing side!), and installing Artemenko in his place, to play the same role Yanukovych played as Putin's general-gubernator. The payoff for helping Trump win his election (with documents cyberpilfered by Russian intelligence etc.) could be delivering to the Putin government not just lifted sanctions, not just Crimea, but the whole of Ukraine ("Little Russia" as it was called during the centuries when it was part of the empire). Or so this extraordinary new report suggests if you read it in context.

Wonderful additional material in Wonkette:
Also, let’s not forget that in that mysterious Russian dossier with the pee hookers (who are not the point), Cohen was alleged to have been a go-between for the Trump campaign in its alleged collusion with Russian intelligence. The dossier claims he met with Russian agents in Prague, a claim that has not been verified and which Cohen vigorously denied by posting a photo to Twitter of the cover of his passport, which isn’t exactly compelling....
And tons of astonishing detail from BooMan.

*At least one of the suspects in the poisoning, former chairman of the Ukrainian Security Service Volodymyr Satsyuk, is still living in hiding in Moscow, protected against extradition:
Ukrainian prosecutors, after interviewing over 1,000 people, identified Satsyuk as being potentially involved in the poisoning of Yuschenko with dioxin.[1] Yushchenko had attended a private dinner on 5 September 2004 held at Satsyuk's residence,[3] during that year's Ukrainian presidential elections. He was accompanied by two assistants, Taras Zalessky and Alexei Poletukha, the former vice-president of the JS Bank «Ukraine».[2] According to The Times newspaper, "Ukraine’s pro-Russian government at the time was opposed to Yushchenko, fearing his pro-western tendencies and ambitions for Ukraine to join NATO." Satsyuk is currently in hiding in MoscowRussia, where the government has given him Russian citizenship, meaning he cannot be extradited for trial to another country.[1][4]

**As the negotiations were going on,
In mid-August 2013 Russia changed its customs regulations on imports from Ukraine[108] such that on 14 August 2013, the Russian Custom Service stopped all goods coming from Ukraine[109] and prompted politicians[110] and sources[111][112][113] to view the move as the start of a trade war against Ukraine to prevent Ukraine from signing a trade agreement with the European Union.

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