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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

What Did Russia Get in Return for Alleged Support for Trump?

For the past year, the first year of the Trump administration, Washington has been roiled by the quarrel between anti-Trump and pro-Trump factions, roughly speaking Democrats against Republicans although some Republicans also have worked against the president. The anti-Trumpers have tried to delegitimize Trump and his presidency. Allegations have been made by the anti-Trump side --including most of the press & media-- of Trump complicity or collusion with Russia in order to win the election. These charges led Trump to appoint a special investigator to conduct an inquiry. The special investigator was Robert Mueller, former head of the FBI.

The investigation has turned up little so far to support those allegations, as far as the public knows, even according to anti-Trump sources. Be that as it may, one essential question has not been asked, to my knowledge. That is: What did the Russians get for their alleged collusion with Trump? After all, if they colluded with Trump's representatives to support him, if they wanted to put him in the White House, and colluded with Trump or his campaign for that purpose, would they have done it expecting nothing in return?

In fact, if we look at Trump's foreign policy over the past year since the inauguration, we see that he in fact worked against Russian policy in three areas, Syria, the Ukraine, and North Korea. In Syria, Trump had American aircraft attack a Syrian air force base from which planes flew to make a chemical warfare attack on civilians in rebel-held areas. The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad is being protected and aided by Russia. In Ukraine, the Trump administration sold weapons to the Ukrainian government which is engaged in a war, now in a cease fire phase, with Russian-backed, ethnic Russian rebel militias in eastern Ukraine. Perhaps Russian troops too are directly involved in combat on the side of the rebels.

As to North Korea, Trump has several times attacked and threatened the regime and its dictator, Kim Jung Un [Little Rocket Man]. This policy on Trump's part has led to clashes with Russia at the UN Security Council. Further, Trump succeeded in getting Security Council resolutions passed critical of North Korea. Hence, we do not see what Russia got in return for any help to Trump and his campaign.

Next, we have to ask whether Russia or its government did anything that gave or might have given the election to Trump. This question is important because it was being alleged by Democrats that Russia did indeed help Trump against Hillary Clinton. Did the Russkis do anything to swing the election in Trump's favor? And if so, the thinking ran, then Trump's election was illegitimate. This is obviously a partisan claim on behalf of the Democrats and Hillary. But is there any truth to it? Anti-Trumpers have pointed to a massive dump of information by Wikileaks of emails exchanged among active employes of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic figures, emails which put the Democratic Party and Clinton's campaign in a very bad light. Indeed, these emails were embarassing to Clinton, her party and her campaign organization. One item that emerged was that high officials of the DNC [democratic national committee] had worked against Hillary's rival in the primary elections, one Bernie Sanders --who espoused a political line allegedly to the "Left"  of  Clinton-- whereas the DNC was supposed be impartial.

The Democrats and Hillary did not deny that these embarassing emails were real and truthful. Rather they counter-attacked, after release of the emails, by claiming that Russia had leaked them to Wikileaks, as if only a state or only Russia could have hacked into the computers of the DNC and then supplied the emails to Wikileaks. However, Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks, specifically denied on TV [I watched the TV program] that his organization had gotten the emails from Russia. You don't have to believe Assange of course. However, did the emails uploaded to the Internet by Wikileaks have to have come from a hacking operation? Besides, there are other hackers and other interested parties. Another possible explanation is that someone in the DNC organization had leaked them to Wikileaks. And here we have the unexplained murder of Seth Rich, an employe of the DNC whose body was found in Washington with valuable personal effects like his watch and wallet still with him. Did Rich have anything to do with supplying the emails to Wikileaks? We can only  speculate.

If anything or any person swung votes from Hillary to Trump, it was FBI director, James Comey's last minute revelation before the election that the investigation into Hillary had to be renewed because additional emails. from and to Hillary had been found on the computer of Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Hillary's gal Friday, Huma Abedin [before, after and during Hillary's presence at the State Department]. That's why Hillary was so angry at Comey. She wanted him fired from the FBI. She in fact called for him to be fired from the FBI about a week before Trump did in fact fire him in early 2017. At that time, nobody was saying that Hillary was undermining public respect for law and order.

Before concluding, we must say that many countries want to influence elections in other countries. Least of all is the United States ashamed of doing that. During the 2015 election campaign for the Knesset, it was notorious in Israel that the Obama administration, of which a Hillary presidency would have been a continuation, was interfering with money and personnel in Israel's election in favor of the Labor Party, or to be more precise, in favor of the Zionist Union party which brought together Labor with a few members of Tsipi Livni's HaTenu`ah party.

So it would come as no surprise to learn that Russia wanted to influence the 2016 US presidential election. But Russia would hardly be unique in doing that or trying to do that.

Before concluding, one might argue that Obama's administration, of which Hillary was a shameful part, both aided Russia and hurt Russia. Obama helped Russia in Syria among other ways by allowing Assad's regime to get away with using poison gas against his own population through not enforcing Obama's own "red line" against such use and making an agreement that Russia would take Syria's stock of poison gas and chemical weapons away from Syria, as a substitute for US military action against Syria's stock of such weapons. In fact, Syria still has such weapons and they were reportedly used just the other day against the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Moreover, while Hillary was secretary of state, it is credibly alleged, she intervened to facilitate the purchase by a Russian company of part of US uranium production [used in building nuclear weapons]. This facilitating of the Russian purchase took place after the Russian company had made a sizable "charitable" contribution to the Clinton family foundation, widely considered a tax free depository for moneys paid to the Clintons.

But back to the point. While letting Russia's protege, Assad in Syria, get away with murder literally, the Obama administration also worked against Russia in its next door neighbor, the Ukraine. Victoria Nuland of the State Department and other US officials were encouraging neo-fascist parties in the Ukraine --Right Sektor & Svoboda-- to work to overthrow the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, who was considered pro-Russian. This overthrow was in fact accomplished. Ms Nuland, by the way, met with leaders of the anti-Yanukovich movement in Kiev, such as Mr Klichko, whom she affectionately called Klich. So the Russians had reason to hate Obama as well as reasons to appreciate his help for them, as in Syria. Furthermore, it is hardly clear that any help or support Russia may have given to Trump's candidacy won or swung the election for him.

Nevertheless, the most important argument against Russian complicity or collusion with Trump to help him win the election is the lack of any sign that Trump has delivered any return or quid pro quo to Russia or Putin personally. Rather, Trump record has been more anti-Russian.

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