Putin

Where Bolton Is Headed - Putin

"Where Bolton Is Headed-Putin" originally appeared on the website, Medium

I want to posit that when John Bolton’s story comes out, however it comes out, the most shocking revelations will be about Donald Trump’s treasonous fealty to Vladimir Putin.

We know that the President’s rough treatment of Ukraine’s Zelensky benefited Russia. Trump’s top Russia experts told us so, under oath, in the House hearings. And the President told us so in that infamous July 25th phone call — his first “favor” was actually for Russia and Putin, not himself.

We also know thanks to reporting from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman that Bolton refused to go television in late August of 2019 to defend the President’s incredible advocacy for Putin at the just completed G7 meeting in France. Over the objections of Ukraine and the European Union, the President made the relaxation of sanctions imposed on Russia for their illegal annexation of Crimea a central issue in the talks. It was rightly seen as an outrageous PR gift to President Putin at the time, and one which of course has to now be seen as a critical part of Trump’s month’s long illicit shakedown of Zelensky.

We also know that the New York Times headline the day after Bolton departed the White House read “Trump Leaves Open Possibility of Easing Iranian Sanctions to Spur Nuclear Talks.” The Times pieces goes on to report “his subtle yet startling signal about relaxing the sanctions came just a day after the president unceremoniously ousted John R. Bolton, the White House national security adviser who opposed détente with Iran.”

Let’s try to put all this together. Bolton joined the Administration in April of 2018. He was there in Helsinki, when the President shamefully said he trusted Putin over America’s intelligence agencies. He was there in December of 2018 when the President abruptly announced America’s first abandonment of Syria, a geopolitical gift to Russia and its regional ally, Iran, a move that caused Defense Secretary Mattis to resign. He was there in early May of 2019 when, after speaking to Putin on the phone, the President abruptly reversed course in Venezuela, essentially once again giving a nation over to the Russians. He was there when the President lavishly praised Russia’s close ally, Viktor Orban, in the Oval Office even saying that Orban was “like me” (we know now that Bolton opposed allowing Orban to come to the White House, and that he used that meeting to help turn Trump against Zelensky and Ukraine).

It was in the late summer of 2019 when Trump gave Bolton reasons to get truly alarmed. He was there as the entire Ukrainian “drug deal” played out over the summer and early fall, including the President’s truly unbelievable suck up to Putin at the all-important G7 in late August. He then had to contend with the President inviting the Taliban to Camp David to finalize a peace deal that would humiliate the United States and provide another boon to Russia. But it was the President’s floating of the relaxation of the “maximum pressure” regime on Iran, Russia’s close ally, which seemed to be the last straw.

And for good reason. While we know the President was deferential to Putin in their public meetings, and had seemed to take a series of dramatic steps to align the US with Putin’s global ambitions in recent months in Syria, Europe, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Afghanistan, the true test of Putin’s influence over Trump would always be Iran. While nodding to Putin across the rest of the world, when it came to Iran, Putin’s ally, the President was with Iran’s enemies, the Gulf Arab states and Israel, in a big way. The President’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, re-imposed sanctions, and began his campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran. He threatened Qatar for being too friendly to Iran. We know of his deep intimacy with Israel’s Bibi, and the President even looked the other way when the Saudi’s dismembered a journalist living in the US, working for the Washington Post. Weakening the Trump/Bibi/MBS alliance seemed beyond even Putin’s reach even though like Ukraine this one really mattered to him — he had soldiers fighting and dying in Syria.

Iran hawks had reason to worry about the President’s commitment to their project when he began his first pull out of Syria in December of 2018, a move seen as benefiting Iran and Putin. But it was his shifting of his position on Iran in early September, detailed above, that clearly was the last straw for Bolton and a sign that Putin had run the table with his apprentice in the White House. In reading through contemporaneous news accounts of the President’s repeated gifts to Putin, Bolton appears consistently on the other side — opposing Orban’s visit, the about face in Venezuela, the Ukraine and Afghanistan polices, and finally this new “détente” with Iran.

In the months following Bolton’s departure, events have shown that his concerns about the President’s Russian drift appear to have been more than justified. In one of the more dramatic and dangerous foreign policy acts in American history, the President finished his Syria pull out in mid-October, abandoning our allies the Kurds, risking the return of ISIS, angering our European allies, and fundamentally tipping the scales in the Middle East in Putin and Iran’s direction, all at the expense of the Gulf Arab states and Israel. Zelensky still hasn’t gotten his Oval Office meeting, and every day he and his Republican allies bash Ukraine for being a corrupt cesspool. And in something which deserves far more attention, veterans groups have criticized the Administration for not moving against a newly discovered Russian foreign influence campaign targeting vets here in the US.

But it is what has happened with Iran since Bolton departed which should have American policy makers most concerned. Inspired by the President’s apparent bowing to Russia’s will in the region, the Iranian regime became far more aggressive. It attacked Saudi oil facilities — no US response. Iran downed a US drown — no response. It then began a campaign to bully the US out of Iraq, a campaign which led to the death of an American contractor, the assassination of General Soleimani, an Iranian strike on a US base which caused extensive damage and wounded dozens of our soldiers, and a formal request for the US to leave Iraq altogether — which was the goal of the Iranian/Russian campaign from the start.

With Bibi’s loss of immunity today, and more unacceptable behavior from the Saudis in recent months including the still unfolding terrorist attack in Pensacola, the Russian/Iranian alliance while having taken some casualties in recent months seems to have come out of this skirmish stronger than ever.

The Washington Post reported this morning: “Bolton was regularly appalled by what he saw from the president, the people close to him said. He wondered at times if Trump was acting in America’s best interest or if he was inspired by nefarious reasons, according to a person familiar with the book.”

“Inspired by nefarious reasons.” We don’t yet know what John Bolton is going to say about his time in the White House. What we’ve learned so far has been pretty explosive, and it seems likely that he will be called to testify in the Senate Impeachment trial. But if I am right, and the tale he tells is about an American President repeatedly doing the bidding of Russia to the detriment of the national security of the United States, then we are not just looking at the end of the Trump Presidency but a scandal of potentially world altering proportions.

Column: The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One

Today US News published Simon's latest column,“The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One.”

An excerpt –

"In the coming days, Trump's willingness to shed his clear admiration for Putin and Russia will be central to our emerging Syria policy, and to Trump's broader foreign policy vision. It is also perhaps the most important indicator of his willingness to shed the childish fantasy world his campaign constructed that is causing his early presidency to fail. Whatever Trump believed about Putin, and whatever transactions have gone down between them, Putin is anathema to the American creed. He is working to weaken America and the West on the global stage, advance autocracy as an alternative to democracy, undermine the global consensus about the need to find a better energy paradigm than one based on fossil fuels and has been Assad's funder and partner and thus is directly responsible for the greatest humanitarian crisis in generations. There is a strong argument to be made that defeating Putinism is the most significant challenge facing our new president. And because of this Trump will have to choose. He can be president of the United States or a friend of Putin's. He cannot be both."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.
 

Backgrounder: Countering Russia's Insurgency Against The West

This has been an area of concern for the NDN team for some time. Below is some of our most important recent work:

Democrats should put Russia, corruption, and tax returns on agenda w/Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/20/17. In the coming negotiations with President Trump on a wide variety of issues, Democrats should add three more important issues to the agenda.

The RNC's Russia Problem, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/14/17. The RNC helped Russia interfere in our elections. It should now take the lead in making sure it never happens again.

Tillerson failed to make Russian interference in US elections central to his mtgs w/Lavrov, Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/12/17. Failure by Tillerson to make this far-ranging interference campaign central to these talks and to publicly condemn Russia for their aggressive actions here and in Europe is a tacit sign of approval of these efforts by the Trump Administration.

The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/7/17. On Russia, Syria, health care, immigration and even jobs Trump's fantasy world is crashing into the real one.  And the results haven't been pretty for him, or for the nation. 

NDN Calls on WH/DHS to Release Their Plans for Protecting US Elections from Foreign Interference, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/5/17. It is time for the White House to come forward with its plan to make sure the kind of attack Russia made on the US in 2016 never happens again.

GOP and House Intelligence Hearing, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/20/17. GOP used the hearing to lay predicate for a purge of IC, another Russian objective, and sent clear signal they care more abt protecting Trump than understanding what Russia has done in our countries and others.

Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/9/17. Simon argues that the new WikiLeaks release reminds us the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the US is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

Corruption of Trump by Russia (Part 2), Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/4/17. Simon's take on what we are learning - that the Russia scandal is ongoing, not something that happened last year.

Corruption of Trump by Russia (Part 1), Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/3/17. Simon's take on what we are learning - that the Russia scandal is ongoing, not something that happened last year.

On Flynn, Pence and Russia, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 2/9/17. Simon does a deep dive on the news Mike Flynn lied about his contacts with Russia, and renewed his calls for his suspension or removal.

NDN Calls on Trump, Congress to Respond to Russian Aggression in Europe, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/9/17. NDN calls on the Trump Administration and Congress to respond to and counter Russia's aggression and preserve the West.

On The Difference Between The US and Russia, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 2/5/17. In response to Donald Trump's comments in the O'Reilly Superbowl interview, Simon reminds us that Russia has done more to spread oppression and human misery than any other country in the world over the past 100 years. 

NDN Calls on President Trump to Demand Russia Honor Ukranian Ceasefire, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/1/17. NDN calls on the Trump Administration to forcefully defend the Minsk agreement and demand Russia and its forces in Ukraine to stand down.

NDN Calls on President to Delay Decisions on Russia Policy until Investigations, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 1/27/17. Simon calls for President Trump should refrain from making any significant changes in our policy towards Russia until these investigations are complete, and Congress and the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on their findings.

The End of Pax Americana?, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 1/26/17. Donald Trump is taking radical steps that is weakening the global order America imagined and built after World War II.  Before he does more harm to our interests, Congress must force a big debate about his vision, and challenge him if necessary.  

The Pernicious Politics of Oil – On Trump's embrace of petro-politics, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/16/16. In his recent column, Simon does a deep dive on why Trump's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

Trouble Ahead – 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/1/16. In this recent column, Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency – unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI’s late intervention and Melania’s immigration troubles.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/28/16. Our government must explain what happened with Russia's successful intervention in our election, and what steps it plans to take to prevent it from ever happening again.

Prior to 2016 Election

The West Is On The Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling all Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Voting Machines Should Be Seen As Critical Democracy Infrastructure, Greg Miller, The Hill, 8/22/16. Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece to provide a plan to protect our elections systems from disruption, foreign or domestic.

Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free, Simon Rosenberg and Jonathan Spalter, The Hill, 10/22/14. Simon and Jonathan Spalter offer up a whole of government approach to keeping the Internet open and free in the years ahead.

Column: Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Global Petro-Politics

US News and World Report has published Simon's eighth column, " The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in which Simon offers some thoughts on the arduous path ahead for Democrats.  He calls for a focus on four issues now: prosperity, security, political reform and being for everyone.  

An Excerpt from "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's Embrace of Petro-Politics"

For all the sense of fear and dread about the state of the world today, America and its allies do not have a significant global ideological rival as we did with Communism and Fascism in the 20th century. Most of the world is in the American-led global trading system; most of the world has signed on to the Paris climate accords; most of the world still works through the forum of the United Nations to at least discuss and debate contemporary issues.

Yes, this system is fraying. It isn't perfect, and there are outliers and insurgencies, like the Islamic State group. But there is one looming threat that if not contained could continue to grow into something existential and truly threatening – the pernicious politics of oil.

There are three parts to this rising threat. First, climate change. In addition to the promise of the Paris climate accords and the many other steps large and small governments and communities are taking around the world, clean energy investments appear to be hitting an early critical mass, suggesting private sector innovation will play an ever more meaningful, and perhaps historic, role in addressing the challenge. More must be done here, of course, and rapidly, but the Obama years have created a global momentum that I think is unstoppable. Or so I hope. (Note I am an advocate for more domestic fossil fuel production and a supporter of fracking, but also believe in the necessity to accelerate our transition to more sustainable and distributed sources of energy. See this terrific new Atlantic piece from Ron Brownstein on the role fossil fuel production played in the 2016 presidential election.)

Second, the oil curse. What the world has learned is that far too often countries with large oil and gas holdings fall prey to authoritarianism and oligarchical capitalism. There is a traditional political economy reason for this: The revenues generated for the government through oil production frees politicians from their dependence on taxpayer dollars and thus voters themselves. The wealth created through traditional free market capitalism, innovation and bottom up entrepreneurship isn't needed to generate the wealth of the nation or an unaccountable small ruling class. In the process, the state becomes much more powerful vis a vis its own people, and democratic institutions and norms are weakened or struggle to develop. Think of Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia as prime examples.

These petro-economies are in the most extreme a different form of societal organization – maybe a rival? – than free market democracies. They are oligarchical and "command and control" in structure, the opposite of the bottom up, people-led vision of a good society imagined by our Founding Fathers and championed globally by the West since World War II. These countries are less invested in the instruments of the modern free market system, and while they make money off of it, the more it becomes a global success the more of an ideological threat it becomes to their control over their own people – particularly in an age when it is far harder to control the information to which their people have access to.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters

The rise of Trump certainly gives our community much to be concerned about. But as I sit here in DC thinking about what NDN can and should do in the months ahead, I keep coming back to one thing – the Russian intervention in our election. Our government simply owes the American people a clear explanation for what happened, or at least a more transparent process to help us get one, soon.

A new, alarming Washington Post piece from over the break reminded us how extensive the Russian operation was, and how seemingly ill-equipped we were to counter it. There are so many pieces to put together here – the extent of the penetration into the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign; the many ties of the Trump campaign to Russia, something that the FBI is reportedly investigating; the active encouragement of the Russian actions by the GOP nominee and the Republican Party itself, and the precedent setting decision by Party leadership to actively use the questionable material in the campaign; the question of whether there was any actual tampering with our elections process, and the coming to terms with the massive, successful disinformation efforts by the Russians that are now well documented.

For some I am sure this all sounds like a bad James Bond movie. But it is clear now that a foreign hostile power played a major role in a US election, one significant enough to have potentially influenced the outcome. All of our leaders in Washington should be asked to step up here and work together to come to an understanding about what happened, and take concrete, publicly understood steps to ensure it never happens again. This is particularly true, as I wrote in a recent US News column, because the intervention here is part of a wide ranging Russian campaign to weaken the West and a global politics that resists authoritarianism.

It is possible the Russian intervention in our election this year was one of the most significant events in modern American history. While there are many things our leaders can and should be focusing on in the coming year, getting to a better understanding of what happened here has to be at the top of the list. It won’t be easy, and hard conversations will have to be had. The new governing party’s resistance is likely to be fierce. On this one, however, we need to be Americans and patriots first, partisans second. Our leaders need to lead and help America, and the world, understand what happened and to offer clear concrete steps to ensure it never happens again.

Related Materials

The West Is On the Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling All Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Matt Damon on The Palin Ultimatum

And just for fun - I think Matt Damon brings up a good point.

I love the comment a VERY conservative friend of mine made when I sent him this video: "Caring or quoting what celebrities think about anything is usually cause for a punch line, but in this case, he happens to be correct."

His comment reflects how during this election, unlike any other, people are switching parties, switching preferences, and reflecting over a broader array of issues that are less substantive but no less relevant - issues like race and age in a Presidential election, the role of a Vice Presidential nominee - much more than in the past.

 

 

 

 

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