To an outsider, US elections can seem like surreal affairs. As Hillary Clinton’s supporters openly plan war in Syria the media and political class froths over a mythical connection between Donald Trump and Russia.
Over the last week the big foreign policy story in the US election has been Donald Trump’s supposed connection to Russia, and Russia’s supposed role in the DNC emails leak. This is absurd. There is no evidence Donald Trump has any important connection to Russia or is in any way a Russian agent. As an international businessman he has obviously had the odd dealings with Russian businessmen but on any objective assessment his financial involvement in Russia has been slight. He has no big investments there, owns no big properties in Moscow, has built no “Trump Towers” in Moscow or St. Petersburg, and owns no large hotels there.
Far too much is being made of the fact that some Russian and Ukrainian money may have found its way into Trump’s businesses. The reality is that investment by business people with backgrounds in Russia and Ukraine in the New York property market in which Trump is a major player has been huge. By way of example the billionaire tycoon Leonid Blavatnik owns a $77 million apartment in the ultra-elite apartment building at 834 Fifth Avenue. The penthouse in the same building was formerly owned by Trump’s prime media tormentor Rupert Murdoch (it now belongs to Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng).
Blavatnik also owns a string of other properties in New York, including the city’s widest mansion on East 63rd Street (pricetag: $31.25M), a palatial apartment at 998 Fifth Avenue ($27M), and Edgar Bronfman’s East 64th Street townhouse ($51M). Given that Trump is a major player on the New York property market it is inevitable that some of this tidal wave of money that originates with people or businesses with Russian or Ukrainian connections has found its way into his businesses. There is however no evidence that he has actively solicited it, or that he is dependent on it, or that it has in any way influenced his views about Putin or about Russia.
As for the DNC emails leak, as I have written previously there is no evidence Putin or the Russians were behind it and on the facts it seems very unlikely that they were. Furthermore, who are these ‘experts’ Clinton campaign manager Robby Moo refers to below?
I would say in passing that to an observer of Russian politics the extraordinary concern US politicians and media are showing about Russia’s almost certainly non-existent involvement in the US election contrasts very oddly with the intense and open involvement of the US in Russian domestic and electoral politics during the 1990s, when Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill was US President.
Not only did the US under President Bill Clinton openly back Boris Yeltsin and his team of “young reformers” during this period, but it supported Yeltsin’s unconstitutional and violent dissolution of Russia’s democratically elected parliament in 1993, and winked at the blatant electoral fraud in the two Russian constitutional referendums of 1993, in the parliamentary elections of 1993, 1995 and 1999, and – most grotesque of all – in the preposterously corrupt and fraudulent Russian Presidential election of 1996. If the Russians really are meddling in this year’s US Presidential election in order to hurt Hillary Clinton – as is almost certainly not the case – then some Russians could be forgiven for thinking it was simply pay back for what her husband Bill did to Russia in the 1990s.
Putting all that to one side, the big foreign policy story of this election in any rational world ought surely to be not Trump’s non-existent links to Russia but the openly declared intentions of some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters to involve the US in another war in Syria as part of a US project to achieve regime change there under the pretense of attacking the Islamic State.
The one thing that is blindingly obvious to anyone who follows US politics is that the American people would fiercely oppose this policy if it were ever spelled out to them, especially if they were told that it risks involving the US in an armed clash with Russia, which is a nuclear power. In any truly democratic and open election it would be this profoundly dangerous and unpopular policy – not Trump’s non-existent Russian links – that was the centre of attention, with Hillary Clinton pressed to explain the policy and to say why she thinks it serves US national interests and world peace.
That this is not what is happening is the true scandal of this election. If in a few months time, after Hillary Clinton is elected, the US is looking at another foreign policy debacle in the Middle East, then the extent to which the US media and political class has failed the American people will become only too obvious.