Streetwise Professor

August 7, 2016

If Trump Really Has Deep & Enduring Russian Business Connections, He’s a Machiavellian Genius!

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:45 pm

The drumbeat about Trump’s connections to Russia pounds on, and is mainly sound and fury, signifying nothing. The campaign consists mainly of unsubstantiated theories, insinuations, and innuendo. Further, these appear to be tenuous at best and are often wildly implausible.

The gist of the theory is that Trump has said nice things about Putin. Putin has said nice things about Trump. Trump has criticized Nato. Putin obsesses over Nato. The DNC email was hacked, possibly by the Russians, embarrassing Hillary. So why? Trump business connections, naturally!

This theory has been floated by Democratic operatives, by George Will (heretofore not suspected to be a Democratic operative), and the #neverTrump crowd, and echoed repeatedly in the media. In ironically Russian fashion, the campaign has moved to social media, where reliable little pilot fish plumping for media attention and maybe even an apparatchik role in the Clinton administration (yeah, I’m looking at you @CatchaRUSSpy) are spreadin’ the word.

My basic problem with this is the whole idea of secret Trump business dealings that could only be revealed by looking at his tax returns. “Secret Trump business dealings” is an oxymoron. His whole MO is self-promotion and hype. If anything, he overstates his business successes. He is not the man to hide his light under the bushel basket.

Now if you were talking about Soros, no doubt he has massive number of business dealings that have escaped the public eye. But Trump? He’s all about the publicity. What’s more, litigation and leaks from partners or bankers would have almost certainly revealed any major dealings long ago. If Trump has succeeded in keeping some big deal in Russia completely secret for years, he’s the man we need in charge of our national security! He would clearly be far more capable of keeping secrets than Hillary.

As for his not releasing his tax returns, I can think of 1,000 better reasons than concealing past dealings with Russians. This fact is overdetermined, to put it mildly.

Trump has been quite open in the past about his attempts to get into Russia, and how those attempts came to nothing. And let’s be real here. Every major business in the world looked to Russia as a huge opportunity in the 90s, and into the 2000s. For many–most, arguably–it ended in tears. Yes, look askance at businesses that did well there: many almost certainly succeeded because of corrupt deals. I’m thinking Siemens, or HP. (And to be fair, it seems that Siemens bribed everybody everywhere.) But those who tried and failed (a) can’t have continuing relationships that would be advanced or jeopardized, (b) likely didn’t pay bribes, or bribed the wrong parties, and (c) are likely to have a rather jaundiced view of Russia and Russian politics.

Further, when you are talking about Russia, past business dealings have very little connection with current conditions. One of the most pronounced regularities of Russia is that those who are riding high one minute quite often come to very hard falls somewhat later. Yesterday’s insiders are outsiders and sometimes pariahs today. If you have a connection with someone who is now on the outs with Putin, that connection is a liability to be shed, not an asset to be maintained.

Further, as Russia recovered from the 1998 crisis, and was riding high during the oil price boom, previously successful Westerners were considered less and less necessary, and were sidelined and forced out. Westerners became resented as parasites who attempted to exploit Russia’s weakness. Successful foreign investors had a huge target painted on their backs: look at TNK-BP, or Telenor/Vimpelcom. Once they didn’t need your money, they looked for any way to take the money you’d already made.

In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 crisis, Western financial connections became even more suspect as threats to Russian sovereignty.

And for those who have been paying attention Putin has been dramatically narrowing his circle of insiders, and that circle consists increasingly of those from the security services. Indeed, even some of the various security services are being left out in the cold. And worse: for instance, the head of the customs service was recently raided. Right now, the FSB, the GRU, and Putin’s new national guard are inside the circle. Everyone else dreads the knock at the door.

Insofar as biznessmen are concerned, (a) Putin has always had a deep suspicion of them, and (b) those who were seemingly favored in the 90s and 2000s are clearly on the outs now. The favored business people at present are Timchenko and the Rotenbergs. Show me any Trump dealings with them, and we’ll talk.

But this last point raises one of my pet peeves. Those who now pontificate on Russia and Trump’s connections clearly have NOT been paying attention. They betray a superficiality that would be embarrassing in a comic book. Many of the people and things that they mention became irrelevant years ago.

Further, one should be chary about claiming that they know what goes on in Russia, and in Putin’s pea-picking mind. Riddle, mystery, enigma, and all that. But fools rush in where angels fear to tread. And many a fool is making bold claims about a country and a politician they know little about, can know little about, and which until recently they ignored altogether. But now they’re experts.

The very byzantine nature of Russian politics and business over the last 25 years means that very few outsiders have navigated it successfully, even for a time, let alone many years. All I can say is that if Trump was (a) able to survive and thrive in that world, and (b) do it without anybody knowing, he’s a Machiavellian mastermind who would scare Putin to death.

The strained attempts to tie Trump to Putin are also transparently intended to distract attention from the embarrassing content of the DNC leaks–and, methinks, preempt leaks that are likely to come, from the Clinton Foundation, or even from Hillary’s server.  It’s a twofer for Hillary: discredit the message by emphasizing the malign (alleged) messenger, and tie the malign messenger to her opponent.

Beyond the implausibility of the insinuations, I doubt this will affect anyone who is not already a Hillary acolyte. Russian generally and Putin specifically are not bogeymen to most Americans. It’s not 1983. It’s not as if there are many people out there who would say “I liked this Trump fellow, but this Russia business  is just too much.” Those who don’t like Trump have many other reasons to do so; those who do are likely care little about Russia one way or the other; and those on the fence likely rank Russia low on the list of factors that will cause them to jump one way or the other.

So in the end, I find this obsessing about a Putin-Trump bromance to be amusing and embarrassing. I would be shocked that there’s any there there. It runs counter to Trump’s type, and it runs counter to history. The controversy transparently (pants?) suits Hillary’s political needs. Those who are hyping it are clearly partisan, and clearly ignorant. There are plenty of real issues to talk about, involving both Hillary and Trump. Let’s get on with that.

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  1. That 5th alinea is a bit inconsistent; it isn’t (shouldn’t be) the ‘publicity/ego’ factor that makes partners/banks leak, so Soros staying clean all those decades should not have been possible either, in that line of thinking (assuming he is dirty, which is plausible if only by association, with a ‘former’ Dutch princess(-by-wedding), being close to Soros, once denying she knew Dutch crime-boss Klaas Bruinsma).
    Or, if consistent: Soros is clean too then.
    (no way, Gutmensch never is)

    Comment by Wilhelmus Janus — August 7, 2016 @ 8:38 pm

  2. Also, while Trump might (indeed) be too dumb to (have) be(en) close to Putin, his secondants Flynn & Manafort have (then and now) a much more dirty trackrecord.
    Appearing on an event hosted by RT is like being hosted by Goebbels in WWII.

    Cq no blackmail potential on past & future business, but serious lack of ethics, now and then.
    Guilty by association.
    (so would be many German VIP’s, political & business (moderate socialists being worse than far-right!), and French ilk like Mariani)

    Comment by Wilhelmus Janus — August 7, 2016 @ 8:50 pm

  3. @Janus. Flynn was a US army officer until 2014. He was head of DIA at the time of his retirement. What “dirty track record” could you possibly be referring to? You should also note that his latest book said that Russia, China, and Islamists were conspiring to take down the US. He’s hardly a soft-on-Russia guy.

    As for Manafort, per Wikileaks documents he was a source regarding political developments in Ukraine for US intelligence/State Department.

    Speaking of guilt by association, I remember well how Milton Friedman, Arnold Harberger and others at Chicago were tarred with that stick for work in Chile. This despite the fact that their work ended up materially helping the Chilean economy and they had no connection with the coup or the military excesses. Playing this card is an old leftist trick.

    And when it comes down to the very real choice, Hillary laps the field in terms of ethical turpitude.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 7, 2016 @ 10:03 pm

  4. Besides Siemens & HP, you forgot Adidas….;))

    (Mercedes is not clean either, by coproduction with KAMAZ)

    Comment by Wilhelmus Janus — August 7, 2016 @ 10:19 pm

  5. Flynn’s trackrecord became freshly dirty, by attending an RT-event.
    Manafort has much older, Ukrainian, dirt on his record.
    He was advisor to Yanukovich.

    Just like attending an RT-event: even the shimmer of a conflict of interest should be avoided, just like in legislative offices.
    Note we are not talking about petty crime here, this is association with war-crime level bad guys/media.
    (but so is sending cash to Iran/NK, yes)

    Or, in reverse: writing a book about your countries worst enemies doesn’t match attending events of their worst (media) components.

    Comment by Wilhelmus Janus — August 7, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

  6. @Janus-No German company is clean. Which is why German posturing about moral superiority is annoying. (Volkswagen is another example.)

    Maanfort was a source for the US precisely when he was working for Yanukovych.

    I’m not an RT fan–obviously, as numerous posts illustrate. By the same token, I’m not about to consider appearing on it tantamount to propagandizing for the Third Reich. I would also suggest that applying that logic to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, etc. would require no conservative to appear on any of those outlets. Particularly during election times, I hardly consider them superior to RT. And if that rule were followed, no conservative voices would be heard pretty much anywhere. What Gen. Flynn said is far more important. In fact, he could do a great service by saying something not totally in keeping with the RT line.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 7, 2016 @ 10:43 pm

  7. Sidestepping for a pet-peeve:
    As for Volkswagen, finding a larger sceptic than me will be difficult, because the entire problem of diesel soot is ecofascist man-made.
    Old diesels emit coarse/large-particle soot, which a) is visible, b) falls down and c) even while temporarily floating doesn’t penetrate lungs.
    Ecofascists made them emit fine/small-particle soot (invisible, floating, penetrating).
    (while adding NOx, and even when discovering that, keeping a total blind eye to the same NOx levels in gasolines)

    In the face of ecofascist-based rules & bureaucrats, I can’t blame VW.
    You reap what you sow.
    Unfair field of competition between manufacturers, preceeded by a much larger unfair field of competition between diesel & gasoline; reason vs lie/demagogy.

    CNN is bad^2 of course, being big sponsor for HRC/DNC.
    Not sure about financial stakes of others.
    But at least they all (still) operate in a market where non-PC media doesn’t get their offices raided & terrorised by default, continuously.
    (nor offer a 24/7 podium for all the fringe lunatic west-haters the world has to offer)

    Comment by Wilhelmus Janus — August 7, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

  8. I think the reason German companies get away with bribery/cheating for so long is that the German government thinks what is good for German companies is good for Germany, and the EU thinks what is good for Germany is good for the EU. It’s only when they stumble into the path of the US DoJ or another branch that they come a cropper.

    Comment by Tim Newman — August 8, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

  9. @Wilhelmus Janus:

    Coal also emits large soot particles which are visible and which eventually fall down… but high concentrations of it in early 20th century cities still created smog, still damaged the health of millions and still killed people.

    India can also attest to this: In the mid-1990s (when the country was much poorer than today) they spent quite a lot of money converting their old diesel busses Compressed Natural Gas. They did this because it was completely clear that their old diesel engines with their coarse soot was such an obvious hazard to human health (and because India has gas).

    So, from a technical point of view, what you are saying is not true (except that environmental rules created a tendency towards finer soot, which is true, but those same rules also require that the soot be filtered). Modern cars do amazing things and we are collectively better off because of it.

    Comment by Hiberno Frog — August 9, 2016 @ 2:25 am

  10. Years ago, there was a comedy movie that came out about the attempt of three American political consultants to work on Yeltsin’s campaign in 1996. The movie came out in 2003. It’s a funny movie called “Spinning Boris.”

    In the meantime, many US law firms have found a monetary bonanza in setting up law offices in Moscow – and Kyiv. And many political consultants have similarly found a monetary bonanza in Russia – and in Ukraine. The sovok mafiosi who took over lived and died by propaganda and lies, but they just had to polish up their acts a little with the likes of Manafort and Podesta and many others.

    Somehow, the media ignores the $35 million that Klinton Komrade Podesta bagged from the Russians

    Killery’s ties with Putler and the Russians were far, far more sinister than anything that Trump supposedly did – or actually did not do.

    There are, after all, big “donations” to the Klinton Foundation and “speaking fees” to Mouthbreather Slick Willie Klinton.

    I am still trying to figure out what Victor Pinchuk, a sovok mafia gangster oligarch, got for his $8 million “donation” to the Klinton Foundation besides the pictures of him and Chelsea hobnobbing around together.

    Comment by elmer — August 9, 2016 @ 7:28 am

  11. All right guys, looks like it smells like war there again.

    Comment by LL — August 10, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

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