Friday Reads: The Putin Poodle and the Damage DonePosted: July 7, 2017
It’s a very hot Friday here in New Orleans. I’d like to be doing anything but watching the most incompetent person in the world make kissy ass with a KGB trained despot but here it goes. How much damage to the standing, democracy, and reputation of the United States will happen because a bunch of bigoted, superstitious, white throwbacks joined a Russian conspiracy to wreck our country? Will the poster child for dementia and narcissism give away state secrets and sell out the joint goals of our NATO allies?
Has he offered us for membership in a Warsaw Pact yet?
Foreign ministries around the world are filled with anticipation over what will happen when Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet for the first time at the G20 summit. But veteran U.S. spies who’ve studied manipulation tactics, particularly from their Russian counterparts, are confident they know what’s going to unfold.
Putin, a former KGB operations officer, will not just be practicing interpersonal diplomacy, they say. He’ll be putting his tradecraft as a spy to work. His main asset: Trump’s massive, delicate ego.
It won’t just be the expected flattery, from the spies’ perspective, though flattery is key to dealing with the “sociopathic narcissist” tendencies one ex-CIA interrogator sees in Trump. Putin is likely to stoke Trump’s ire, encourage him against his perceived enemies and validate his inclinations – particularly the ones that move U.S. policy in the directions Putin wants.
Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Moscow. The Trump-Putin meeting, say Russian politicians and Putin’s former KGB colleagues, is an overdue opportunity to equalize the Washington-Moscow relationship.
“Putin,” one-time KGB general Oleg Kalugin told The Daily Beast, “he has been in power for so many years and, by character, he knows how to handle things and how to outsmart others, including presidents of the United States.”
While everything about this meeting is momentous, the two sides are not on equal diplomatic footing. Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – something U.S. intelligence characterizes as a certainty, while Trump, again, casts doubt on that conclusion – has created a political maelstrom for Trump. Everything resulting from the meeting will be scrutinized in Washington, particularly amongst Trump’s political opposition, for signs of a quid pro quo. Meanwhile, observers have a hard time understanding what U.S. policy toward Russia, its decades-long adversary, even is anymore.
Putin is filling that vacuum. Ahead of meeting the U.S. president in Hamburg, his foreign ministry has said the agenda will concern everything from Syria to Ukraine to returning two intelligence complexes on U.S. soil – even to gay rights in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster has said there won’t be a “specific agenda” for discussion, beyond “whatever the president wants to talk about.” There is confusion on the U.S. side about whether McMaster’s Russia chief, the Putin skeptic Fiona Hill, will attend the meeting.
Putin, former spies say, is well-positioned to dominate the meeting.
Russia has found a huge gap in the American psyche and is moving on in. Just coddle those insecure and visibly lacking white christian men and their house marms. The Russians have stepped up the spying game here.
The officials say they believe one of the biggest US adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations.
“Russians have maintained an aggressive collection posture in the US, and their success in election meddling has not deterred them,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with Trump administration efforts.
Russians could also be seeking more information on Trump’s administration, which is new and still unpredictable to Moscow, according to Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of operations.
“Whenever there is a deterioration of relations between countries — the espionage and intelligence collection part becomes that much more important as they try to determine the plans and intentions of the adversarial government,” Hall said.
Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.
“The concerning point with Russia is the volume of people that are coming to the US. They have a lot more intelligence officers in the US” compared to what they have in
other countries, one of the former intelligence officials says.
Russian hackers are the chief suspects in recent efforts to meddle with the computer networks that run various nuclear power plants and other energy facilities.
If Russia is indeed responsible, it suggests that they could attempt to forcibly shut down parts of America’s power grid like they are believed to have done to Ukraine in the past, according to a report by Bloomberg.
The hackers, regardless of nationality, are believed to be responsible for breaching the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Kentucky among a number of other facilities since May, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The New York Times confirmed the joint report with security specialists who have had to cope with the hacking attempts.
‘We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States,’ Trump said at opening of highly anticipated meeting.
President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that “it’s an honor to be with you” as the two leaders kicked off their much-anticipated bilateral meeting, one that was scheduled for just 30 minutes but wound up lasting nearly two-and-a-half hours.
Neither Trump nor Putin, who were accompanied by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, respectively, offered specifics of what they would discuss once reporters left the room. Trump did not respond to a shouted question as to whether or not he would raise Russia’s efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential campaign, according to reporters in the room.
“President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well. We’ve had some very, very good talks. We are going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue,” Trump said as photographers snapped photos of the two presidents, whose meeting took place at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. “But we look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned, and It’s an honor to be with you.”
Putin, through a translator, echoed his U.S. counterpart’s friendly welcome and said he and Trump “will really need personal meetings” in order to resolve certain policy issues.
“We have spoken on the phone with you several times before on very important bilateral and international issues. But phone conversation is never enough,” Putin said. “I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President. And I hope, as you have said, our meeting will yield positive result.”
It’s believed that Trump wants to “team up” with Putin in Syria. This would mean keeping brutal dictator Assad in power.
For once, Rex Tillerson is not freelancing.
Late Wednesday, ahead of the first-ever meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the secretary of state suggested that the U.S. is willing to explore “joint mechanisms” with Russia to stabilize the vicious Syrian civil war.
After a dizzying series of policy shifts on Syria, administration and congressional sources tell The Daily Beast that Team Trump is introducing the beginnings of a new strategy for Syria—one that, in the short term at least:
• leaves dictator Bashar al-Assad in power;
• acquiesces to the idea of “safe zones” proposed by Russia and its allies;
• leans on cooperation from Moscow, including the use of Russian troops to patrol parts of the country.
A knowledgeable senior administration official discussed the emerging strategy with The Daily Beast on the condition that what the official said could only be paraphrased, not quoted, as the official was not cleared to discuss the issue publicly. The account was backed up by two White House sources and a congressional source.
This is obviously an unfolding story. So, I’d consider this a live blog thread. Share what you read and hear please!
Coverage from The Guardian: ‘G20: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin conclude lengthy meeting’.
“Putin went straight from meeting Trump to talks with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. He apologised for his lateness due to the talks with Trump overrunning, and in opening remarks reported by Interfax, Putin said he and Trump had discussed “Ukraine, Syria, and other bilateral problems. We returned to the problems of fighting terrorism and cybersecurity”.
A lot more links are coming as reporters file their stories.