By James Kirchik
When Angela Merkel meets with Donald Trump on Friday [3/17], she won’t just be representing Germany. She’ll be bringing all the hopes and anxieties of an anxious continent—one whose fears have been stoked by the fervor sweeping from Amsterdam to Rome, Paris to Berlin. It’s no exaggeration to say that this meeting between Trump and Merkel could set the tone for the very future of the Western Alliance.
For a specter is haunting Europe—the specter of populist nationalism. Ideologically indeterminate, it manifests across the Continent in the form of France’s right-wing National Front, the post-communist German Left party and the Italian Five Star Movement, which defies any traditional political label. While these parties, and the intellectual currents to which they give voice, may not align on everything, they are invariably anti-establishment, opposed to the European Union, and hostile to America. They are also all supported—either materially or through other, less tangible instruments—by Russia.
The embrace of the Russian strongman by Western leaders like Orban, Le Pen—and yes, Trump—is the culmination of Moscow’s assiduous, years-long cultivation of the global right.
This is not incidental. As Europe’s political stability, social cohesion, economic prosperity and security are more threatened today than at any point since the Cold War, Russia is destabilizing the Continent on every front. Indigenous factors – whether long-extant nationalism, design flaws in the Eurozone lack of a common foreign policy, or incapability at assimilating immigrants – certainly lie at the root of these crises. But all are exploited by Moscow and exacerbated by its malign influence. Fomenting European disintegration from within, Russia also threatens Europe from without through its massive military buildup, frequent intimidation of NATO members and efforts to overturn the continent’s security architecture by weakening the transatlantic link with America. If a prosperous and democratic Europe is a core national security interest of the United States, as it has been for the past 80 years, then the Russian regime is one to be resisted, contained and ultimately dethroned. For none of the existential problems Europe faces will dissipate until the menace to its East is subdued. The road to a Europe whole, free and at peace, in other words, goes through Moscow.
Just at the moment when the West requires unity, however, it’s disintegrating. Brexit foretells the potential demise of the EU, a democratic bulwark to authoritarian Russia’s predatory strategy of divide and conquer. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Americans have chosen a president who abjures his country’s traditional role as linchpin of the liberal world order and wishes to ally with the very power threatening to dismantle it. Unlike any president of the postwar age, Trump’s 19th century worldview and narrow conception of America’s national interest seems to accord with a Russian sphere of influence in Europe. …
While Washington Is Caught Up In Trump’s Russian Ties, Moscow Is Rapidly Expanding Its Influence
By Matthew Rojnsky
The Huffington Post (3/21/17)
For all the Russia-related chatter coming from Washington of late, United States policy towards the Kremlin has been difficult to discern. But while much of official Washington and American media focus on the politically charged investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Moscow isn’t standing still but rather capitalizing on the distraction. With all eyes on U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin is advancing his foreign policy agenda on multiple fronts, especially in the Middle East.
For Russians, the move makes sense. What was once hailed as a Putin-Trump bromance is now far from certain, and the possibility of a productive relaunch for bilateral relations seems increasingly unlikely. In response, Putin is looking elsewhere to solidify Russia’s place in the world order.
Washington’s failure to develop a comprehensive policy for engaging, deterring and balancing Kremlin influence is likely to have lasting consequences.
Russians remain confused and concerned about potential U.S. policy. Russians are confused by what they see as contradictory positions from the president himself and his top advisers on Russia-related issues. While President Trump has tweeted and commented publicly about his desire to improve relations with Moscow both before and after his inauguration, he has appointed top cabinet officials and advisers who do not appear to share that view. Moreover, following meetings with Ukrainian and European politicians, the president himself declared his commitment to keeping pressure on Russia until it stops occupying Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.
In their skepticism toward the likelihood of a new path forward with America, Russians note the consistently hawkish tone from both parties in Congress, whose attitudes Kremlin spokesmen have decried as “McCarthyist.” They recognize that under the current circumstances, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to confirm any Trump nominee perceived as supporting improved relations with Russia. Likewise, prominent executive branch appointees have spoken out sharply against Russia over the past two months, including U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who urged, “we should never trust Russia,” and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who poured cold water on the idea of U.S.-Russian military cooperation. Even the president appeared to reject an overture from Putin during their phone call in January, when Putin proposed to open discussions on a follow-up to the New START arms control agreement, and Trump dismissed it as a “bad deal” that favored Russia.
Given this, top Russian officials and analysts now assume that the Trump administration will be at best totally hemmed in on Russia policy, and will at worst come to agree with the hawkish bipartisan majority in Washington. Anticipating no further positive initiatives from the U.S. side, Moscow is toughening its own geopolitical position, especially in regions where the U.S. and Russia have traditionally jockeyed for influence. …
Russian Lawyer Involved In US Prosecution In Intensive Care After Mysterious Fall From Apartment Window
The lawyer for the family of late Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky is in intensive care after plunging from his fourth-floor apartment a day before a major court date, Russian media reported.
Magnitsky’s former employer released a statement saying the lawyer, Nikolai Gorokhov, had been thrown out of a window on Tuesday, though he gave no further details and police were not immediately available to comment on his account.
Gorokhov had been due to represent Magnitsky’s family at a court hearing on Wednesday linked to a $230 million tax fraud case that they say Magnitsky was killed for exposing in 2009.
News agency Interfax quoted an unnamed source saying the lawyer fell while trying to winch a bath up to an attic with some workers.
But Magnitsky’s former employer, William Browder, said Gorokhov was “thrown from the fourth floor of his apartment building… and is currently hospitalized in the intensive care unit of Botkin hospital in Moscow with severe head injuries.”
Browder’s statement said Gorokhov was also a key witness in a separate U.S. court case connected to the alleged fraud that Magnitsky uncovered. …
Harassment Of DNC Researcher Leads To Serious Questions About Russia Role In US
By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (3/23/17)
In a March 21 Newsweek story about President Trump’s apparent and possible links to Russian oligarchs and government the story of a Democratic National Committee lawyer and researcher raises very troubling questions about the possible actions of Russian operatives in the United States.
During the campaign Democratic National Committee researcher Alexandra Chalupa was doing research into the possible connections and transfer of large amounts of money to then Trump campaign director Paul Manafort. When Trump’s come-from-behind campaign began to gain traction the Manafort story took on added significance.
Then came the Russian hack of DNC emails, including Chalupa’s.
That’s when things got weird. There was an attempted break-in of her home in a quiet DC suburb. Someone downloaded a death-metal song popular in Russia onto her iPhone playlist.
Newsweek reports, “Her car was broken into and trashed twice, with nothing stolen. The second time, the burglar left a red, traditional Ukrainian blouse draped across the back seat. She reported the incidents to the D.C. police and FBI, which by then had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Russian subversion. No arrests have been made.”
The magazine reports there were other incidents Chalupa is not ready to discuss.
The Putin regime has showed no hesitation to reach out and harm dissidents and critics living in other countries, including recently the second near death poisoning of a critic in London.
As weird and twisted as the Trump/Putin narrative has been, we may not have seen anything yet.