From Russia, with . . . love?

A street mural in Vilnius, Lithuania shows Vladimir Putin and the 45th president of the United States . . . best friends.
A street mural in Vilnius, Lithuania shows Vladimir Putin and the 45th president of the United States . . . best friends.

At some point during the presidential campaign, political observers began to be concerned about strong connections between the organization that produced The Current President (TCP), and the Russian government, specifically Vladimir Putin.

For years, TCP has been in business dealings with his Russian peers, and since he’s an international operator, as are they, most of us would not begrudge him those contacts.

However, a troubling pattern occurred, with people who were a part of his campaign having close ties of their own with Russia.

Cases in point:

  • Paul Manafort — The former campaign manager for TCP, has business ties to former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his country to Russia and lives there still. A ledger was unearthed that seems to show that Manafort received payments of nearly $13 million.
  • Carter Page — formerly listed as a policy adviser to the presidential campaign, he has wide business dealings with Russian business interests. But TCP has said he has never met Page.
  • Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.) — now national security adviser for TCP — was close to Russia before it was cool. Less than 18 months ago, Flynn sat next to Putin at a state dinner in Moscow. He has long recommended that the United States and Russia work together on the problem of ISIS. There are concerns as well because Flynn telephoned the Russian embassy in Washington the day after President Barack Obama levied sanctions on Russia for its involvement in hacking the 2016 election. Republicans describe that phone call as friendly in nature, but you can imagine the raised eyebrows had Hillary Clinton or someone close to her made a “friendly” phone call to the Russians.

All of this stuff would simply be interesting but for that aforementioned “concern” about the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton and about the tensions between TCP and the U.S. intelligence community.

Here’s a simple question: Should it concern us that Stephen Bannon, senior adviser to TCP, has been quoted as saying, “I am a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment”?

Should it concern us that Bannon now has a permanent seat on the National Security Council, a seat he took over when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was told he’d be called to NSC meetings when he was needed?

It seems to me that we should be concerned that people who have an obvious agenda, but no training in diplomacy, are now supplanting people who have spent their lives defending the nation.

Here is why it’s important: The intelligence community does not just spring from nothing, and there is a reason we know so little about it. The less we know, the less chance that potential enemies — such as the Russians — know about it. The new administration has made it a point to dismiss and disrespect the intelligence community, and if the new administration can stunt it, then it won’t help us, but will be a boon to the Russians.

All we can do is hope the people in Washington — especially Congress — will have the back of the intelligence community, and we must hope they are as bent on self-preservation as most Washington institutions are prone to be.

I wonder if, somewhere, the intelligence community is burrowing in for a long winter and waiting for the spring of a new Washington leadership.

We’ll never know.


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