I thought of just making a list of dire bullet points for this review, there’s certainly the material for it, but let’s start with one rather strong statement by the author. When business was interrupted in the Duma, Russia’s parliament, by the announcement of Trump’s presidential victory in 2016, there was enthusiastic applause. We won was in the air. “Vladimir Putin’s implementation of one of the most audacious intelligence operations in history had been successful beyond his wildest dreams.”
The book ends with a sort of coup de grace, where a quote by Trump that he had zero relationships with Russia is followed by 26 pages of sketches of the criminal/oligarchs with whom the President indeed has had questionable and profitable relations. We should keep in mind that oligarch/gangster, in Russia, are, for most purposes, synonymous. Those who opposed looting of the former Soviet Union’s resources, as it transitioned from oppressive communism to gangster capitalism, were marginalized, threatened with loss of position or early death, government officials, citizens or journalists. The most ruthless rose to the top and that is who you deal with in Russia today.
In that light it is disturbing to note that, of the list the author made of Trump/Russian contacts, many lived, owned condos in or did business from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City. One of the three chieftains of the Russian Mafia, Vadim Trincher, Brighton Beach branch, operated out of there. Russians it were who typically made the early condo purchases in many Trump complexes, probably as money laundering operations. Only a few floors below Trump’s penthouse, operated a sports book that laundered $100 million dollars out of the former Soviet Union, busted in 2013 by police. The operation was under the control of ringleader Alimzhan Tokhatkhounov, a high-living, world-roaming gangster, according to Unger, with a 9 million euro apartment in Paris, and four Villas in Italy, big cars, yahts etc; Mogilevich, another high ranking mafioso, wanted by the FBI, was highly visible at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. One might be forgiven for suspecting that those questioning Obama’s birth certificate etc; aimed to discredit him rather than express actual concern about citizenship seeing as how they demonstrate indifference in the face of extremely suspicious circumstances surrounding Trump, Putin and the Oligarchs. The president’s (and how hard it is to call him that) campaign manager, it is well known, was up to his neck in Russian and Ukrainian politics. His lawyer, Michael Cohen, co-owned the night club used as a sort of headquarters for Brighton Beach mobsters of both Russian and Italian descent. This book, you read it and weep.
The author claims that Putin and company have organized a very effective effort to undermine democracy in the west, sow confusion and despair, polarization and chaos. They are supporting right wing fringe groups in Western European elections, likely interfered with the Brexit vote, probably responsible for the negative outcome. Russian policies in Syria have, at least in part, the purpose of flooding Western Europe with refugees, strengthening crude nationalism and xenophobia and further undermining democracy there. Their work in/on the U.S. may have made the difference for Trump’s victory. A joint study by the University at Berkley and Wales concluded that they affected as much as 3.6% of the vote in Wisconsin, enough to win it for Trump. A progressive senator also lost his come-back bid there, former Senator Russ Feingold. Another study showed that though 51% voted democrat, 60 of 99 seats went to republicans, due to gerrymandering. It’s not a stretch to say that republicans are working, if not hand in hand, in parallel to, Russian gangsters, to undermine democracy in the United States and promote greed and selfishness. These are the very scoundrels who are the first to crow about love of country and patriotism when they seek your vote or want to con you into another war.
A few more outrageous bullet points: the Russian mafia were amazed when they first encountered what they saw, clearly, was legal bribery in the U.S. They simply had to set up a lobbying shop on K street in D.C. And voila, pretty much get what they wanted from the congress. Paragons of virtue like former FBI directors could not resist the oligarchic cash flow, generously lending (trading) their legal skills and contacts in service to the new kids in town.
None dare call it treason… but it does demonstrate that previous self-righteous, anti-Russian, anti-communism among U.S. ideologues was not aimed at the brutality and oppression, the gulags etc; as claimed, since today the same pretty much exists minus the sharing, the socialist aspects of the previous regime. The elite here sees no problem with, maybe even envies, the ability of Putin to silence critics, cut “wasteful” government spending (read, spending on the people rather than elites), utilize naked violence to achieve desired outcomes, being, always, more money, the way they keep score – along with the length of their yahts, their mansions, their tailored clothing, trophy wives and over the top, ostentatious lifestyles.
This book and Luke Harding’s, Collusion, provide enough evidence to warrant an unhampered investigation in both houses of congress, or at least full support for the Mueller probe. This is obviously not going to happen unless the mid-terms overcome republican voter suppression and ideological blindness, not to mention of course, Russian interference.