Election 2016: The Manchurian Candidate

manchurian-candidateRobert Maynard

The recent furor over the tapes in which Donald Trump boldly brags about getting away with sexual assault has captured a lot of people’s attention. While it is important to weigh in on the character of anyone who puts themselves forward as the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, there are other issues besides the sex tapes that are in need to serious consideration. Both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s candidacies raise security questions about whether either one should be in the position of commander in chief. While there is evidence of Clinton financial ties to business figures in the service the Chinese Communist Party, there is also evidence of Trump ties to Russian organized crime in the service of Vladimir Putin.

I have already weighed in on the Clinton-China connection, so I would like to weigh in now on the Trump-Putin connection. There have been numerous publications depicting Donald Trump as a Manchurian Candidate at the service of Russian interests and I have had my own suspicions for some time. That being said, I waited until the case was laid out in detail by a global security online newsletter before speaking up. The site has a section which explains how Russia is one of the post cold war “mafia states” where the actions of the government and those of organized crime are intimately linked:

Belarus, Chechnya and Russia are virtual “mafia states” and Ukraine is going to be one. For each of those countries, one cannot differentiate between the activities of the government and organized crime groups. Economic influence, sooner or later always reaches political power. a key factor in a government’s ability to combat OC depends on the extent to which the country’s best attorneys and law firms represent the mafia.

Putin in particular has made a career of gaining power by hooking up with the organized crime network:

Putin’s power is founded on his links to organized crime. Putin has a close circle of criminal oligarchs at his disposal and has spent his career cultivating this circle. Karen Dawisha’s book, “Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia” documents how during Putin’s time as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg he was alleged to be was involved with the local Mafia, ex-KGB apparatchiks and bureaucrats in schemes involving the diversion of municipal funds, illegal arms shipments, the food shortage scandal of 1991, the local gambling industry, and money laundering for the Cali drug cartel through the Real Estate Board of St. Petersburg.

The reach of Russian organized crime is not confined to Russia and it intertwined with Putin’s plans to spread his influence globally:

There are two reasons to worry about the Russian mafia. First, it exercises tremendous control over certain strategic sectors of the global economy, such as aluminum. The US has a strategic problem in that the Russian mafia is suspected of having a sizable investment in General Motors via its interest in Canadian auto parts maker Magna International.

The second reason is the unanswered question regarding the extent to which Putin is implicated in the Russian mafia and whether he controls the mafia’s actions. Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian intelligence official who worked on OC issues before he died in late 2006 in London from poisoning under mysterious circumstances, that the Russian intelligence and security services – Grinda cited the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and military intelligence (GRU) – control OC in Russia.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world became the target of a new global crime threat from criminal organizations and criminal activities that have poured forth over the borders of Russia and other former Soviet republics such as Ukraine. The nature and variety of the crimes being committed seems unlimited—drugs, arms trafficking, stolen automobiles, trafficking in women and children, and money laundering are among the most prevalent.

According to their sources, GlobalSecurity.org sees evidence that Putin and Russia’s organized crime network are interested in the Trump candidacy: ‘To all evidence, Donald Trump is the Manchurian Candidate. Trump has a variety of prior connections with Russian interests. He has said strangely friendly things about Russia, and early on in 2015 the Russians had clearly endorsed him as their preferred candidate.”

The particular link appears to be a Russian immigrant:

The relationship between Donald Trump and Felix Sater, whose father is a reputed Russian Organized Crime boss, represented a rather direct link between the presidential candidate and Russian Organized Crime. The Russian émigré — a twice-convicted felon with ties to the Mafia — appeared in photos with Trump, and carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.” Trump confused when asked under oath in a 2013 about his relationship to the Russian émigré.

All this would be less worrisome if Trump has not expressed an eagerness to come to the defense of President Putin whenever the subject comes up. Taken all together, it raises the question of whether one of our major candidates for President is in Putin’s back pocket. A second article by GlobalSecurity.org raises that question and it would be well worth the reader’s time to check it out. It certainly is a concern to some of our Eastern European allies:

Trump’s campaign rhetoric is the “biggest dream of everyone in the Kremlin,” Tina Khidasheli, defense minister of Georgia, a U.S. ally, told The Washington Post in June 2016. “It’s scary, it’s dangerous, and it’s irresponsible. … It is a big problem if you have a candidate for president of the United States talking like this.” David J. Kramer, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state dealing with Russia during the George W. Bush administration, said he was “appalled” by Trump’s approach to the Russian leader. “Why would anyone welcome an endorsement from [Putin]?” Kramer asked. “Putin exploits weakness and an accommodationist approach. I shudder to think what would happen if he finds that in the next American president.”