Trump’s Ukrainian connection

‘Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities.’ So says Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook. This follows allegations in The New York Times that Manafort received millions of dollars in cash payments while serving as an advisor to the Ukrainian Party of Regions prior to the 2014 revolution which drove the party and its leader, President Viktor Yanukovich, from power.

Mook’s demand builds on previous allegations linking Trump to leaked documents from Clinton’s email server, which were supposedly hacked by the Russian intelligence services.  The Democratic tactic appears to be to convince the American public that Trump is some sort of puppet of the Kremlin, who if elected would sell out American interests to Russia.

Unfortunately for this narrative, the most important fact is that the source of Manafort’s alleged money isn’t actually Russian – it is, or rather was, Ukrainian. Nevertheless the Clinton campaign and some of the media are tying the case to Russia by calling the Party of Regions ‘pro-Russian’. This is a misnomer. Yanukovich and his party were only pro-Russian to the extent that they were not Ukrainian nationalists or avidly pro-Western. They drew most of their support from Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population, especially although not exclusively in the south and east of the country. They passed legislation which gave minority languages, including Russian, some legal recognition; they renewed Russia’s lease on the naval base in Sevastopol; and they opposed NATO membership for Ukraine. But that was about the extent of their pro-Russianness.

Yanukovich, in fact, resisted Russian efforts to persuade Ukraine to join the Eurasian Union, and was far from being opposed to closer relations with Western Europe. One of the major reasons why Yanukovich’s November 2013 decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union caused an uproar was that he himself had been promising such an agreement for a long time. Had the EU offered him acceptable terms, he almost certainly would have signed up. Russia found Yanukovich to be a very unreliable partner, and he was certainly not a mere ‘Kremlin stooge’.

It seems that the Russians actually found it easier to do business with the supposedly pro-Western Yulia Timoshenko in her time as Ukrainian Prime Minister than they did with Yanukovich. It is worth noting why Timoshenko ended up in prison – for signing a gas supply deal with Russia which allegedly betrayed Ukrainian interests in favour of Russia. Yanukovich’s government, in other words, imprisoned Timoshenko for being too pro-Russian!

The division of pre-Maidan Ukrainian politics into pro-Western and pro-Russian camps is overly simplistic. The competing political groups in the country represented different oligarchic and other interests, whose primary concern was promoting those interests, not pursuing alliances with this or that foreign power. As a Russian official once put it to me, ‘Yanukovich isn’t pro-Russian, he’s pro-Yanukovich’.

Similarly, the Party of Regions wasn’t pro-Russian, it was pro-Party of Regions. Paul Manafort denies taking cash payments from the party, saying that ‘the New York Times has chosen to purposefully ignore facts and professional journalism to fit their political agenda.’ But even if he had actually taken the money, it wouldn’t have proved that he had ‘ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities’, because the Party of Regions wasn’t such a thing. It may suit the Clinton campaign to use this story to suggest that Trump and the Kremlin are closely connected, but this story doesn’t show anything of the sort.

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22 thoughts on “Trump’s Ukrainian connection”

  1. It suits the Clinton campaign to provide a diversion. Short attention-span, low-information, pre-committed American voters will be a lot quicker to forget the Clinton e-mail scandal and the succeeding snuffing of the Sanders candidacy if they have a distraction in between, like Donald Trump is a Russian patsy. He’s never expressed any particular affinity for Russia or Putin, just a resolution to be practical and not deal with the issues emotionally. It should never have been given any column-space as it is so silly, but now the Democrats are claiming to find connections everywhere – should a national-security investigation be started? Do they have enough for a grand jury indictment? The whole thing doesn’t bear consideration, but American politics has deteriorated to such an exercise in maudlin patriotism that they would be best off to go back to Plymouth Rock and start over.

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  2. Ha, commented yesterday at a place where they call the Party of Regions a “Ukraine-based pro-Russian group”… Here: http://www.inquisitr.com/3421104/paul-manafort-ukraine-links-denied-by-top-trump-aide-said-named-in-12-7m-ledger-entries/

    What a travesty… If I was a journo, I’d be looking for the evidence – and, perhaps, publicly suggesting even without it – that Obama admin’s curators of the Kiev regime have manufactured this whole ‘scandal’ out of thin air…

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  3. If I remember my Ukrainian history right, the Kremlin actually saw Yanukovich hiring US political advisors as a sign of him moving even further towards the west, and tried hard to sabotage him while looking for alternatives (and kind of found one in the Dneprpetrovsk centered Timoshenko).

    Something else to keep in mind is that POR was initially centered on both Dnipro and Donbass, and that Donbass forced out Dnipro during the Yanukovich vs. Timoschenko showdown. This caused the alliance between Dnipro (now led by Kolomoisky), parts of Kiev and Lviv during Maidan.

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  4. Why are the writers here doing mental gymnastics to make Mr. Yanukovych, a hyper-kleptocrat, appear more legitimate than he really was?

    Mr. Yanukovych and many of his equally kleptocratic cabinet ministers are now safely residing in the Russian Federation under the protection of President Putin! Of all the political parties in Ukrainian history, the Party of Regions was closest to being a Russian influenced or favored party.

    The Kremlin first made a bad decision in backing Mr. Yanukovych and in revenge for his usurpation by Ukrainian masses, annexing Crimea and invading the Donbass.

    Mr. Manafort has serviced, as a matter of public record, a whole series of dictators and kleptocrats around the world. Is ACEWA funded by these dictators? Is it a front in favor of dictators? Or is it just a bunch of senile men and women?

    The writer here is not doing their cause or EastWestAccord any favors by aligning defending Donald Trump or his entourage.

    Is ACEWA anti-Muslim, racist, or anti-immigrant also or is it simply trying to ignore these realities so that it can make peace with Mr. Putin?

    I never thought I would see formerly distinguished Ivy League Professors, Senators, Senior Diplomats defend the likes of Donald Trump and his dictator supporting staff.

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    1. Actually, Mr Oryshkevich, nothing in my post in any way defends either Trump or Manafort. It merely argues that it is wrong to reframe what are really some allegations about Mr Manafort’s honesty into a story hinting that the Trump campaign is in some way in the pay of Russia.

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    2. “Why are the writers here doing mental gymnastics to make Mr. Yanukovych, a hyper-kleptocrat, appear more legitimate than he really was?”

      Key word here – “legitimate”.

      “Mr. Yanukovych and many of his equally kleptocratic cabinet ministers are now safely residing in the Russian Federation under the protection of President Putin!”

      No less kleptocratic cabinet is now safely residing in Kiev under the protection of the civilized West’s gauleiters.

      “Of all the political parties in Ukrainian history, the Party of Regions was closest to being a Russian influenced or favored party.”

      Which is a big no-no, as opposed to be unashamedly pro-Western.

      “The Kremlin first made a bad decision in backing Mr. Yanukovych and in revenge for his usurpation by Ukrainian masses, annexing Crimea and invading the Donbass. “

      Yats, Klichko and Tyahninok + several thousands of maidowns =/= “Ukrainian masses”.

      Crimea wanted no part in this svidomiy circus and gtfo bacl to Russia. Donbass, apparently, invaded itself and then withstood attacks from the “proper” Ukrajina.

      “Mr. Manafort has serviced, as a matter of public record, a whole series of dictators and kleptocrats around the world.”

      All Westerners do that and have no trouble for their efforts whatsoever.

      “I never thought I would see formerly distinguished Ivy League Professors, Senators, Senior Diplomats defend the likes of Donald Trump and his dictator supporting staff.”

      As opposed to Madame former Secretary Clinton’s election HQ thick as thieves with Gulf states lobbysts and sponsors. But that’s okay, ’cause, as you know, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a democracy! Oh, wait…

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    3. Yasnovelmozhniy pan Bohdan! Uvaga! More zrada this way: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/us/cash-flowed-to-clinton-foundation-as-russians-pressed-for-control-of-uranium-company.html

      “And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.”

      P.S. BTW – Viktor Pinchuk is one of the top donors to the Clinton Foundation. Is this “gan’ba” level offense?

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  5. I have the impression that the Yanukovich administration was much less corrupt, more successful, and more popular than the previous, pro-western one, of Mr Yushchenko. Mostly because of its PM, Mr Azarov.

    It wasn’t “pro-Russian” in any reasonable sense (as in “pro-RF”); it simply represented the eastern part of the country, of former Ukraine. As opposed to Yushchenko, who represented the western part of former Ukraine. Indeed, the eastern part is more culturally Russian and Russophone, so indeed it was “pro-Russian” in this sense. PM Azarov couldn’t even speak Ukrainian. However, denouncing/despising this kind of “pro-Russian-ness” would make one a racist bigot.

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    1. And that’s exactly what Bohdan above hates the most, that his notion of “Ukraineness” had competing, that it was internally disputed.

      Snarling Banderastanis like Bohdan hate that!

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  6. Well, POR was pretty corrupt, but that corruption was tempered by some basic managerial competence.

    Pro western faction are in some ways more corrupt (mostly because their western patronage allows them to get away with more), and have a certain fanaticism to them that makes everything worse.

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  7. Well, I don’t think ‘POR was corrupt’ is a useful framing. Money talks, and so the liberal-democratic model is inherently corrupt. And where, as in Ukraine, it’s openly and directly controlled by oligarchs, much more so. Nevertheless, a couple of months ago I saw some Italian mafia expert claiming that the UK is the most corrupt country in the world.

    But corruption is only one characteristic. POR had a more important (imo) characteristic: it was a party of regionalism. Just what former Ukraine, with its clear and often antagonistic regional diversity, needed…

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    1. An issue with the POR was that, after campaigning on a platform of regionalisation, once they gained control of the central Kiev government they happily exploited the benefits that being in charge of an overcentralized government brings, rather then actually federalizing power and devolving more authority to the regions, including to regions hostile to them.
      That does of course not legtimize Maidan.

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      1. I’m sure they exploited the benefits, but I seem to remember that they at least passed a law making local languages official in regions, for the courts, etc. And not just Russian, any local language, like Magyar, etc.

        Perhaps (and it seems likely) they passed other regionalization-style laws, I just don’t know – but I do know this one because the very first vote of the putschist Rada, immediately after the putsch, was to repeal this law. Their very first official act. So, I imagine it wasn’t meaningless…

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    2. @Mao Cheng Ji

      Should you actually read Saviano’s article rather than its headline you would probably notice that he meant UK happily accepting money from deeply corrupt countries such as Russia and Ukraine, not that the UK state institutions being corrupt themselves. The corruption in Ukraine was endemic under POR at any level of the government to the extent unimaginable in any Western country, meaning that as a well-positioned member of government or law enforcement you could do literally anything to other people without taking any responsibility.

      @PaulR
      Speaking about Yanukovych “getting better deal from the EU” you must be apparently living in another reality where Yanukovych has not been promising for months to sign the treaty to the Ukrainian people – and ensuring both them and the EU that the terms are very favourable for Ukraine. Only to do a 180 degrees surprising turn at the very last moment (21 Nov), when his compliance to Moscow was somehow finally enforced and Azarov issues a surprising decree where the two years of EU-UA negotiations were described as threatening “the national security of Ukraine”. And this is precisely what took people to the streets.

      @Wanderer
      You must have missed it, but even Russian media stopped using hate language like “Banderastanis” a while ago after the Novorossiya project was eventually abandoned.

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      1. Well, he says the UK is the most corrupt country in the world, specializing in money laundering. A criminal enterprise with well-functioning institutions. Apparently he thinks it’s worse than nickel-and-dime corruption elsewhere, but sure, opinions differ, I understand…

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      2. “You must have missed it, but even Russian media stopped using hate language like “Banderastanis” a while ago after the Novorossiya project was eventually abandoned.”

        Pray tell us, when and what kind of Russian Media ever used the term “Banderastanis/Banderastan” refering to the Ukraine?

        Provate citizen can call the Ukrainian terriroy ruling circles how they please – junta, fascists, neo-nazis, banderits etc. I personally call the ruling regime in Kiev “camarilla”, ’cause they severely lack cojones to be a “healthy” junta.

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      3. But Stepan Bandera is an official state hero these days, and probably the most cherished one… So, how’s ‘Banderastan’ hate language? No more than, say, ‘Leningrad’, it seems to me…

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      4. I don’t care what Russian media says, I just tell the truth. And Banderastan is what Ukraine has devolved into.

        “The corruption in Ukraine was endemic under POR at any level of the government to the extent unimaginable in any Western country”

        As it was under the Oranges, and is under PorkyChocko.

        As I told Bohdan above, what you Banderastanis hate above all is that your BS narrative was disputed, and that Eastern Ukraine was strong enough to compete politically with you, especially after the Oranges demonstrated their total incompetence at governance. And the post-coup regime now sets records in both incompetence in governing and utter corruption, as Ukraine’s 25-year demographic death spiral continues unabated.

        It seem you Banderastanis really do prefer that your country die rather than admit that Bandera backing the Nazis was a bad idea.

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  8. @Mao Cheng Ji

    Because his poor tender feelings got hurt when someone truthfully described what Ukraine has become under the political dominance of western Ukraine, where people raiding army and police facilities and arming themselves against the government in Kiev got its start.

    Of course when western Ukrainians do it, it’s a laudable defense of their liberties and the use of riot police against it is a horrific human rights violation, while when eastern Ukrainians do it in response, it’s terrorism and the aerial and artillery bombardment of cities is a proper & proportionate response.

    Is everyone clear on that? Good!

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  9. Here: http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/how-ukrainian-oligarch-ny-times-and-clintons-toppled-trumps-campaign-manager/ri16071?utm_source=Russia+Insider+Daily+Headlines&utm_campaign=6fc1d61787-Russia_Insider_Daily_Headlines11_21_2014

    According to Roger Stone, this whole fictitious ‘affair’ was manufactured (for the benefit of the Clinton campaign) out of thin air by Sidney Blumenthal and Viktor Pinchuk. Quite convincing, imo…

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