Fight for political survival

With the first indictments issued by Robert Mueller, the administration of Donald Trump is fighting for its very survival. Paul Manafort is emerging as a major figure in the Russia investigation. He also is becoming a symbol of how America has done business since the 1980s. The others brought to the fore bear witness of an age of shoddy practices.

Since the Reagan years, Washington has been dominated by figures who can scarcely give anybody a straight answer on what they do for a living. They make money, but no one is particularly sure about the product. Bank accounts in Cyprus, multiple passports and a degree of secrecy which would make 007 blush. All the Trump administration can call them is a group of guys that they scarcely know even when they appear in group photographs with the president. And so it goes.

Much of the mystery begins in the 1990s with the fall of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin and his curious crew plundered Russia and willingly left the world stage. Poverty and wealth coexisted with very few left in the middle. Life expectancies, particularly for males, fell to fifty-five and a disillusioned generation saw their country bought off piece by piece by former Soviet bureaucrats who became proved kleptocrats. As Yeltsin drank and postured, NATO plotted its way east. Russia was in a deep predicament, impoverished and defeated.

Then came Vladimir Putin and Russia began to assert power in the Caucasus region, smashing Chechen terrorists. But it would take four years to recover from the legacy bequeathed to Putin from Yeltsin. The kleptocrats became oligarchs but at least the stealing seemed to have a purpose. The oil industry picked up, other energy sources were exploited and the Russian economy grew.

Waiting for such opportunities were a group of American oligarchs eager to enjoy the bounty. Unlike the early moves, such as Pepsi claiming the Stolichnaya brand for a time as a display of American consumerism. Money was being made and faux experts on Russia, such as Carter Page, began to appear. Rex Tillerson showed up and received a medal from Putin. For a time, President George W. Bush divined that he could see into Putin’s soul.

Now none of this was wrong but some decided to interfere in the east. Ukraine went through a color-coded revolution in 2004 and the United States seemed hell-bent on turning Russia’s southern flank. Years late, Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s ally, won the presidential election. In 2014, the United States, led by Victoria Nuland, whipped up another revolt nicknamed the Maidan and placed Petro Poroshenko, an American operative, in power.

Pro-Putin and anti-Putin Americans fought it out for wealth. Manafort helped manage Yanukovych’s campaign and the other side was aided by the American government. American interest escalated and the present situation ensued partially spurred by our own oligarchs.