As a Russian Information Warfare expert, I have been asked on more than one occasion to give my thoughts about Russia, Putin, and Trump.
After an extended weekend spent contemplating this very nuanced situation, I am going to attempt to share my opinion.
I truly believe what I am about to write.
As a man of the world, Trump had the occasion to travel around the world. Nobody begrudges him that. Any relationship between Trump and the Russians were incidental to his business dealings and were required as a part of business transactions.
Trump was a big, fat, juicy target for the Soviet KGB when he first visited in 1986, Trump most certainly knew that to be a fact. If Trump put himself into a compromising position, he would have known he was committing business and political suicide. He also was, most certainly, painfully aware that anything he did in Russia was being recorded, especially in private quarters. Chances of Russia now having compromising, or компрометирующий материал/Kompromat are, therefore, minimal to nil. To think otherwise is to be a conspiracy theorist or whacky, but I repeat myself.
Putin, as both former Director of the FSB and the current President of Russia, has a complete detailed dossier built on Trump. This dossier describes Trump’s predilections, which medications he takes and how often, the names of people with whom he deals in all circumstances, and the names of people with whom he probably had illicit affairs through the decades. A few of these facts could be used against Trump, but it is highly doubtful Trump can be blackmailed for any of them. You do not get to be Donald Trump, very much in the public eye for multiple decades, and have a lot of dirt that has not been vacuumed and swept with a fine-toothed comb, hyper-scrutinized and analyzed.
Putin, therefore, has only personal, anecdotal material that he can use, privately, with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. More than likely the US has more on Putin, which the US has withheld for a private occasion when Trump and Putin are behind closed doors.
How can I say this with any surety, that Putin has nothing on Trump? The classified briefings given by the Intelligence Community to members of Congress would have disclosed at least an inkling of an indication of a point of weakness on Donald Trump. In turn, knowing how loose the lips of Congress are, knowing the Democratic members detest Donald Trump so badly, they would have leaked at least a hint to the press that the President-elect is susceptible. In turn, this would have sent shock-waves screaming through the highly partisan press and it would be pounding all our senses, even competing with our sense of having to breathe.
Rex Tillerson, future Secretary of State, as former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, dealt with Gazprom, their Russian counterpart, routinely. Again, he’s a big boy, received the same warnings, and had bodyguards anytime he dealt with known bad guys.
LTG, USA (R) Flynn has dealt with and still routinely deals with foreign nationals, mostly leaders, routinely. It has been a part of his profession for at least two decades. When one is invited to speak in Russia as a senior, one picks and chooses which invitations to accept. Again, he received the same big-boy briefings and again, he would know if he was being pitched or possibly recorded. It starts even before you stand up to deplane and it’s been a part of his life since he first started working in the intelligence field close to four decades ago. Sitting beside the Russian President, himself a former intelligence operative and former Director of the FSB, is not only downright decent but is surprisingly appropriate.
As for Putin “supporting” Trump, it just so happens that Russian goals were the same as Trump’s: defeat Hillary. The enemy of my enemy, and all that. I kept reading what I could during the election, discerning if Putin and Russian statements were pro-Trump or anti-Hillary. Most statements were anti-Hillary, few were actually pro-Trump, and that would only reinforce the anti-Hillary posture. Today, if Russia supports Trump, it causes dissent among the Hillary supporters. This results in multiple protests, anti-Trump events, and foments division, chaos, and undermines US democracy. Trump has also questioned some alliances, furthering Russia’s goals. Take heart, Trump is being hit full in the face with the realities of these alliances, I predict his tone will soften.
Donald Trump, the candidate, made one thing very clear. He wants to make America strong again. Strong internally, and strong externally. Hold people accountable. Hold alliances accountable.
Nobody can predict how Donald Trump, the President, will behave or fully and accurately predict what he will do, say, or support. I choose to believe he will act on behalf of making America strong again. At a cost to Russia? Yes, at times. At a cost to the UN? Yes, at times. I pray he does not make Ukraine pay a price.
So many unknowns.
One thing, I believe. We are going to make America great again. In this, I ask all of you to pray for and support our new President.