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Kremlin-Trump link: New normal

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Kremlin-Trump link: New normal

Does all these meddling allegations bring about a New Cold War with Russia? This is a pertinent poser which subsumes one and all. The term New Cold War might be passé as both the nations are cooperating on the issue of the Syrian insurgency and equal significance has to be given to strained relations with Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia

The US and Russia are nations par excellence. Both the nations excel at grandiloquent mechanisms and instrumentalities with larger-than-life ramifications for their nations, regions and the international systems. It has been a well-known dictum and a characteristic of foreign policy that nations have their domestic spirals intertwined with the foreign policy and external relations ministrations. Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Donald Trump’s America are no exceptions to the rule of existence in the larger sense of the term. It has been a gnawing concern with the rest of the international system that the 2016 presidential elections were on the turf and were hotly and vituperatively contested between Hillary Clinton and Trump. It has been part of a larger allegation that candidate Trump in cahoots with Paul Manafort invited, clandestinely, the Russian aid and succour in order to debilitate the electoral and campaign applecart of candidate Hillary. Manafort’s larger involvement in the context of the Ukraine’s domestic political circus brought to the fore the reality of how the trails of campaign in the US and other bigger and developed nations are rife with the surreptitious and one reeking with chicanery of the financial and the political order.

If the Congressional enquiry, which has been posited against President Trump and his entourage, is anything to go by and swear by, then Trump would have been in the docks since long. The Governmental and executive trail of Trump turning his lieutenants one after the other in a repeated rigmarole made a mockery out of the juggernaut which the American President is attempting to lord over and shepherd across the coarse seas of realpolitic. Plain Jane and uninitiated commentators from the left and the liberal fold have been targeting this Russian profligacy of Trump and some have, true to their tradition, cosily drummed up the Russian connection as the doomsday linkage for a seemingly incipient Trump Administration. All this is well known. What needs to be deciphered is: does the Alistair Maclean like subterfuge with car chases and brisk dagger runs, in the cobbled and shadowy under-city of Moscow, have any iota of substance in them or is the Russian ruckus all about an imagined international espionage bearing the Russian mark on the entire shady spy business.

Recently, it was aired globally in the media that one of the Russian agents met Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon during the run up to the US presidential elections. It has been reported in a prestigious American web news portal, “Rinat Akhmetshin is a Russian-American lobbyist who, by his own admission, worked as a military counter-intelligence officer for the Soviet Union before its fall. He also attended Donald Trump Jr’s June 2016 meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, before which Trump was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton that came from the Russian Government. The Trump team had, until NBC News broke the story on Friday, never mentioned that there were any other Russian nationals at the meeting.” Thus, definitively the Trump team and the attendant entourage has been found on the defensive and as having lost the aggressive teeth as far as the clean and above-the-board status and conditionality of President Trump’s Administration is concerned.

It’s much more than the chills and thrills of a Ludlum and Maclean Novella saga premised upon the shady deals and the hooded dons on the run. The question that concerned all the people in the American firmament was that “was Akhmetsin an American spy and did he actually take part in an election interference campaign”. There is a dearth of direct evidence about the Russian agents meeting with the Trump team but his explanation about the Trump meeting is questionable and leaves the Trump scene much in a quandary. The Magnitsky law empowers the US President to impose sanctions upon any Russian who involves in dubious activities in the US. Does the utterings of Trump are pinpointing in that plausible direction? Can we expect such a Presidential directive? These are questions and posers to be ruminated upon. How do the dots connect?

Trump Jr too agreed to meet the Russian lawyer, who had promised incriminating and debilitating information about candidate Clinton, who was already effected by the fact that she had ended up using her mail box in an unauthorised and reckless manner. The New York Times reported in a July 2017 op-ed about the fundamentals and contours of the meeting between the Russian Ambassador to the US and the head of a Russian Bank who had also been part of a spy system. And, Jared Kushner was too involved in the surreptitious setting in the American election jamboree par excellence. The New York Times report contends, “The Times disclosed that Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, met during the transition with the Russian Ambassador to the US and with the head of a Russian bank, a man who once attended a Russian spy academy. (The bank itself is on a US sanction list.) This was the first reported private meeting between a Trump relative and Russian officials, making Mr Kushner the closest person to the President to be called upon by the FBI and several Congressional committees investigating the scope of the Russian intervention.” Kushner could be in the scaffolding as he is a top White House aide along with being in the docks for not being in possession of a security clearance and the proper authority. Trump cleared the air by delving inside the idiom that the Trump Team had to meet the Kremlin lawyer as there was an issue which had cropped up concerning the denial by certain American families into adopting Russian families. Still, an official Congressional investigation is trudging down the spy lane.

Another indictment which the New York Times has come out with is about the various myriad linkages with the Trump associates have had with the Russian establishment. One of the New York Times reports informs, “At the request of Mr Kislyak, Mr Kushner also met with Sergey N Gorkov, a graduate of Russia’s spy school and now the head of Vnesheconombank, a Russian state-owned bank that was under sanctions by President Barack Obama. Mr Kushner was also present at a meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer.” Apart from the top aide’s connections, the campaign coordinator, Paul Manafort’s listing in the Kremlin meeting tars him as he was dutiful campaign coordinator of the Trump campaign. Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, too was embroiled in the controversy. In a hearing, which took place recently, Sessions said he was contended that he had to separate himself from the running talk on the controversy, not because he was caught on the wrong foot. Sessions followed the trail of Justice Department regulations concerning his presence in the electoral campaign led by Paul Manafort and played-for-keeps by candidate Trump in 2016.

Does all this bring about a New Cold War with Russia? This is a pertinent poser which subsumes one and all. The term New Cold War might be passé as both the nations are cooperating on the issue of the Syrian insurgency and equal significance has to be given to strained relations with Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia. And, all in all in the true consummation of the real politic of the US-Russia tangle after the recent exposes, one can laugh off the matter as being part of a globalism ordained domestic connections with foreign relations of which Russia and the US are no exception and is the new normal.

 

(The writer teaches International Relations at Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi)

 
 
 
 
 
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