Putin’s Pooch: Biden Bite Back #106

The word on the street is that Donald Trump is looking for a new nickname for Joe Biden. He thinks that ‘Sleepy Joe’ is losing its effectiveness.

Biden should preempt this move. He could simply announce: “I’d rather be Sleepy Joe than Putin’s Pooch.”

Woof.

Putin’s Goods On Trump

Every couple of weeks speculation surfaces that Vladimir Putin has the goods on Donald Trump and is somehow blackmailing him. The same speculators go on to wonder what it is that Putin has.

It is not women. Trump may well have slept with women in Russia while married, but no one really cares. His supporters accept that he is a philanderer. After all, here is a guy who boasted about the size of his penis in a presidential debate. Of course he is going to use it any chance he gets.

Steve Bannon was right. What Putin has over Trump is money laundering. Specifically, Russian money. It will probably come out that either Trump’s business or his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s business depended on laundered Russia money, breaking all sorts of laws.

Unfortunately for Putin, using this blackmail evidence carries some costs. He can’t just say that Trump was money laundering. He has to do it indirectly, which will probably mean sacrificing one of his oligarch allies and charging them with Russian crimes that would then highlight the money trail and expose Trump’s laundering.

In addition Putin’s leverage may decline over time. Special counsel Robert Mueller will likely put it all together on his own and charge Trump’s and/or Kushner’s organizations with money laundering. Of course, Putin retains some leverage in that he could still be able to supply some details that make Mueller’s case airtight.

Any way you look at it, in all probability Trump’s son or his son-in-law is going to need a presidential pardon.

Putin: We Did It, So What?

Vladimir Putin is taking the long view. Realizing that the investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 elections is likely to show that they were hacking, he admitted that this probably happened. Not by the government of course, but by patriotic individual Russians that felt their government was threatened. He did not say threatened by whom, but the answer is Hillary Clinton.

Putin also let us know told us that we should not expect him or his government to do anything about it. He likened the hackers to artists that wake up with an idea and act on it. And if any connection is ever made between these hackers and Donald Trump, that is their business, not the Russian government’s.

Meanwhile, when pressed Trump is going to say that the Russians did nothing wrong. And he will be right, just like he was right when he said it was smart to pay as little taxes as legally possible. He will point to Obama’s government, which did plenty of hacking, even of our allies, so why shouldn’t the Russians try to hack us? We certainly try to hack them. He will continue to claim that he was not involved, and if the hacking benefited his campaign, so what?

The reality is that the Democrats brought this on themselves. They were irresponsibly lax regarding their computer security. Hillary Clinton set the tone when she decided to use her personal email system instead of the State Department’s, despite repeated warnings.

Both Trump and Putin will claim that it is not their fault that the Democrats left themselves open to hacking, and they will be right.

They will also claim that it was not their fault that people took advantage of it for political reasons, and they would be right about that too.

They will further maintain that they had nothing to do with planning or supporting the hacking, but it remains to be seen whether they are right about that. Of course, even if proven wrong, they have both proven very adept at denying the truth and turning to ‘alternative facts’.

 

Trump, Putin And The Syrian Quagmire

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have a number of similarities. Both are bullies. Both feel a need to demonstrate their virility. Both fancy themselves as very crafty deal makers.

There are also some differences. Putin has been successful in one of the most difficult and backstabbing political environments in the world for several decades. Trump is just  getting his feet wet in the political arena. My money is on Putin letting Trump maneuver him into just the spot that Putin wants to be.

Which is out of Syria.

What does Russia really want out of its activity in Syria?

  1. Pressure on Islamic militants which are also threatening the Russia internally
  2. Access to a naval port on the Mediterranean (Tartus) an air base (Latakia)
  3. Syrian stability – meaning Turkey, the Kurds, Iran, Israel, Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia do not expand their influence into Syria in response to a power vacuum which could have a domino effect of destabilizing the status quo in the Middle East which Russia has learned to live with.

The US shares the first and third goals, and could probably live with some form of the second, especially since it is nothing new. Russia has had access to the Tartus naval base since 1971.

If Russia could withdraw from Syria and achieve its goals it would. The primary reason for supporting Assad is that without him, goals 2 and 3 are in jeopardy.  But if Trump were to agree to some continued access to the naval and air bases, and they could agree on a political structure that included non-Assad Baathists and the non-Islamic opposition, why not jettison Assad?

Meanwhile, on the way to this deal both sides get some positives. Trump gets to demonstrate his virility by bombing Syria and standing up to Putin. But this also helps Putin, because one of Trump’s feet (the left one) is now a bit stuck in Syria which should bring him to the table faster.

At the end of the day, neither side really wants a long term engagement in Syria or anywhere else in the Middle East. Look for them both to get out as soon as they can cut a deal.

Republican President = Invasion?

It seems like every Republican president over the past 40 years has instigated a significant invasive military action involving ground troops.

  • Ronald Reagan invaded Granada
  • George Bush Sr. invaded Iraq
  • George Bush Jr. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan

Bill Clinton followed Bush Sr., and while there was military action on his watch, it did not involve ground troops, just bombing. Barak Obama committed ground troops, but this was a continuation of the wars he inherited from Bush Jr., not something he initiated on his own.

The question is whether Republican Donald Trump will follow the pattern. He did not waste much time putting the military to work in Syria, but that was an air strike, not a commitment of ground troops. Would Donald Trump really want to invade Syria?

Possibly. What if Trump and Putin both agreed to put ground troops in Syria to fight the Islamists? This would not happen before they had come to an agreement on the future of President Assad and the country itself, but stranger things have happened.