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Trump and Putin, behind the scenes
Quote:Even if the Russian government is not responsible for the hack on the D.N.C., Putin’s affinity for Trump is clear. Some part of it may be a matter of kindred temperament. Just as Trump talks ominously about Mexican “rapists” and tens of thousands of “illegal immigrants … roaming free” in the land, Putin won early popularity by vowing to dispense with terrorists from the Caucasus: “We will ice them in their shithouses.” Trump is, after all, a kind of parody of Putin: the bluster, the palaces. As the historian Timothy Snyder puts it, “Putin is the real world version of the person Trump pretends to be on television.” 

The fellow-feeling between the two is complex, but it is not hard to see who gets the better of whom. Trump sees strength and cynicism in Putin and hopes to emulate him. Putin sees in Trump a grand opportunity. He sees in Trump weakness and ignorance, a confused mind. He has every hope of exploiting him.
Trump and Putin: A Love Story - The New Yorker
Pau Manafort is a dodgy character who hangs out with the wrong people (as covered here extensively). So no surprise, this:

Quote:A pro-Russian political party in Ukraine advised by Donald Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, designated $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments for Manafort between 2007-12, according to secret ledgers uncovered by an anticorruption center in Kiev and obtained by The New York Times. 

Still, this is not the first time Manafort has been accused of trying to take advantage of Ukraine's corrupt political environment for financial gain
Manafort also attempted to set up an offshore real-estate partnership with Dmitry Firtash, a notorious Ukrainian businessman who donated to Yanukovych's pro-Russia political party, according to documents uncovered in 2014. Firtash is wanted by the FBI on bribery charges.

"Someone who has had such close relations with notorious kleptocrats doesn't belong anywhere near any of our presidential candidates," Charles Davidson, executive director of the Kleptocracy Initiative at Hudson Institute, told Bloomberg's Eli Lake in April.

The Times report comes amid increased scrutiny of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, which exploded late last month after a hack of Democratic National Committee email accounts was tied to Russian military intelligence. Trump denied any involvement in the hack, but called on Russian hackers to "find the 30,000 emails [from Hillary Clinton] that are missing" in a now infamous press conference.

Revelations about the origins of the DNC hack and Manafort's cash ties to pro-Russian interests in Ukraine also follow the Trump campaign's decision to alter the GOP's policy on Ukraine, which has long called for arming Ukrainian soldiers against pro-Russian rebels.

The report, moreover, emerges in light of Trump's own perceived friendliness toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Trump has threatened more than once to pull out of NATO — an organization Russia views as a threat — and has spoken highly of Putin more than once.

"He's running his country, and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country," Trump told MSNBC in December. On Thursday, Trump told CNBC that during his administration, he would "be friendly with Putin."

Some have said the real-estate mogul is not releasing his tax returns because they may show that "he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs," conservative columnist George Will told Fox News late last month.
Trump aide Paul Manafort designated payments from Ukraine - Business Insider
Welcome to Putin's Russia..

Quote:Russian athletes Yuliya Stepanova and her husband Vitaly Stepanov fear for their lives after helping World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) expose the Russian doping scandal. The couple provided significant evidence as the foundation of WADA's report that was released in November that led to the Russian track and field team being barred from the Rio Olympics

Speaking to media on a video conference call on Monday, Stepanova gave a terrifying update of her situation after her ADAMS account, an account used to locate athletes for random drug tests, was hacked. Via USA Today's Rachel Axon: "What I would like to say is that if something happens to us, all of you should know it is not an accident," Stepanova said. 

"When we found out that the ADAMS account was hacked in also, that alarmed us a great deal because the only reason someone would hack an ADAMS account is to find out your exact location. I started getting anxious then wondering who needs this information and why, so we decided it would be safer if we relocate."
Yuliya Stepanova said she fears for her life after exposing Russian doping scandal - Business Insider
Even when he's gone, there are some unanswered questions remaining..

Quote:Donald Trump's campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy. The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
AP Paul Manafort undisclosed foreign lobbying for pro-Russia political party in Ukraine - Business Insider
Quote:Donald Trump's campaign team must disclose all pro-Russia links, Hillary Clinton's manager has said, following new allegations in the New York Times. The paper said ledgers earmarked $12.7m (£9.8m) in undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine to Mr Trump's campaign head Paul Manafort between 2007 and 2012. His lawyer said Mr Manafort had not received any such payments. Mr Trump's ties to Russia have been a frequent topic in the US election. The New York Times article says Mr Manafort and his business played a key role in advising Ukraine's former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled after an uprising in November 2013.
US election: Trump team 'must disclose pro-Russia ties' - BBC News
What is it with Conservatives' admiration for Putin..

Quote:Conservatives’ nationalism attracts them to Putin These conservatives are nationalists. What matters to them is protecting the US and its obvious interests, like safety and jobs. Like Trump, they can see Russia as a friend and oppose NATO or NAFTA. This group rejects the internationalist faction in both parties that would give up national interests. A “Nationalist International” is emerging around the globe. It is made up of nations that are not ashamed of putting the interests of their own countries above others. These countries see international cooperation as a tool, not a principle. This is true for Russia. And it is what attracts conservatives to Putin. Putin is neither a communist nor a liberal. He is a nationalist who restored Russia from the disaster of Boris Yeltsin. He brought back its pride. This faction respects him for that and long for someone as clear as they think he is. The problem with this view is obvious. A Nationalist International is a contradiction in terms. Putin is certainly a nationalist. But that does not mean he defines the national interest of Russia without seeing the US as a threat.
George Friedman: American Conservatives Are Turning to Putin

We think it's both the nationalist, and the authoritarian streak that attracts Conservatives to Putin. Both have caused much more problems in history than they solved..
This is really incredible, from tonight, Forbes:

Quote:The man has very strong control over a country,” said the GOP nominee. Donald Trump has been fiercely criticized for praising Vladimir Putin, but on Wednesday, before an audience of veterans, he once again complimented the Russian president, even going so far as to suggest that Putin is a better leader than President Obama. “If [Putin] says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” the Republican presidential nominee said during NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum on Wednesday. “Certainly in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been.” Trump also cited Putin’s “82% approval rating.”
Donald Trump: Putin Has 'Been a Leader Far More Than Our President'

A leader, but to what end? Take your pick:
  • Stifling the domestic economy (see graph below), stuck in resource extraction dominated by billionaire olicharchs allied with Putin 
  • Stifling domestic opposition (if not outright murdering them)
  • Prop up a mass murderer in Syria, one that uses chemical weapons and barrel bombs on its own population
  • Annexing part of a foreign country
  • Shooting down a passenger plane
  • Starting a proxy war in a foreign country
[Image: 191022-14104072796254935-Shareholders-Unite.jpg]

Now, what did Obama achieve?
  • Providing health-care insurance for 20M additional people
  • Get the US out of the Great Recession with the best recovery of all advanced nations
  • No recession, 14M+ new jobs created
  • Budget deficit declined from 10% to below 3%
Do we need to go on?
Once again, right-wingers and Putin.. Trump's curious admiration for Putin can be seen in this thread, then of course we have the financial website ZeroHedge..

Quote:On Labor Day, visitors to the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregator operated by Matt Drudge, were greeted by an above-the-fold story about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama at the G20 Summit in China.

Drudge’s headline for the story was “Lion And The Pussycat”: The Drudge headline is part of a larger pattern from the site of consistently promoting Putin and his strongman style of leadership (the “Lion”), which Drudge has often contrasted with President Obama, whom he characterizes as a weaker leader (the “Pussycat”).

Drudge has also consistently promoted pro-Russian news and information, repeatedly harping on the idea that American power is weakening and in decline. Matt Drudge has extolled the virtues of Vladimir Putin for some time. In 2013, Drudge declared that “Putin is the leader of the free world,” adding to a chorus of conservatives backing the Russian leader. Around the same time, Drudge featured Putin at the top of his site as “Putin To The Rescue” (a headline he would re-use two years later) as the leader began discussing a possible military role for Russia in Syria.

Drudge has couched some of his stories about Putin with accompanying articles and headlines comparing his leadership style to that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. In December, Drudge highlighted a Financial Times piece that compared Putin to Trump using the text, “Russian president offers glimpse of strong leader.” This was paired with an article describing Putin as part of a “strongman revival” showing a “global trend.” During the Republican primaries, Drudge spotlighted a comment from Putin describing Donald Trump as a “very talented man.”
How The Drudge Report Became Vladimir Putin’s Top Media Cheerleader
After the previous entries, this can hardly be surprising..

Quote:RT, the Kremlin-backed broadcaster formerly known as Russia Today, has offered Nigel Farage his own television show, as part of a major revamp of the channel's programming. The former Ukip leader is one of a number of outspoken public figures, including the columnist Katie Hopkins, who is understood to have held talks with the pro-Moscow broadcaster. RT executives are said to regard the US presidential elections, in November, as an opportunity to beef up its English-language programming, prompting concern in Whitehall over the increased reach of the channel, which is seen to follow a slavishly pro-Kremlin editorial line.
Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT offers Nigel Farage his own show
We already put some facts out on Putin's achievements that make it hard to argue this is a guy we should admire. Here is Krugman:

Quote:But today’s Russia isn’t Communist, or even leftist; it’s just an authoritarian state, with a cult of personality around its strongman, that showers benefits on an immensely wealthy oligarchy while brutally suppressing opposition and criticism.

And that, of course, is what many on the right admire.

Am I being unfair? Could praise for Russia’s de facto dictator reflect appreciation of his substantive achievements? Well, let’s talk about what the Putin regime has, in fact, accomplished, starting with economics.

Mr. Putin came to power at the end of 1999, as Russia was recovering from a severe financial crisis, and his first eight years were marked by rapid economic growth. This growth can, however, be explained with just one word: oil.

For Russia is, as I said, a petrostate: Fuels account for more than two-thirds of its exports, manufactures barely a fifth. And oil prices more than tripled between early 1999 and 2000; a few years later they more than tripled again. Then they plunged, and so did the Russian economy, which has done very badly in the past few years.

Mr. Putin would actually have something to boast about if he had managed to diversify Russia’s exports. And this should have been possible: The old regime left behind a large cadre of highly skilled workers. In fact, Russian émigrés have been a key force behind Israel’s remarkable technology boom— and the Putin government appears to have no trouble recruiting talented hackers to break into Democratic National Committee files. But Russia wasn’t going to realize its technology potential under a regime where business success depends mainly on political connections.

So Mr. Putin’s economic management is nothing to write home about. What about other aspects of his leadership?

Russia does, of course, have a big military, which it has used to annex Crimea and support rebels in eastern Ukraine. But this muscle-flexing has made Russia weaker, not stronger. Crimea, in particular, isn’t much of a conquest: it’s a territory with fewer people than either Queens or Brooklyn, and in economic terms it’s a liability rather than an asset, since the Russian takeover has undermined tourism, its previous mainstay.

An aside: Weirdly, some people think there’s a contradiction between Democratic mocking of the Trump/Putin bromance and President Obama’s mocking of Mitt Romney, four years ago, for calling Russia our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” But there isn’t: Russia has a horrible regime, but as Mr. Obama said, it’s a “regional power,” not a superpower like the old Soviet Union.

Finally, what about soft power, the ability to persuade through the attractiveness of one’s culture and values? Russia has very little — except, maybe, among right-wingers who find Mr. Putin’s macho posturing and ruthlessness attractive.

Which brings us back to the significance of the Putin cult, and the way this cult has been eagerly joined by the Republican nominee for president.

There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.

Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.

When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!

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