Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trump's Russian business associates

Economist and investigative reporter James Henry has done researched our incoming President's business dealings in Russia: The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections The American Interest 12/19/2016.

He talks about it in Trump and Putin Share Ties with the Post-USSR Kleptocracy The Real News 12/23/2016:

Henry gives us a summary of an extremely important part of the post-Soviet Russian story, the neoliberal remake of the Russia economy:

For the vast majority of ordinary Russian citizens, this extreme re-concentration of wealth coincided with nothing less than a full-scale 1930s-type depression, a “shock therapy”-induced rise in domestic price levels that wiped out the private savings of millions, rampant lawlessness, a public health crisis, and a sharp decline in life expectancy and birth rates.

Sadly, this neoliberal “market reform” policy package that was introduced at a Stalin-like pace from 1992 to late 1998 was not only condoned but partly designed and financed by senior Clinton Administration officials, neoliberal economists, and innumerable USAID, World Bank, and IMF officials. The few dissenting voices included some of the West’s best economic brains — Nobel laureates like James Tobin, Kenneth Arrow, Lawrence Klein, and Joseph Stiglitz. They also included Moscow University’s Sergei Glaziev, who now serves as President Putin’s chief economic advisor. Unfortunately, they were no match for the folks with the cash. [my emphasis]
This is part of why it's important to recognize the neoliberal influence on Russia's economy along with the reservations that some Russian leaders like Putin may have about it.

Henry also reminds us of some very official US involvement in Russian politics:

There was also an important intervention in Russian politics. In January 1996 a secret team of professional U.S. political consultants arrived in Moscow to discover that, as CNN put it back then, “The only thing voters like less than Boris Yeltsin is the prospect of upheaval.” The experts’ solution was one of earliest “Our brand is crisis” campaign strategies, in which Yeltsin was “spun” as the only alternative to “chaos.” To support him, in March 1996 the IMF also pitched in with $10.1 billion of new loans, on top of $17.3 billion of IMF/World Bank loans that had already been made.

With all this outside help, plus ample contributions from Russia’s new elite, Yeltsin went from just 8 percent approval in the January 1996 polls to a 54-41 percent victory over the Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, in the second round of the July 1996 election. At the time, mainstream media like Time and the New York Times were delighted. Very few outside Russia questioned the wisdom of this blatant intervention in post-Soviet Russia’s first democratic election, or the West’s right to do it in order to protect itself.
This became, in Henry's words, "feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst."

His discussion of Trump's Russian-connected business associates is fairly intricate; the text of the article runs to 21 single-spaced pages. There are no smoking guns relating to Trump. Although Russian mobsters are referred to several times. Including Anatoly Golubchik, "who
went to prison in 2014 for running an illegal gambling ring out of Trump Tower."

Henry is careful to state that "all of these curious relationships" among the various dubious characters in the story "may just be meaningless coincidences." And that "none of the activities and business connections related here necessarily involved criminal conduct."

It does provide material for dozens of TV and film scripts "not based on actual persons living or dead."

Henry does loop back to the post-Soviet transition and the American role in it at the very end: "Finally, the long-run consequence of careless interventions in other countries is that they often come back to haunt us."

No comments: