“A U.S. official familiar with the transcripts of the calls with the ambassador said Flynn indicated that if Russia did not retaliate in kind for Obama’s Dec. 29 order expelling 35 Russian suspected spies and sanctioning Russian spy agencies, that could smooth the way toward a broader discussion of improving U.S.-Russian relations once Trump took power.”
As Trump remarked via Twitter, Flynn was apparently successful. From (Reuters) Trump adviser had five calls with Russian envoy on day of sanctions: sources,
“But on Dec. 30, Putin announced that he would not retaliate. Trump praised Putin for the decision, writing in a Twitter post, “Great move on delay (by V.Putin). I always knew he was very smart!”
Were five phone calls required to say what the unnamed official states the transcripts contain? From (Washington Post) National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say,
National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
So there are two separate, non overlapping accounts of the substance of Flynn’s conversations.
After my August post, CIA Chief: Trump “Unwitting agent of the Russian Federation”, I did not revisit the issue of the title. To do so risks diversion from analysis to politics, which is characterized by deliberate tendentiousness and subjectivity. But turning a blind eye is also a kind of statement. These are the questions:
- There is suspicion that Trump has a hidden agenda with Russia.
- His personal, authoritarian style, salted with “alternative facts”, does not help dispel this.
- During the election, (Slate) independent researchers detected web traffic between a Russian bank and Trump Tower of an unknown nature. No conclusions have been reached by the FBI. But investigations seem to be ramping up. (Bloomberg) U.S. Spy Agencies, FBI Probing Trump Team’s Russia Calls, Officials Say.
If it were not for the presence of the above, the Flynn Affair would be over as quick as you can say, “You’re fired!”
There has been resistance, in U.S. society as a whole, to the idea that Russia, beginning with RT and Anna Chapman, has recreated the modern equivalent of the KGB, and Comintern (comparison because of the activity in media), with the U.S. as a target. In Reuters Opinion: Did Russia Hack the Clinton emails?, I critiqued an article, Commentary: Don’t be so sure Russia hacked the Clinton emails, that seems manifestly nonsensical now.
Why are the Russians putting so much effort into this? They don’t have an ideology to sell. It’s one more non-conventional military weapon, to augment what they see as their unending battle with the West. In the Iran-Iraq war, Iran used suicide bombers, not as any kind of religious statement, but as a practical device.
It may have been nothing more than Trump’s naivete with respect to foreign affairs, or an inherent bias toward economic activity over the attitudes widely held since the start of the Cold War. (For a mercantile theory, see 2017 Predictions; Trump’s U.S./Russia Codominium/ New-New World Order). Perhaps he is inspired by the example of Armand Hammer, a distinguished American businessman and friend of Russia. Ironically, it was more acceptable to be a friend of an unconditional adversary than an ambiguous one like Putin’s Russia.
Nevertheless, it is a reminder of the joint responsibility of Congress to preserve the Republic.
If you’re an absolutist, Flynn’s phone calls are inexcusable. If you’re a relativist, it depends upon whether Flynn acted against Trump’s agenda, or in support of it. But that doesn’t untie the knot in the stomach, because most of us don’t want Trump’s agenda to be cozy reconciliation with Russia.
If you’re a digger, here’s an interesting thing to dig up:
Within the past 50 years, in the U.S.,
something like this has happened before.
It was not a complete secret at the time.