Hardly a day passes but some new and usually disturbing light is cast on President Donald Trump, and a recent illuminating glimpse came from publication of a recording that showed yet more of his expansive bluster. The video/sound evidence of his performance showed him at a dinner table “in a private suite in his Washington hotel with a group of donors, including two men at the centre of the impeachment inquiry, talking about golf, trade, politics, and removing the United States ambassador to Ukraine.”
Then came revelations from the about-to-be published memoirs of former National Security Adviser and man of moral darkness John Bolton who confirmed facts denied by a multitude of prominent figures, not least being Trump himself. On January 31 the New York Times told us that “More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials.”
The entire thing is bizarre but not at all amusing. Indeed it is most disconcerting, for many reasons.
One of the main figures in the new act of the ongoing Trump frolics is Lev Parnas, a somewhat shady character who is invariably described as “Soviet-born.” In fact he is Ukrainian-born with close ties to Zionist causes who in mid-2018 “visited Israel as part of a delegation of right-wing Jewish and evangelical Christian supporters of Trump.” It was reported in the Washington Post that “The Justice Department charges that Parnas and Fruman [a business associate] disguised the source of a $325,000 donation made in 2018 to America First, the main pro-Trump super PAC, by giving the money in the name of Global Energy Producers, a purported liquefied natural gas company that Parnas and Fruman controlled.”
A “super PAC” is a political action committee permitted to raise unlimited money from businesses and individuals in order to seek political advantage. The Washington Post appears to consider them a bit dubious, in that “Just 11 donors have injected $1 billion into US political races in the past eight years through super PACs, the big-money entities that have given wealthy contributors a powerful way to influence elections. The donors—a bipartisan collection of hedge-fund billionaires, entrepreneurs, media magnates and a casino mogul—together contributed more than one-fifth of the $4.5 billion collected by these types of political action committees since their inception in 2010.”
The amounts are staggering—and no doubt the effects are, too. Nobody knows what members of Congress might do when quietly approached by a benefactor, and nobody knows what a president would do, either, in such circumstances, although in at least one instance there appears to have been indication of a quid pro quo.
The Post pointed out in 2018 that “The largest super-PAC contributors are casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and physician Miriam Adelson, the married couple who have given $287 million to conservative super PACs… In the 2016 elections, the Adelsons gave nearly $78 million, including $20 million to bolster then-GOP nominee Donald Trump, who as president backed an action the couple had long sought—moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” The actual cost of moving the embassy was very much more, of course, and the cost to Middle East tranquillity cannot be assessed other than to say it has been catastrophic—but it does show what money can buy. Which might include the declaration by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu on January 28 that Trump has “been the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.” Coincidentally, on the day of Netanyahu’s pronouncement, while he was in the White House, Israel’s attorney general gave formal notification of Netanyahu’s indictment on long-standing charges of corruption.
Which brings us back to Zionist-supporting Super-PAC contributor Lev Parnas who, according to President Trump is “just a guy, a donor who wormed his way into some pictures.” Trump told reporters “I don’t even know who this man is, other than I guess he attended fundraisers so I take a picture with him. I take thousands and thousand of pictures with people all the time… I don’t know him at all. Don’t know what he’s about. Don’t know where he comes from. Know nothing about him.” But the video paints a different picture.
The Hill reported that “In the full recording, Mr. Parnas can be heard telling Mr. Trump that he and Mr. Fruman ‘are in the process of purchasing an energy company in Ukraine right now.’ Mr. Trump responds, ‘How’s Ukraine doing?’ then quickly adds, ‘Don’t answer,’ prompting laughter in the room. After some conversation about Ukraine’s war with its hostile neighbour, Russia, and its efforts to establish energy security, Mr. Trump asked, ‘How long would they last in a fight with Russia?’ ‘I don’t think very long,’ Mr. Parnas responded. ‘Without us, not very long,’ adding ‘they feel they’re going to be O.K. if you support them.’
It’s interesting what you might get when you give a presidential candidate a donation of $325,000—or $20 million—but it’s also intriguing that The Hill alleges that Russia is at war with Ukraine, yet Trump asked what would happen if Ukraine actually was “in a fight with Russia”—implicitly indicating that he considered it was not so engaged.
Unfortunately, reporting hard facts contradicting the nonsense that Russia is “at war” with Ukraine is not the way of the US media, so nothing was published concerning Trump’s acknowledgement that there is indeed no war. It was entirely coincidental that the subject was raised, as Mr Parnas was focusing on commercial rather than martial matters, and there was no surprise when there was media refocusing. The matter of financial aid to Ukraine, as such—and distinct from the antics concerning dirt on former vice-president Biden and his son Hunter—is entirely concerned with war, although the $400 million in military aid that Trump withheld in order to dig up political muck to throw at Biden and the Democrats in general was an insignificant amount in national military budget terms.
A few hundred million here, a few hundred million there in military aid is peanuts and will make no difference whatever to Ukraine’s military capabilities, which are modest to the point of nullity; but the symbolism involved is significant.
On January 31 US Secretary of State Pompeo announced in Kiev that “The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one. Our commitment to support it will not waver,” and while his visit was part of the plan to divert attention from the squalid impeachment pantomime in Washington, the message was that irrespective of Trump’s blatant attempt to get Volodymyr Zelensky to dish the dirt on the Biden family, Washington’s main objective is to support any country that opposes Russia. Little pawns like Parnas have their uses, but the main players have shown that sleazy trickery is the name of the game. Trump is being forced to move further towards major confrontation with Russia over Ukraine.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Brian Cloughley is a British and Australian armies’ veteran, former deputy head of the UN military mission in Kashmir and Australian defense attaché in Pakistan.