Putin told Trump Ukraine was out to get him and Trump believes everything Putin says. Manafort & Giuliani did it too, on Putin's oligarch payroll. It's always been about Russia's war on Ukraine. https://t.co/M6rr7sC4gk
— Mig Greengard (@chessninja) November 2, 2019
Three of President Trump’s top advisers met with him in the Oval Office in May, determined to convince him that the new Ukrainian leader was an ally deserving of U.S. support.
They had barely begun their pitch when Trump unloaded on them, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the meeting. In Trump’s mind, the officials said, Ukraine’s entire leadership had colluded with the Democrats to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign.
“They tried to take me down,” Trump railed…
So far, a dozen witnesses have testified before House lawmakers since the closed-door impeachment inquiry began a month ago. One theme that runs through almost all of their accounts is Trump’s unyielding loathing of Ukraine, which dates to his earliest days in the White House.
“We could never quite understand it,” a former senior White House official said of Trump’s view of the former Soviet republic, also saying that much of it stemmed from the president’s embrace of conspiracy theories. “There were accusations that they had somehow worked with the Clinton campaign. There were accusations they’d hurt him. He just hated Ukraine.”…
Julia Ioffe is a great reporter, and an immigrant from Russia. “Here’s Why Ukraine Pops Up in So Many U.S. Scandals”:
… One main reason for Ukraine’s outsize presence in our news cycles is money: There’s a lot of it sloshing around, and, as the ladies selling at the designer store know, it tends to find its way into all kinds of crevices.
Ukraine would like America and Europe to think of it as a promising young democracy, the good little country struggling to fend off the gravitational pull of evil Russia. There is a lot of truth in that. But it is also an oligarchy where a very small number of people control the country’s natural resources, a legacy of its Soviet past. Around each of these people is a clan vying for influence, resources, and political power. They sponsor media outlets and politicians. Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for example, has promised to fight corruption but is also closely linked with one of the country’s most powerful oligarchs.
“It’s a pay-to-play democracy, or has been in the past,” says Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), who was Obama’s last assistant secretary of state for human rights, democracy, and labor. “At its most corrupt, you can get very rich, but you need permission to get very rich, so politicians and oligarchs are linked in all kinds of ways. In some ways, it’s very similar to Russia. But Ukraine is a country where you’re more likely to get rich without getting killed if you’re a Western businessman or political consultant.”
Indeed, plenty of American political operatives find there’s a lucrative market for their services in the country. Ukrainians see Americans as being really good at what in that part of the world is known as “political technology”: using data, polling, consulting to win elections. One candidate in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election, for example, made the American political consultants working on his campaign a major selling point. It didn’t work, but Ukrainians still pay top dollar for any associations with the American political elite. “It was a part of the world where there was a lot of money to be made,” says Andrew Weiss, who oversees Russia and Eurasia research at the Carnegie Endowment. “These are people getting paid in a way that is totally out of proportion to how you would be paid elsewhere.” Consider, for instance, the $12.7 million that Manafort made in just five years. Bernie Sanders’s chief 2016 strategist, Tad Devine, was handsomely compensated for work he did for Yanukovych, too. When Devine was contemplating working on the 2014 Ukrainian election, he stipulated that his rate would be $10,000 per day—not including travel…
The main reason Ukraine is in our news feeds so much is that the country marks a border—the word “Ukraine” means borderland—a point of friction between two competing empires and geopolitical visions: Russia versus the West, led by America. The two sides have been fighting over which camp Ukraine joins for the past two decades. A great way to fight that war of geopolitical influence is with money. There is a lot of Russian money in Ukraine and a lot of Western money, in the form of IMF loans and American and European aid. “Ukraine is a weak country; it’s got a weak civil society. They are used to looking to outside forces for help,” says Evelyn Farkas, who served as Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine. “People feel like there’s money to be made, and it happens to be an easier place because it’s in Europe.”
But people’s affiliations are often less than clear. Determining which oligarchic clan a politician or journalist is associated with is difficult, as is pinning down a person’s true geopolitical leanings. In the years after Yanukovych’s ouster and the Russian invasion, the easiest way to knock out a rival was to tarnish them as an agent of Moscow, whether the claim was true or not. “It’s very difficult because of the level of distrust,” says the former Obama administration official. “You don’t know whom you can trust in Ukraine. Everyone accuses everyone else in Ukraine of being a Russian puppet, and getting to the bottom of it is extremely difficult to do.”…
Ukraine pops up in our domestic political scandals because it is in the middle of a tug-of-war between Russia and the West, and because Westerners go there to enrich themselves doing questionable work. But in our minds, it is a small country somewhere over the horizon, full of people with funny Slavic names. Ukraine is much easier to think about if we cram it into our own political dichotomies, even if that distorts what’s really happening on the ground. The problem in doing so, however, is that we become unwitting participants in someone else’s games.
Apart from his fealty to Putin, there’s a distinct taint of jealousy in Trump’s denunciation of Ukraine as “not a real country” and “totally corrupt”. How come, I imagine him demanding, these two-bit foreigners get free reign to steal so much so freely, while he’s forced to go behind closed doors to beg donors for a little taste? Just to wet his beak?
Ukraine is where the money is because that's where Putin's interests are, not because it's "so corrupt." Trump and Giuliani were led on a golden goose chase by Manafort to serve Putin's ends of undermining US support for Ukraine.
— Mig Greengard (@chessninja) November 2, 2019