Resolute Square

Why Some Prefer Oligarchy and (🎶 What’s Russia got to do, got to do with it? 🎶)

Grab a warm drink and a comfortable seat because Teri Kanefield breaks down the GOP connections to Russian influence and you don't want to miss a word.
Published:February 29, 2024

*Published with the generous permission of Teri Kanefield. Read all of her writing here.

By Teri Kanefield

In June of 2020, Alexander Smirnov, an FBI informant, dropped a “bombshell.” His revelation: The owner of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, paid $5 million each to Joe Biden and Hunter Biden as a bribe in exchange for Biden, then Vice President, stopping an investigation into Burisma. Smirnov’s allegation became the basis for the Republican’s Biden impeachment inquiry.

The impeachment inquiry blew up this week when the DOJ charged Smirnov with lying about the entire Burisma-bribery scheme. Yup.
According to the indictment, he made the whole thing up. We then learned from the DOJ that Smirnov had ties to Russia.

Some headlines painted the Republicans as “useful idiots,” like this:

The Smirnov Affair: MAGA Republicans Are Useful Idiots for Russian Intelligence

How GOP lawmakers got caught doing Moscow’s dirty work.

And this:

Tucker Carlson joins long line of ‘useful idiot’ journalists helping tyrants

This Washington Post piece refers to Congressional Republicans as “incredulous.” 

A look at the facts and history shows that the Congressional Republicans are not useful idiots. They are not being manipulated by the cunning Russians. They are Putin’s willing partners. They share Putin’s goals and political views and use the same tactics.

How (and why) the Republican-Russian partnership came about

The Republicans hated the former Soviet Union because, in the former Soviet Union, the government owned all the nation’s resources and industries. The Republicans believe all (or almost all) resources and industries should be privatized.

When the Soviet Union broke up, the Russian Federation was established as a constitutional republic, but before democracy (and rule of law) could take hold, there was a wild rush to control (grab) the nation’s industries and resources. The people who successfully grabbed the resources and industries became billionaires. These new billionaires then hand-picked the nation’s leaders. (If you control everything, you can do that.)

The new Russian billionaires are usually called oligarchs, but basically they’re gangsters who got rich by stealing.

Now that a few wealthy people own all of Russia’s resources and pull the strings behind the scenes, lots of Republicans feel differently about Russia.

One way to understand people like Peter Thiel and Paul Ryan is that they believe a few wealthy people should control the nation’s resources and industries and they believe these billionaires should be able to pull the political strings. They offer a few theories for why this is good and sensible. One theory is the “makers and takers” theory which holds that a few clever people drive the economy with their innovation and business brilliance. These “makers” create jobs and wealth for a lower class of people called “takers,” who are generally depicted as lazy and immoral. The trickle-down theory similarly holds that if you remove regulations and let clever people do their thing without limitations, they will create wealth and jobs for everyone.

People who hold to the makers-and-takers theory have a hierarchical worldview. They think nature forms a hierarchy and some people are naturally at the top. While most of us see regulations as creating fairness so people can’t get rich from stealing, those with a hierarchical view believe that regulations take from the competent and give to the undeserving.

The way to understand Donald Trump is that he wants to be like Putin and control the oligarchs.

It’s about Grift and Greed

We can start the story of the Republican-Russian partnership with Semion Mogilevich. 

Mogilevich got rich as a young man in the Soviet Union scamming his fellow countrymen who wanted to emigrate. He offered to sell their assets and send them the money, but instead, he pocketed their money. His victims had left the country so they had no legal recourse. It made no sense (and was immediately suspect) for a person in the former Soviet Union to have millions of dollars, so Mogilevich needed to launder his money. (Money laundering = hiding the origins of illegally gotten money by putting the money through a series of complex transactions. 

In 1984, Mogilevich sent an operative to buy luxury condos in Trump Tower. Foreigners, by this time, discovered that money could easily be laundered through US luxury real estate. Trump (and his agents) didn’t inquire into the origins of the money. Trump sold Mogilevich 5 condos for $6 million in cash, and Trump personally attended the closing.

It’s about Grift and Greed and White Supremacy

Timelines are always helpful. I will color in red where America’s far-right wing’s political views align with Putin’s.
In about 2000, Russian oligarchs begin “beckoning” (Timothy Snyder’s word) to America’s far right-wing, presenting Russia as the savior of white majority rule.

The message got through. In February 2001, David Duke said Russia was “the key to white survival.” 

Also by the early 2000s, Trump was considered uncreditworthy and bankrupt. He owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, and showed no inclination or capacity to repay the money. He was such a bad credit risk that no American bank would touch him.

Then the money started pouring in from Russian billionaire-gangsters. 

In 2002, after Trump went belly up in Atlantic City, he was bailed out by Bayrock, a real estate development company with ties to Mogilevich. Bayrock moved into Trump Tower. Felix Sater, a convicted Russian mobster and money launderer, was senior advisor to the Trump Org. and partnered with Bayrock. 

Also in 2002: the Russian Imperial Movement, an ultranationalist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist far-right organization was founded in Russia. The idea, embraced by Putin, was to return Russia to its former glory as a great imperialist nation by “returning and reinforcing ancestral Russian lands. “ (Putin wanted to Make Russia Great Again.)

In 2004, Paul Manafort, a long-time Republican operator and later Trump’s 2016 campaign manager began strategizing on behalf of the Russian-backed Ukrainian President Yanukovych. Russia installed Yanukovych as a puppet leader in Ukraine. In 2014, the Ukrainians didn’t like having a Russian-installed president and expelled him.

Somewhere along the way, Manafort acquired $66 million. Manafort’s daughter called it “blood money.” Trump appointed him as campaign manager in his 2016 election. Manafort was later indicted on charges of fraud and money laundering, was found guilty of 8 counts, and was then pardoned by Trump.

Between 2002 – 2016, Russians invested one hundred million in Trump’s properties. Trump needed money and the Russian bandits had money they needed to launder. It was a match made in heaven. ❣️

2008: Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a house from Trump for many millions more than the property was worth. (Trump didn’t want anyone to know that the buyer was Russian.)

February 2013, Trump Jr. said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” (Gee what do you know, the Russians just keep giving us money 🤷‍♂️ how lucky of us!)

In this blog post, “The Perennial Problem of Demagogues,” I wrote that Trump’s pseudo biography that fueled his rise in American politics was that he was a “successful businessman.” Without Russian money propping him up, he would not have been able to pull off that deception. 

It’s also about Christian Nationalism

2013: Russia enacted anti-homosexual legislation. Putin presented himself as the opponent of Western immorality and debauchery and a defender of Christian values. 

2013-2014: Putin calls his “anti-gay” campaign “a return to traditional values.”

2014: Here is how Pat Buchanan responded:

Putin is entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today and command post of the counter-reformation against the new paganism.
Putin is plugging into some of the modern world’s most powerful currents. Not only in his defiance of what much of the world sees as America’s arrogant drive for global hegemony. Not only in his tribal defense of lost Russians left behind when the USSR disintegrated. He is also tapping into the revulsion of and resistance to the sewage of a hedonistic secular and social revolution coming out of the West.

In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity. His recent speeches carry echoes of John Paul II whose Evangelicism Vitae in 1995 excoriated the West for its embrace of a “culture of death.”

What did Pope John Paul mean by moral crimes?

The West’s capitulation to a sexual revolution of easy divorce rampant promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, assisted suicide . . .

The way to end the “West’s capitulation to a sexual revolution” is to ban abortions and birth control, which will return us to a patriarchy where women are kept barefoot and pregnant. Another way to say the same thing: these guys are frustrated that they can no longer simply grab women:

Putin has the solution: return to “traditional values.”

2015: “Russian authorities were cooperating with the NRA.” (Snyder Road to Unfreedom).

2015:The Russian Agalarov family, who had longstanding ties to Trump, offered to help when Trump decided to run for President and initiated the famous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

March 16, 2016: Sen. McCain accused Sen. Rand Paul of working for Putin.

May 2016: Russian government official Alexander Torshin met with Donald Trump, Jr. in Kentucky in May. That same month, the NRA endorsed Trump and eventually gave Trump’s campaign $30 million.

June 9: A meeting took place at Trump Tower between three senior members of the 2016 Trump campaign – Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort – four other U.S. citizens, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The meeting was arranged by publicist and long-time Trump acquaintance Rob Goldstone.

June 15, 2016: Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) was caught on tape saying “There are two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

December 2016: Richard Spencer, a leading American white supremacist, called Russia the “sole white power in the world.” 

December 2016: Matthew Heimbach, head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, recently said that Russian president Vladimir Putin was the “leader of the free world”—one who has helped morph Russia into an “axis for nationalists.

In 2018, Tucker Carlson said the U.S. should “rethink America’s alliances.” 

August 2018: Sen. Rand Paul went to Moscow to“open lines of communication“?

October 2018: Giuliani attended a pro-Russia conference. He was about to attend another in 2019 when the Ukraine scandal exploded and he abruptly canceled.

January 2019: The DOJ indicted Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya, one of the lawyers who was at the famous Trump Tower meeting in 2016. The indictment accused Veselnitskaya of obstructing justice in the Prevezon case by lying to the court about her connections to the Russian government. The DOJ thus had evidence that she was working as an agent of the Russian government during the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

June, 2018: Katie Hopkins said, Putin rocks.” She praised Russia as being “untouched by the myth of multiculturalism and deranged diversity.

August, 2019: Paul Hasson, who was indicted for planning to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country, said he was “Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes . . .”

September 2019: Senator Mike Lee of Utah traveled to Moscow. Lee said his solo talks with Russian government officials will help the U.S. maintain an open dialogue with Russia.

August 2020:Senator Ron Johnson parroted Russian disinformation about how Ukraine, not Russia, interfered with the U.S. presidential election in 2020

Wendy Rogers, an elected representative in Arizona, wrote this when Russia was on the third day of its invasion of Ukraine:

“Christians worldwide” refers to Putin’s Russia. Notice the anti-semitism.

I’ll stop the timeline there. You all know about Tucker Carlson’s recent visit to Russia. I wanted to show how far back the alliance goes, and how it is entwined with Putin establishing himself as the protector of traditional values and the white race.

Why would someone prefer oligarchy to democracy?

The answer is easy: A person who doesn’t trust the voters, and who has more confidence that a handful of billionaires will make better decisions.

Now that whites are losing their electoral majority, and the demographics of the nation are changing, white nationalists, white supremacists, Christian nationalists, and libertarians no longer trust the American electorate. Some of them don’t think many of today’s voters are true Americans. They think “real” Americans are being usurped and displaced.

They are in a panic and no longer trust the people to do what is right. Democracy means “rule by the people,” so if you don’t trust the people, you can’t embrace democracy. If you think your democracy is being overtaken by people who have no right to be here and shouldn’t be voting, you also don’t trust the voters.

In this post, I wrote there will always be an anti-democratic opposition. The anti-democratic opposition in the 1930s was aligned with Hitler. Charles Lindbergh (an aviation hero who later revealed himself to be an admirer of Hitler) urged Congress to enter a “neutrality pact” with Hitler and stop supporting England. This is an image from the Bund Rally a pro-Nazi demonstration in Madison Square Garden in 1939:

On the stage, the image of George Washington is flanked with swastikas. Lindberg’s movement was called “America First.”

The difference is that today, the anti-democratic right-wing controls the House of Representatives and numerous state legislatures. Over the past 5 decades, the radicals have been slowly seizing power. Their highly successful method was to begin with local politics because most people are focused on national politics and ignore local elections.

Repeating for emphasis: They came to power through local elections because most people are not paying attention to local elections. 
In the 1930s, America’s right-wing wanted the United States to emulate Germany. Today, America’s right-wing wants the United States to emulate Putin’s Russia.

Putin’s supporters don’t think worse of him because he made himself wealthy by seizing power and control of the nation’s resources. They think better of him. He’s strong enough and smart enough to able to reverse the evils of Western debauchery. He’s strong enough to keep order in Russia and to flex his muscles on the world stage.

Similarly, Trump’s supporters don’t think worse of him because he made himself wealthy by cheating on taxes and laundering Russian money. They don’t think the wealthy should have to pay taxes and they believe “liberty” means the freedom to sell property to anyone at any price.

And that, my dearies, is why the Republicans are willingly partnering with Russian oligarch-gangsters (and why they continue to support Trump).

They are not being duped or fooled. They are not credulous morons being manipulated by the wily Russians. They are allies. 


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