Paul Manafort and Javelin Missiles in Ukraine
The Russians were lobbying the Trump administration (er, campaign) on Ukraine *before* the 2016 election. Paul Manafort was the chief lobbyist for a pro-Russian outcome up until the very moment Mueller put the cuffs on. That lobbying continued through the Ukraine scandal and likely continues to this day.
I’ve been meaning to post this for months but the COVID pandemic happened. As with many other things during the Trump era our sense of time is warped. Amazing things that happened such a short time ago frequently seem much further away. But I haven’t forgotten about Pauly Walnuts and the Javelins. I read the Mueller Report during height and aftermath of the Ukraine scandal and it gave me a perspective I might otherwise have missed. Let’s dig in.
Manafort’s ties to Victor Yanukovitch, Ukraine, and Russia are extensive and well documented. The key things to remember are that in addition to his previous employ to Yanukovitch, Manafort was also in serious debt to Oleg Deripaska. Enough debt that Deripaska was putting legal pressure on Manafort to repay him. Deripaska is one of the key oligarchs in the Russian empire and Yanukovitch was the President of Ukraine before he was booted out in the Maidan uprising, escaping to Moscow. Manafort’s key employee in Ukraine was Konstantine Kilimnik, a known Russian asset straddling the vast grey area between Russian intelligence and private sector employ. Mueller found evidence that Manafort knew Kilimnik was previously or still a Russian state actor during their years of working together for Yanukovitch in Ukraine.
This is all before Roger Stone suggested to Trump he pick Manafort as his campaign manager. Trump’s campaign manager was in serious debt to one of Putin’s closest oligarchs. There is a ton of motivation for Manafort to get right with somebody who is suing him not to mention the small issue of being involved with a nation/state that has a history of jailings and assassinations of political opponents. Manafort surely felt he could get right with Deripaska and come out wealthy again in a Trump administration.
Before, during, and after Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager, he lobbied the Trump campaign team and later Trump administration on Russia’s behalf for a pro-Russian outcome in Ukraine. The communications pipeline between Russia and Manafort was Kilimnick. As the pro-Russian requests were coming in, Manafort was taking campaign data collected by Cambridge Analytica/BradParscale and sending it back to Deripaska through Kilimnick. For who knows what we can only imagine. Keeping himself in good graces with them while he works off his debt? Part of a debt replayment package? It leaves little to the imagination.
What is a pro-Russian outcome in Ukraine? The current military skirmish stops with 3 key elements: Russia keeps Crimea, the Donbas region where Russia has invaded becomes it’s own state, and Ukraine keeps the rest. But there’s a catch to the Donbas region: they will have ‘democratic’ elections to pick a president, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear this, Yanukovitch will be installed, er, he will be a candidate for president, supported by Russia. What a deal, right? Also note: the two regions in Ukraine with significant or majority Russian language speakers: Crimea and Donbas. There are also natural gas pipelines from Russia to the European market running through Ukraine but let’s keep this piece on point.
This scheme is pushed by Manafort early on but despite his role in the campaign there are too many people in Trump’s ear. One thing that’s apparent reading Mueller’s report is that it was a wild west of inexperienced hacks trying to get into Team Trump thinking they’ll be able to get rich. Public service for the benefit of our nation? LOL yeah right. Team Trump, desperate to get people experienced in statecraft but shunning Deep Staters, talked ot anybody who said they knew Russia. Despite this frenetic perios, internal issues of trust develop and at times cooler statures take hold with all these supposed Russian specialists. Manafort and Slenderman Kushner weren’t especially tight or eye to all the time. There are moments where it seems some inside Team Trump realized the Russian influence was too strong. For Manafort, the media scrutiny and the Little Black Ledger showing he was paid huge $ by Yanukovitch sealed his fate, at least publicly. However, from well before he was offically a campaign chairman to well after he was publicly sacked and up until Mueller indicted him, he was an unofficial advisor to Trump. And he kept pushing the Ukraine deal.
During the Republican National Convention there was a small kerfuffle with language supporting Ukraine in the RNC platform changing from ‘lethal assistance’ to ‘appropriate assistance.’
Part of the explosive Steele Dossier included the Trump agreeing to soft play or go dark on Ukraine as part of the agreement for the DNC emails to be released by Wikileaks.
But the US Senate later approved an aid package totalling $391m for Ukraine, which included a $150m Javelin package. Trump resisted this package as best he could but under pressure, ended up releasing it. Small details in media reports shows resistance to the Javelins, but Trump was allegedly sold on them by focusing on the $150m sale to US firms. But there’s a catch: the Javelins going to Ukraine are not to be used in the Donbas military theater and are to be stored 100’s of miles away.
There appears to be an arc of Russian influence on Ukraine that was started and carried for some time directly through Manafort’s lobbying, the efforts of which likely resulted in defensive weapons being given to Ukraine with strings attached that surely benefit Russia. At any other time this would be a major scandal requiring a significant investigation to get to the bottom of. But in the Trump era this barely registers.