Sunday, January 15, 2017

Khrushchev Gave the World ‘Sputnik;’ Gorbachev, ‘Perestroika; and Putin Now has Spread ‘Kompromat,’ Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 15 – The changing nature of the country centered on Moscow is well reflected in the words its leaders have been able to spread to other major languages: Khrushchev used the Soviet Union’s success in space to boost “sputnik,” Gorbachev the USSR’s need to change with “perestroika” and now Putin its KGB essence with “kompromat.”

            The last word, Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko, quite possibly is “the briefest and most precise characterization of Putin’s Russia,” a reflection of his “Chekist heart” but an approach to others that is unlikely to work out as he hopes. “People are inclined to deceive themselves; language, however, can’t be” (

            Yakovenko offers this an essay in which he says that “the world has again become united. American, European and Russian media have today a single agenda. The assessments vary but the subject is in common: Trumpgate, which unlike Watergate, has a global character” because “its essence is foreign aggression directed at the strongest country on the planet.”

            “Trumpgate,” he argues, “is Watergate and Pearl Harbor rolled into one.” It consists of several parts which have “varying degrees of confirmation and can have varied consequences.”  The most serious is that “Trump is on the hook” of the Russian leader, not because of the compromising stories about prostitutes but because of Russian money going into his hands.

            Indeed, the prostitution stories are unlikely in the end to harm Trump’s reputation with his supporters. But “if the information is confirmed that Putin and Sechin handed him 19.5 percent of Rosneft’s shares in exchange for a promise to lift sanctions, that will lead not only to impeachment but to a long jail sentence.”

            A second aspect of Trumpgate, Yakovenko says, is something Trump himself has confirmed: Russia did intervene in the US presidential elections and seek to change their outcome in his favor. This is “a delayed action mine” and means that Trump “in fact” is now “’a lame duck’” even though he has not yet taken the oath of office.

            That is because, the Moscow writer says, Trump “in the best case is condemned to show during his entire administration that [Russian involvement in his election] isn’t influencing his policies.

            The third element of Trumpgate, he continues, is Trump’s “declaration of war on the media,” a war he cannot possibly win. The anger of many Americans at the influential mainstream media may have helped him win office, but it did not become less influential as a result.

            Thanks to the First Amendment, “Trump will not be able to do anything” about that, Yakovenko says.  The corporate strength of journalism in the US, “in contrast to Russia,” will win out, and “there is no doubt that any information about compromat on Trump [or] any move that confirms his dependence on the Kremlin will be given maximum coverage.”

            In sum, Yakovenko says, Trump has “guaranteed” himself media attention throughout his term, but it won’t be the kind he is going to like.

            And the fourth element of Trumpgate, he continues, involves the fact that the hypocrisy Trump charged the American elite with and won support for doing so is now going to play against him if he insists that he is beyond criticism as he appears to have been doing in the case of his instantaneous condemnation of Meryl Streep for her criticism of him.

            For these reasons and more, “Trumpgate quite possibly has become the most serious challenge for American democracy over its entire history.” But “there are no particular doubts” that the US will cope with this challenge, although there are quite a number about whether the Kremlin will be able to cope with what it has helped put in play.

            Moscow is about to be disappointed in Trump and that is going to cause trouble in Russia. “For Putin’s Russia, Trump is hero number one alongside Putin.  All TV programs are now devoted to the defense of Trump” and bookstores are full of volumes beating his portrait,” to the point that these books are driving out works on Stalin and Putin.
            What is the Kremlin going to do with all this trash “when Trump doesn’t justify [its] expectations?” That is something the remarks of some of his cabinet appointees suggest is going to come far sooner and more radically than anyone in Putin’s ruling circle could imagine, a boomerang effect of their use of compromat as an instrument of state policy.

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