[Marxism] A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 20 07:31:22 MST 2017


(The "associates" are like Trump: two-bit con artists or outright crooks.)

NY Times, Feb. 20 2017
A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates
By MEGAN TWOHEY and SCOTT SHANE

A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a 
sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for 
President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.

Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of 
sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan 
for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. 
Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; 
Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in 
Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political 
opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign 
manager Paul Manafort.

At a time when Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, and the people connected to 
him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by American 
intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and Congress — some of his associates 
remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the 
scenes.

Mr. Trump has confounded Democrats and Republicans alike with his 
repeated praise for the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, and his 
desire to forge an American-Russian alliance. While there is nothing 
illegal about such unofficial efforts, a proposal that seems to tip 
toward Russian interests may set off alarms.

The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a 
grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t 
want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.

But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. 
Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style 
leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of 
companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian 
president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. 
Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top 
aides to Mr. Putin.

“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. 
agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution 
between our countries if we do not talk?”

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sater said they had not spoken to Mr. Trump about the 
proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy. Mr. Cohen is one of 
several Trump associates under scrutiny in an F.B.I. counterintelligence 
examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement 
officials; he has denied any illicit connections.

The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts: 
Mr. Sater, 50, a Russian-American, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock 
manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Mr. Artemenko 
spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on 
embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically 
motivated.

While it is unclear if the White House will take the proposal seriously, 
the diplomatic freelancing has infuriated Ukrainian officials. Ukraine’s 
ambassador to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, said Mr. Artemenko “is 
not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine 
to any foreign government, including the U.S. administration.”

At a security conference in Munich on Friday, Mr. Poroshenko warned the 
West against “appeasement” of Russia, and some American experts say 
offering Russia any alternative to a two-year-old international 
agreement on Ukraine would be a mistake. The Trump administration has 
sent mixed signals about the conflict in Ukraine.

But given Mr. Trump’s praise for Mr. Putin, John Herbst, a former 
American ambassador to Ukraine, said he feared the new president might 
be too eager to mend relations with Russia at Ukraine’s expense — 
potentially with a plan like Mr. Artemenko’s.

It was late January when the three men associated with the proposed plan 
converged on the Loews Regency, a luxury hotel on Park Avenue in 
Manhattan where business deals are made in a lobby furnished with 
leather couches, over martinis at the restaurant bar and in private 
conference rooms on upper floors.

Mr. Cohen, 50, lives two blocks up the street, in Trump Park Avenue. A 
lawyer who joined the Trump Organization in 2007 as special counsel, he 
has worked on many deals, including a Trump-branded tower in the 
republic of Georgia and a short-lived mixed martial arts venture 
starring a Russian fighter. He is considered a loyal lieutenant whom Mr. 
Trump trusts to fix difficult problems.

The F.B.I. is reviewing an unverified dossier, compiled by a former 
British intelligence agent and funded by Mr. Trump’s political 
opponents, that claims Mr. Cohen met with a Russian representative in 
Prague during the presidential campaign to discuss Russia’s hacking of 
Democratic targets. But the Russian official named in the report told 
The New York Times that he had never met Mr. Cohen. Mr. Cohen insists 
that he has never visited Prague and that the dossier’s assertions are 
fabrications. (Mr. Manafort is also under investigation by the F.B.I. 
for his connections to Russia and Ukraine.)

Mr. Cohen has a personal connection to Ukraine: He is married to a 
Ukrainian woman and once worked with relatives there to establish an 
ethanol business.

Mr. Artemenko, tall and burly, arrived at the Manhattan hotel between 
visits to Washington. (His wife, he said, met the first lady, Melania 
Trump, years ago during their modeling careers, but he did not try to 
meet Mr. Trump.) He had attended the inauguration and visited Congress, 
posting on Facebook his admiration for Mr. Trump and talking up his 
peace plan in meetings with American lawmakers.

He entered Parliament in 2014, the year that the former Ukrainian 
president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Moscow amid protests over his 
economic alignment with Russia and corruption. Mr. Manafort, who had 
been instrumental in getting Mr. Yanukovych elected, helped shape a 
political bloc that sprang up to oppose the new president, Mr. 
Poroshenko, a wealthy businessman who has taken a far tougher stance 
toward Russia and accused Mr. Putin of wanting to absorb Ukraine into a 
new Russian Empire. Mr. Artemenko, 48, emerged from the opposition that 
Mr. Manafort nurtured. (The two men have never met, Mr. Artemenko said.)

Before entering politics, Mr. Artemenko had business ventures in the 
Middle East and real estate deals in the Miami area, and had worked as 
an agent representing top Ukrainian athletes. Some colleagues in 
Parliament describe him as corrupt, untrustworthy or simply 
insignificant, but he appears to have amassed considerable wealth.

He has fashioned himself in the image of Mr. Trump, presenting himself 
as Ukraine’s answer to a rising class of nationalist leaders in the 
West. He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the Republican 
National Convention, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Mr. 
Trump’s campaign.

“It’s time for new leaders, new approaches to the governance of the 
country, new principles and new negotiators in international politics,” 
he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 27. “Our time has come!”

Mr. Artemenko said he saw in Mr. Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan 
for peace in Ukraine — and help advance his own political career. 
Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces 
from eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum 
whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would 
be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.

The Ukrainian ambassador, Mr. Chaly, rejected a lease of that kind. “It 
is a gross violation of the Constitution,” he said in written answers to 
questions from The Times. “Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through 
only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.”

The reaction suggested why Mr. Artemenko’s project also includes the 
dissemination of “kompromat,” or compromising material, purportedly 
showing that Mr. Poroshenko and his closest associates are corrupt. Only 
a new government, presumably one less hostile to Russia, might take up 
his plan.

Mr. Sater, a longtime business associate of Mr. Trump’s with connections 
in Russia, was willing to help Mr. Artemenko’s proposal reach the White 
House.

Mr. Trump has sought to distance himself from Mr. Sater in recent years. 
If Mr. Sater “were sitting in the room right now,” Mr. Trump said in a 
2013 deposition, “I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

But Mr. Sater worked on real estate development deals with the Trump 
Organization on and off for at least a decade, even after his role in 
the stock manipulation scheme came to light.

Mr. Sater, who was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in New York, 
served as an executive at a firm called Bayrock Group, two floors below 
the Trump Organization in Trump Tower, and was later a senior adviser to 
Mr. Trump.

He said he had been working on a plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow with a 
Russian real estate developer as recently as the fall of 2015, one that 
he said had come to a halt because of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. 
(Mr. Cohen said the Trump Organization had received a letter of intent 
for a project in Moscow from a Russian real estate developer at that 
time but determined that the project was not feasible.)

Mr. Artemenko said a mutual friend had put him in touch with Mr. Sater. 
Helping to advance the proposal, Mr. Sater said, made sense.

“I want to stop a war, number one,” he said. “Number two, I absolutely 
believe that the U.S. and Russia need to be allies, not enemies. If I 
could achieve both in one stroke, it would be a home run.”

After speaking with Mr. Sater and Mr. Artemenko in person, Mr. Cohen 
said he would deliver the plan to the White House.

Mr. Cohen said he did not know who in the Russian government had offered 
encouragement on it, as Mr. Artemenko claims, but he understood there 
was a promise of proof of corruption by the Ukrainian president.

“Fraud is never good, right?” Mr. Cohen said.

He said Mr. Sater had given him the written proposal in a sealed 
envelope. When Mr. Cohen met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in early 
February, he said, he left the proposal in Mr. Flynn’s office.

Mr. Cohen said he was waiting for a response when Mr. Flynn was forced 
from his post. Now Mr. Cohen, Mr. Sater and Mr. Artemenko are hoping a 
new national security adviser will take up their cause. On Friday the 
president wrote on Twitter that he had four new candidates for the job.




More information about the Marxism mailing list