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Monday, April 10, 2023

April 10, 2023

It is reasonable to suspect that recently arrested former US President Donald Trump was involved in shady businesses. If this is so, he would not have been the first American president to do so. I’ve written on scandals involving the US President Joe Biden’s family in Ukraine - particularly his son. There, American geopolitical interests intertwine with geoeconomic ones, and with private interests. Going further back, US journalist Seymour M. Hersh argued, in his 1997 book “The Dark Side of Camelot”, that organized crime played a role in John Kennedy’s 1960 election. University of Wisconsin–Madison historian Alfred W. McCoy, and diplomat Peter Dale Scott have written scholarly books on CIA involvement in drug trafficking, including in the Iran-Contra affair. In such an oversight-free setting, it would be naïve to assume private corruption would not also take place.

Such is the reality of American politics, heavily interwoven with the military-industrial complex and the deep state. Could the unprecedented arrest of billionaire former President Trump be the beginning of a change in the American system, marking the end of impunity for top authorities and oligarchs? Many doubt so. Interestingly, he has been indicted mostly over supposedly having paid “hush money” to silence pornographic movies star Stormy Daniels about their alleged extramarital affair. She herself has claimed he should not have been arrested for that.

Trump’s indictment has left many wondering whether justice is being served, or whether this was simply a politically motivated move. Military analyst Drago Bosnic convincingly argues for the latter scenario.

It's no secret that Trump's presidency was marked by controversy, with many of his actions and statements causing outrage among Democrats and even some Republicans. Although a problematic and even divisive figure domestically, there is no denying that his foreign policy was at least occasionally focused on achieving some peace and stability internationally. Albeit Trump supported coup attempts in Venezuela and ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, for instance, on the other hand, he ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Somalia (reversed by Biden).

More importantly, Trump had made at least some strides in improving relations with Russia, and was much criticized because of that - even though relations worsened at times, especially when sanctions were signed by Washington against Moscow. In any case, his administration was quite a relative “set-back” in the markedly anti-Russian tendency that had characterized Washington’s policy for decades. Biden brought it back. Shortly after his November 2020 electoral victory, Donetsk People’s Republic Chairman Andrei Purgin said that if Trump's administration had employed “slow strangulation” against the Donbass region, Biden in turn would use “more aggressive” methods. Back then, I wrote that Biden would further pursue the policy of “countering” and “encircling” Russia.

In early May 2022, in an interview, American intellectual Noam Chomsky said that only one “Western statesman” was advocating “a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, instead of looking for ways to encourage and prolong it”, namely “Donald Trump”. This statement remains largely accurate - although there were some Western conciliatory moves later in 2022, they stalled.

Political analyst Andrey Korybko notes that in early March Trump stated he would’ve brokered peace with Moscow and Kiev through a peace deal. Trump’s view, Korybko argues, is to de-escalate tensions with Moscow so as to more effectively “contain” China in the Asia-Pacific - to this end, according to Korybko, he tried, without success, to compel Ukraine into implementing the Minsk Accords.

The current US administration has a very different agenda: it has been pushing to make Sweden and Finland part of NATO (the latter already has become so) to further encircle Russia. Biden in fact has been pursuing the extremely dangerous policy of dual containment to simultaneously encircle two Great Powers (China and Russia) at once, thereby overburdening the American superpower. This has led to concerns among many analysts that the planet could be on the brink of another world war.

The conflict in Ukraine is a rather complex and deeply troubling issue (largely caused by the West), and no easy solutions are available. One thing is clear, though: to decrease the risk of another global confrontation, a lot of diplomatic efforts and table talks are required. It takes leaders willing to put aside their own political interests and work towards peace. Sadly and ironically, in the West, Trump, together with Hungary’s Viktor Orban, seems to be a lone voice in that regard.

It's hard to ignore the timing of Trump's indictment. The primaries for the 2024 presidential election could take place as soon as February next year. Biden has yet to officially declare his candidacy and there is open talk about who could be the Democrat candidate instead of him. Biden has been suffering from low approval ratings. Trump, in contrast, has announced that he would run again, and has remained the main front runner of the Republican Party.

We are living in the age of disputed presidencies, democracy being in crisis internationally, as I wrote in August 2020. Current Brazilian President Lula da Silva, for instance, was recently in jail, and his predecessor could also face criminal charges. Such does not happen only in countries which the US sees as “second rate”. Biden’s own election was disputed by a large part of the population.

Interestingly, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Trump remains the most popular Republican despite his indictment - or perhaps partly because of it. Many of his voters see him as the target of a witch hunt. Republicans are in fact launching a probe against one of Trump’s prosecutors, Mark Pomerantz, for “abuse of power”. If there were any political maneuvering behind Trump’s indictment, which so far one can only speculate (although there are clues suggesting this to be the case), it could indeed backfire.