Trump and Putin: A controversial relationship

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President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin – Image courtesy of Slate

Trump has been vague and inconsistent with many of his policies, both domestic and foreign. Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned Trump’s relationship with a particular world leader: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 The United States and Russia have had an unstable relationship since the Cold War. After the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended, both nations coexisted without serious conflict. Tensions arose again in 2014 during Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, and have only worsened as both countries backed different sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Obama has since imposed sanctions on Russia as a way of punishing Putin for his actions on the world stage. Some consider these new tensions between two world powers with a history of disagreement to be a second Cold War.

Trump has promised repeatedly to improve relations with Russia, and this commitment to working with Putin on common interests has gained him widespread support in the country. According to USA Today, about a third of Russians feel that Trump will be the best president to lead America. Russians are enamored by Trump because he admires Putin and emulates his strong leadership style as much as they do: Putin has a 90% approval rating in Russia according to polls. In an interview with CBS, Trump praised Putin’s policy of attacking Syrian rebel groups and backing President Bashar Al-Assad.

Trump promised to work with Putin on a basis of mutual interest, rather than mutual values, as defeating ISIS. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Trump answered: “wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia, wouldn’t it be nice if we went after ISIS together.”

Putin has also expressed admiration for Trump, calling him a bright and talented individual; however, this praising has been exaggerated by the president-elect himself.

Trump’s interest in Russia appears to be a constructive one, geared toward uniting two nations to create a more secure world. What Trump denies, however, is his extensive investment with Russian businessmen. Trump tweeted in July of this year that he has no investments in Russia. Although, according to Time, once Trump stopped receiving money from major banks in the United States due to recurring bankruptcies, he sought money from Russian investors inside of Putin’s circle. Trump’s son, Donald Jr., mentioned in a 2008 real estate conference, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” adding that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort had business deals with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was being ousted in 2014.  Independent reported that Donald Trump Jr. held secret talks in Paris to coordinate with Russia to end the Syrian conflict.

Trump refuses to acknowledge his ties to Russia because he wants his admiration for Putin to seem political, rather than commercial.
In any case, his relationship with Putin shows again his anti-establishment mentality as he adopts policies that are disapproved by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Article by Katerina Muraviyova, COM’19

Gaddafi’s gift to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy

Last week, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was accused of receiving illegal funding for his first 2007 presidential campaign. In an interview by Mediapart last week, Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine confessed to having perpetrated these transactions for months, from the end of 2006 to beginning of 2007. According to Mr. Takieddine, starting in October 2006, the Libyan government gave him the task to hand three suitcases of euro bills over to the “UMP” candidate. The total was of five million euros. Even though Sarkozy was not charged when the case opened in 2011, this testimony brings new evidence to re-open the case. At the time, Mediapart’s accusations were not enough to convey Mr. Sarkozy. The charges were dropped and shortly after the French armed forces took over Libya to overthrow Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s government. The case was buried.

Nicolas Sarkozy, embodying the perfect example of a man of the system and involved in the political scene since 1974, is seeking re-election in May 2017. However, Mr. Takieddine’s statement could threaten his pretention to run for president again. The candidate has denied all of the accusations, offended that people could believe his accuser who also has a tumultuous relationship with the French judicial system. The businessman is indeed under formal investigation for a number of alleged offenses including receiving illegal kickbacks on French arms deals to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia from 1993 to 1995.

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Paris. 2007. – Rex Features/The Independent

Mr. Takieddine’s confession was undoubtedly a noble move, but what are his real motivations? Why wait ten years to reveal this information? When asked, he talks about his disillusion in French politics. “He clearly does not picture Mr. Sarkozy as France’s hero for 2017. How can a guy like him run for president once more?”, he said during the interview. But does Takieddine stand as a denouncer of political corruption, or is he trying to undermine Sarkozy’s chances to follow his agenda for a more private purpose? This would imply that he was trying to minimize allegations against him, dating back to 1993, by igniting, or re-igniting, allegations which were more recent and more explosive.

In any case, Sarkozy’s corruption draws deep cuts in his career and stains his image, which may reflect on a bigger change during the right party primaries election this month and the French Presidential election in May.

(Edit: It seems like Mr. Takieddine’s purposes have been served, as Mr. Sarkozy lost the right party primaries on November 20th)

Article by François Grenet, CAS’18

The Puppet-Masters: Who is really to fear in Trump’s America?

 

 

November 24, 2015

Cartoon by Adam Zygus/AZvision

 

 

This past week liberal America’s worst nightmare became a reality. We watched on helplessly as a man we have come to know as racist, misogynist, fear-mongering “islamophobic” (among a multitude of other qualities) be handed the pinnacle role in the US Government. For many of us, seeing those states one by one light up red was like watching years of progress disappear before our eyes.

Emotions ran high that night and continue to do so today. It seems that the post-election vibe across the East Coast, at least, is one shrouded in disbelief. But the one emotion that seems to cross cultural and societal boundaries for many minority groups is one of fear: there is so much fear as non-white members of our country. As CNN anchor Van Jones put it in a moving commentary, the results of the presidential election were a lot of things, but above all, it was a “white-lash”. Essentially, a reaction of traditional ‘white’ American culture to changing tides in racial, gender, sexuality and religious norms.

But is President-elect Donald J. Trump truly the monster we have to fear in the next four years? Yes, he will be the face we see the most. His speeches on topics that touch us dearly will anger and frustrate as ever, but can someone who has never dealt with the rabbit hole that is Washington D.C. and Congress be the nightmare we think him to be? Maybe so.

However, what is most likely is that there will be some dubious characters behind him. For example, only two days after the election did Trump bring in Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, onto the immigration transition team. Now this man is a scary character. When Kobach was questioned on his views of the border wall Trump has railed about for the entirety of his campaign, he stated that “there’s no question the wall is going to get built. The only question is how quickly will it get done and who pays for it?”

If that doesn’t rattle you, Kobach has been a major proponent of some of the most racist and anti-immigrant laws in his state. Many of us have heard of the infamous ‘Stop and Frisk’ practice in New York, but it is the lesser known, yet equally racist, SB 1070 law that Kobach was behind. This law made is possible for authorities to questions and demand identity proof of anyone who looks like an immigrant. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “laws inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070 invite rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans, and others presumed to be ‘foreign’ based on how they look or sound.”

What is important to note about this information is that Kobach, like many other recruits in a Trump administration, is and has been involved with government work for a long time. People like him, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pence know how to deal with Congress and the nuances of government work. As a business man and public personality, Donald J. Trump does not. He’s truly a fish out of water in D.C.

So is he a mere figurehead of a much more sinister group of people? Deciding who the real monsters of the next four years is going to take time. All we can do is wait and see. But one thing is for sure, the members of his cabinet are not to be underestimated.

Article by Maria Noyen, CAS’19