Donald J. Trump has received the endorsements of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Something doesn’t make sense here.
Schlafly has always been a realist on the matter of the aggressive foreign policy of the old Soviet Union and now Russia. On the other hand, as noted by Josh Rogin at Bloomberg View, Trump has a “pro-Russian foreign policy” that could have something to do with the businessman’s history of trying to do business in Russia.
Trump is threatening riots if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination. But rank-and-file conservatives who make up the Republican Party could themselves protest if Trump walks out of the Cleveland convention with the nomination. Indeed, they could walk out on Trump and back a third party conservative candidate. It’s not just Trump’s pro-Russian views. It’s how his support for Russia and Putin threatens Israel.
The Forward has run an article claiming that Trump has the strongest Jewish ties of all the GOP candidates. He has raised money for Jewish causes and members of his family are Jewish. But none of this can justify his support for Putin’s Russia. It is Russia that is backing Israel’s enemies in the region, most notably Iran.
Trump can’t have it both ways by supporting Russia while attacking Iran. The two regimes are engaged in a military alliance.
Trump has announced that he will speak to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, which is being held March 20-22 in Washington, D.C. He will apparently try to assure Jewish leaders that he will protect Israel’s interests as president when he renegotiates the Iran nuclear deal, and act as a “neutral” mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.
The New York Times notes, “For Israel ‘neutral’ is a code word with one meaning: unsupportive.”
Even more disturbing than Trump’s willingness to be “neutral” toward Israel is his pandering to Putin. It’s a subject he can’t avoid and for which there is no explanation, other than his business ties to Russia.
While Trump has a lot to explain, Schlafly’s endorsement of Trump is equally baffling.
In a September 2014 column, Schlafly had referred to “Russia’s chronic misbehavior on the world stage” and its attempts to take control of U.S. territories in the resource-rich Arctic region. She noted, “While the world’s attention was distracted by his incursions into Eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin quietly made another provocative move that could lead to a direct confrontation with the United States. The Russian Navy sent a ship to remote Wrangel Island, planted a Russian naval flag on August 20, and announced plans to build a naval base there for Russia’s Pacific Fleet.”
Schlafly was adamant that Wrangel Island belonged to the United States because brave American explorers had reached the territory on August 12, 1881, and had planted an American flag there.
Trump has remained silent about Putin’s land grab. However, his praise of Putin has not gone unnoticed by the Kremlin, which is boosting his campaign. The BBC, which monitors Russian state propaganda, reports that a top Russian media personality has “come out firmly” in favor of Trump by hailing him as a candidate “who is ready to cooperate with Moscow.” The Russian media personality is Dmitry Kiselyov, a mouthpiece for Putin who has boasted of Russia’s ability to reduce the United States to “radioactive ash.”
Back in 2010, Schlafly had said that President Obama’s New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia “reads like it was written by the Russians and has nothing good in it for the United States.” Schlafly urged the defeat of the treaty, arguing in a radio commentary that Russia has cheated on all its arms-control treaties and that the agreement was “a big victory for Russia and a defeat for the United States.”
It’s not known when or if Trump ever took a position on the treaty. He has taken pride, however, in his ability to negotiate great agreements.
When she appeared with Trump recently in St. Louis at a Trump for president rally, Schlafly said, “I asked him to stand by the Republican platform. We have the best conservative platform we’ve ever had. And he endorses it. He will stand by it. He is a real conservative and I ask you to support him.”
If Schlafly is referring to the 2012 Republican Platform, that’s a debatable assertion. That document urged Russian leaders “to reconsider the path they have been following: suppression of opposition parties, the press, and institutions of civil society; unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Georgia, alignment with tyrants in the Middle East; and bullying their neighbors while protecting the last Stalinist regime in Belarus.”
Since then, Russia has invaded Ukraine and expanded its military presence in Syria. Putin has recently announced a Russian military “withdrawal” from Syria, but it looks more like a reduction of forces. Russia will maintain its military bases in the country. Putin had said his forces would fight ISIS, but ISIS looks like it is as strong as ever. Perhaps this is because Russia went after rebels opposed to the Russian-backed Assad regime, and not ISIS.
Trump has said nothing considered critical of Russian foreign policy. In fact, he talks as if he would pursue a strategic alliance with Russia in the Middle East.
If Trump becomes the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, it will mark a major break with Republican Party policy.
The 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, had described Russia as “a geopolitical foe,” adding, “I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin.” President Obama mocked Romney for those assertions, saying he was stuck in the Cold War.
Romney was proven correct when, in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. In his recent speech critical of the Trump candidacy, Romney referred to “the aggressions of Putin” as confirming the fact that “we live in troubled and dangerous times.”
But Trump doesn’t share that view of Putin’s aggression.
“During this presidential campaign Trump has repeatedly espoused positions that are closer to Moscow’s policies than his rivals,” notes Rogin’s article at Bloomberg View. “He calls for the U.S. to leave Syria and ‘let Russia fight ISIS.’ He believes the U.S. shouldn’t lead the international effort to help Ukraine fight Russian intervention. He said that there isn’t enough evidence to prove Russia is to blame for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.”
The Rogin article, “Trump’s Long Romance With Russia,” goes over some of the material that we have already published in the past, such as “Follow Trump’s Money to Moscow” and “Is Trump the New Armand Hammer?” He notes that Trump rarely talks about “his decades-long effort to do business in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia” adding, “Good U.S.-Russian relations are potentially very lucrative for the Trump Organization.”
Rogin concludes, “Before he was a presidential candidate, Trump’s hunger to be popular in Russia was less troubling. Now it is a conflict of interest. At minimum, there is the appearance of wrongdoing: The candidate’s foreign-policy positions are conveniently aligned with his long-standing business agenda. But what’s good for the Trump Organization isn’t necessarily good for America.”
It’s a shame these potential conflicts of interest are only being raised now in the major media. Even worse, despite our work on the subject, many important conservative media organizations have remained completely silent about them. One of them, Breitbart News, is in turmoil over its management’s support for Trump.
We at Accuracy in Media led the effort in the United States to vet Barack Obama when he ran for president in 2008. We discovered that he had been influenced in his youth by a pro-Russian member of the Communist Party by the name of Frank Marshall Davis. Ironically, the connection by a major presidential candidate to Russia once again surfaces as a major concern. Incredibly, based on what we already know, Trump could be even more pro-Russian than Obama.
The Rogin article was a good first step by the major media in affirming the right to know about Trump’s business dealings with Russia and calling the New York businessman out for his conflict of interest. It’s time for sites like Breitbart News to stop their own pandering to Trump and do the job that Andrew Breitbart would have demanded.