Friday, 31 August 2018


     Putin and Trump, two dangerously wealthy and self-centred oligarchs, have much in common. Both are weakening the unity and infrastructure of what we call “The West”.  How much does the Media give us of the Truth devoid of self interest and greed? During the 2016 election, CNN made a $1 billion profit by giving showman Trump so much free time and limiting Hillary to repeated questions about her e-mails with very little time devoted to the real issues that plague us all. This one-sided free media publicity, totaling $5 billion, helped Trump win with $600 million in donations compared to $1 billion donated to Hillary.
     So far, the USA under Trump has fallen from 41st to 45th in the ranking of 179 countries for Freedom of the Press while Putin’s Russia dwells in the 148th slot.
     We still need Mikhail Gorbachev, and his goals so wanted and needed by humanity.  As the last leader of the USSR before its breakup under Boris Yeltsin, president 1991-99, he sought the demise of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact and tried to bring true democracy to Russia. He did improve relations and did enact many reforms.  But, disillusioned when we betrayed him by moving NATO up to Russia’s borders after we promised not to in exchange for Russia allowing the reunification of Germany and in the inability of Russians, imbued for so long with authoritarian rule, to understand and accept the problems of diversity and compromise democracy entails, he voted for Putin’s strong hand, believing that, when Putin restores Russian pride, he will embrace democracy.
     Putin has admitted it was difficult for him to support the 1991 failed KGB coup against Gorbachev.
     Why are we now flooded with worries about Russian influence in US elections with hardly any complaints about the much greater Israeli interference? We get scant reviews of US support for dictators worldwide.
     So, what can you and I do to assist those billions of good folk and thousand of organizations seeking a world beyond war; a protected environment with equality, compassion, and all those good things that make our short lives enjoyable? We do have histories of 77 cultures that never resorted to war. We know that the Mayan Empire flourished without war or fortification, but had human sacrifice, for hundreds of years before climate change brought drought and famine. We are told that 1% of our population has accrued more wealth than the 99%. Are we just plain too stupid and too controlled as we allow this? The 1% still contains far too many to include in this blog, forcing concentrating on just two while attempting a fair assessment:
     Vladimir Putin:  Actually, Putin and his Russia were described in my Blogs: “Putin: Saint, Sinner, or Both?” of 18 August 2015 and “Russia et al” of 16 March 2014, so should be read (or re-read?) as a prelude to this blog as events have since become quite puzzling and frightful. Putin and Trump both deny manipulating the 2016 US election in the face of much evidence that both countries have sinned in interfering in numerous countries. Trump is quite right in saying that we should talk with, rather that hurt, each other, but his changing tweets and actions are contradictory. The US imposes harmful sanctions on Russia for questionable reasons yet pays Roscosmos at Baikonur. Kazakhstan, $2.6 billion to amicably carry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station until 2019 when US commercial carriers will be ready.
     But, more of international relations later. To know Vladimir and Donald better, consider their families where the differences are immense. Putin is extremely secretive and protective, allowing his family almost no exposure or mention, whereas Trump’s family engages openly in government and his businesses.
     It is said that Putin is a relative of all European families via the Putyanin, a clan of Tver princes yet Putin is an artificial name that cannot be traced genealogically beyond his grandfather, Spiridon Putin, a very reserved and honest man, who left the Tver government for St. Petersburg at age 15 and became famous enough to be selected by Lenin to be his cook.
     Putin’s father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, was a conscript serving on a submarine then in a NKVD destruction battalion in WWII before sent to the regular army where he was severely wounded in 1942. Putin’s mother was a factory worker. His maternal grandmother was killed by German occupiers in Tver and his maternal uncles were killed in WWII fighting the German invasion, their bodies never found.
     Putin, a third son, was born in Leningrad in 1952, after the death of the first two, one in infancy and the other of diphtheria during the German WWII siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
     In school he became fluent in German, earned a black belt in Judo, but did not join the Young Pioneers yet had to join the Communist party in university where he earned a law degree. In 1975 he joined the KGB that he had seen glamorized in films. He worked in counter-intelligence then in monitoring foreigners.  After the collapse of Communist East Germany he returned to the Leningrad state university where he assessed students  for KGB enlistment. There, he renewed friendship with the future Moscow mayor.
     Putin, who had been selected by Boris Yelstin, had two terms as president, 2000-2008, one term as prime minister, then a third with 64% of the vote as president 2012-2018 then, with 71% of the vote, started a 4th.. He alternated positions with Dmitry Medvedev.
      In 1999 Putin argued that Communism was not an aide to civilization.
     Putin’s wife, Lyudmila, an Aeroflot flight attendant and linquist, has been seen rarely both before and after their 2013 divorce after 20 years of marriage. Their two daughters, Mariya and Masha, have never been formally or publically seen. Also low key is his romance, started in 2008, with Alina Kabaeva, one of the most decorated gymnasts in history.  Born in 1983 in Uzbekistan, she grew up in a sporting family. Her dad was a professional footballer.  She won bronze and gold Olympic medals in Sydney and Athens, and was on the cover of Vogue, Russia, and is rumoured to have children by Vladimir.  She now heads up a pro-Kremlin media company.
     Putin argues: "I have a private life in which I do not permit must be respected."
     Donald’s Trump’s father came from Germany, his mother from the Scottish Hebrides. He has had three wives, 5 children, and 9 grandchildren.
    With his first wife (1977-1992) Ivana Marie Zelnckova, born in Czechoslovakia, he has Don, Ivanka, and Eric. All were Executive Vice Presidents of the Trump Organisation during the election campaign. All became part of his transition team. Don and Eric now manage the family real estate empire. Ivanka, and husband, Jared Kishner, moved to Washington where Jared took a senior White House slot. Their wealth is estimated to range up to $740 million.
      Because of his affair with Maria Maples, Ivana divorced Donald.
    With his second wife (1993-1999), Maria Ann Maples, born in Georgia, USA, he has Tiffany Ariana.  Maria loved to party.  Putin had hired handsome Spencer Wagner as a body guard who complained he had difficulty keeping track of her. The press built up a lurid story of an affair, embarrassing Donald who fired Spencer thus destroying his career ending with death from a drug overdose.
     With his third and present wife, Melanie Knavs, born in Slovenia in 1970, he has Barron William, born in 2006.  He is a soccer team member.
Wealth Comparisons:
     President Putin’s salary is $133,000, yet among his assets are a palace that cost $1 billion and a yacht $100 million. No economist can tell us his net worth but many claim he is the richest person on earth with over $200 billion. The Shock Doctrine, explained well by Naomi Klein, led to the privatization, under Yeltsin, of many of the 45,000 Soviet state enterprises, thus creating many new billionaires who bought them at low prices.  For instance, a distant Putin relative, who, as an employee of an Arctic shipping company, was earning about $11,000 a year has now been valued as worth $730 million. A childhood friend who became a butcher is now valued at $650 million.  All told Putin’s circle of friends and relatives hold $30 billion.
     President Trump’s salary is $400,000 which he donates to charities. His net worth is $3.1 billion which is $400 less than when he took office. Other family worths are estimated at:  Eric $250 million, Donald Junior $200 million, Tiffany $600,000, Irvanka and Jared $762 million.
      Trump owns a Boeing 757, a Cessna jet, 3 Sikorsky helicopters, a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, and Phantom, a Maybach, a Ferrari, and a Merceded-Benz. He bought Melanie a $455,000 SLR McLcLaren.  
     Trump’s income is mainly from real estate started by his grandparents in 1906, continued by his parents, prolific builders during WWI, who went bankrupt during the Great Depression, returning to real estate in 1933 building single-family homes in Queens and Brooklyn. Donald worked for them while attending university, and full time by 1968, becoming the president of what he called The Trump Organization in 1973 while his dad, Fred, became Chairman of the Board.  They own, or have interests in:
12 golf courses in the USA, and 5 in Dubai, Ireland, and Scotland.
1 Winery in Virginia, USA, and 1 Carousel in Manhatten.
22 Real estate licensing deals in the USA and 16 in 12 other countries: Canada, Dominican Republic, Dubai, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, and Uruguay. Interests in Argentina and Brazil have been dropped.
      Forbes estimated his holdings to be worth $1.3 billion and that he earned $71 million from condo sales plus $42 million in rental income.
     Trump University, 2005-2010; For $ 35.000 each, middle aged hopefuls were offered a course advertised to make them rich in real estate. Students, claiming deceit, illegal teachings, and fraud, sued and won 2 court cases that Trump fought but settled, after his election, for $25 million to reimburse 6,000 students.
     With so many businesses and so many partners, is it not self-defeating for Trump to opt for politics where opponents can be so accommodating in seeking out wrongdoings? One of these has spent over a year investigating, finding many:
      Following a string of bankruptcies the Trump Organization accepted funds for projects in the US, Azerbaijan, and Panama from Russians with criminal histories. Over 60 Russians bought $100 million worth of units in   “Little Moscow”, Florida.
    Trump’s most painful headache yet may evolve from the FBI seizure of business documents from his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into the 2016 election interference.
     Nashi is a pro-Putin, 150,000-strong youth club that is democratic, anti-fascist, and anti oligarchic capitalism.  Summer camps are held near Moscow.
     Some sources argue that, with deep social problems and a shrinking economy, Russia’s capitalist oligarchs encourage Putin to support white supremacist, anti-immigrant forces in western countries.
     Putin, officially an independent, is affiliated with the United Russia Party that has as its main purpose to keep him in power.   US Republicans, opponents claim, use this as a role model.
     A basic fact remains to demand our attention: The safety and contentment of our world relies on a peaceful association of nations with empathy for each other and the environment. Russia and the USA are major players.
     Russia-USA summit meetings: Not being a member of NATO, Finland has offered its capital, Helsinki, as an acceptable location for summits.   A brief summary:
     1. 1975: Gerald Ford - Leonid Brezhnev. Leonid offered help to get Ford reelected,
     2. 1990: Mikhail Gorbachev - George HW Bush.  Both warned Iraq to leave Kuwait.
     3. 1997: Bill Clinton - Boris Yeltsin.  Clinton offered Yeltsin help in strengthening democracy but the USSR collapsed the following year.
     4. 2018: En route to the 16 July 2018 Helsinki summit, Trump insulted Germany and the UK then, after a 2-hour meeting alone with Putin, emerged praising him and later inviting him to visit Washington, all the while continuing US sanctions on Russia.
     The current priorities and relations with others of both Putin and Trump deserve another blog or two.  Suffice it here to add a few facts:
     Putin believes that Russians and Ukrainians are the same people so should return to being one nation. He helped Iran build a peaceful nuclear capability. Trump, at the urging if Israel, wants to cripple it. Putin promotes close ties with breakaway former Soviet countries.  He has reduced military staffs and facilities while improving effectiveness.  Trump has further increased the huge gap the USA maintains militarily from the rest of the world.  Putin improved conditions for, and relations among, the various religions. Although popular in Russia he does have opposition which he can control and persecute, unhindered by a congress, laws, and press that frustrate Trump. Trump’s religious beliefs that God loves the rich can be traced back 2500 years to the Persian King Cyrus, perhaps needing yet another blog.
     In the meantime we all need to maintain the pressure on Putin, Trump, and their oligarchs to behave in the interests of our only world.

Ye Olde Scribe