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January 12, 2017

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"TRUMP'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH RUSSIA"--I was recently asked by a very prominent friend for my analysis of the apparent love affair with PUTIN. You may have noticed that his cabinet has no illusions about Putin. Let that be clue about Trump's real feelings. Now on his strategy. My thoughts:

I believe that Trump is playing Putin. He is a classic negotiator and he wants to get Putin to give him something in exchange for a business friendship. It is likely that Trump knows Putin and his KGB cronies run most of Russia’s industry. He needs Putin to end the threat to Ukraine and the Syrian war. He also needs Putin to force new sanctions on Iran. In his pocket Trump holds American oil production, the ability to lesson or remove sanctions on Russia, trade with Russian businesses, restrictions on Russian investments in America, tariffs on American and Russian made goods to America, the build up and deployment of American troops in eastern Europe , the development and deployment of an American anti missile system in Europe and the inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. He knows Putin is a businessman and will bargain but he has to give Putin the political capital to stay in power. Putin sees that as being acknowledged as a Superpower and world class leader not just a bully as he is currently portrayed in the US press and State Department. Putin thinks his image at home is best served by his return to the cold war. Russia is still run by the KGB and his life is on the line every day as a Dictator. So, Trump is setting him up to be his “buddy” at the world power level in return for pulling out of Ukraine, ending his deal with Assad and/or helping get Iran back under sanctions. Trump is all about marketing and marketing is what negotiating and understanding your opponents and customers is all about. The reason I got respected at a young age in the Air Force and Navy intelligence community was that I was one of the very few who actually understood the Soviets in the cold war and was brash enough to stand my ground against analysts who wanted to portray the Soviet threat as being an offensive machine. The Soviets and the Chinese are crafty, smart opportunists who attack weakness and fall back in the face of strength. We think in annual cycles. They think in much longer cycles. A guy like Trump scares the hell out of them but they simply retool and wait him out if need be. They took advantage of Obama’s weakness and inexperience in strategic moves and yet joined with him in the war on terror only when it was in their interest in projecting their power, image and securing a base with their pawn, Assad. Last thing Putin wants to lose is his warm water Naval Base in Syria. Putin doesn’t ride horses bare chested because he’s a stud. He does it because he wants to promote his image with the public. Under Obama he actually assassinated his political rival and gave a message to his KGB friends. Trump is not acting like a dummy who does not believe the intelligence community for fun. He likely knows exactly what he is doing in his public statements and you can believe his cabinet members know exactly the game he is playing. Will it work? That’s up to Putin and how well Trump can walk the tightrope with our allies as he portrays Putin as a world leader while getting him to cooperate on key issues. Putin on the other hand has seen it all through 5 or 6 US Presidents. He has read all his rivals correctly and prevailed. He, too, is a Billionaire. He most likely sees Trump as an opportunity to play chess. How many of Trump’s cards can he get him to give him in return for things he is willing to give up? Assad will be the toughest. That Naval base in the hands of the rebels is a very strategic pawn. He won’t let it go to ISIS either. Under Obama/Kerry he got to bomb both the rebels and ISIS at the same time. My view is stay the course with Trump for now and see how well he does in the chess game. Never, ever assume your enemy is stupid. That is how, in my view, the world got to hundreds of thousands of nuclear weapons in the cold war era. I was there to watch it—many false interpretations of Soviet and Chinese intentions not bad intelligence.

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