Russia has been cultivating Trump as an asset for 40 years, says former KGB spy
Thomas Colson 2 hours ago
- The KGB cultivated Donald Trump as an asset for 40 years and he proved a highly valuable asset in repeating anti-western Russian propaganda, a former KGB operative has claimed.
- Yuri Shvets told the Guardian that the KGB had identified Trump as a potential asset in the 1980s.
- He says they were stunned when he returned from a trip from Moscow and took out a full-page advert in newspapers repeating anti-western Russian talking points.
The KGB cultivated Donald Trump as an asset for 40 years and he proved a highly valuable asset in repeating anti-western Russian propaganda in the United States, a former KGB operative has claimed.
Yuri Shvets is a key source in “American Kompromat,” a new book detailing the decades-long relationship between Trump and Russia by the journalist Craig Unger.
The book, which is based on interviews with former Russian and US operatives, details the KGB’s attempts in the 1980s to cultivate dozens of unwitting businesspeople in the United States as useful Russian assets.
Shvets told the Guardian newspaper that the KGB had identified Trump, then an up-and-coming property developer, as a potential asset in the 1980s.
“This is an example where people were recruited when they were just students and then they rose to important positions; something like that was happening with Trump,” Shvets told the paper.
The book’s author states that Trump first became a target for the Russians in 1977 when he married his first wife, the Czech model Ivana Zelnickova.
“He was an asset. It was not this grand, ingenious plan that we’re going to develop this guy and 40 years later he’ll be president,” Unger told the Guardian.
“Trump was the perfect target in a lot of ways: his vanity, narcissism made him a natural target to recruit. He was cultivated over a 40-year period, right up through his election.”
According to his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal,” Trump had visited Moscow to discuss building “a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.”
In fact, Russian operatives used the trip to flatter Trump and told him he should go into politics, Shvets said. He told the Guardian that KGB operatives were then stunned to discover that Trump had returned to the United States, mooted a potential run for office, and taken out a full-page advert in several newspapers which echoed several anti-Western Russian talking points.
The advert, which ran in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Boston Globe, was titled “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.”
Trump in the advert attacked Japan for “taking advantage” of the United States and said the US should stop paying to defend other rich countries — arguments which would become the backbone of his foreign policy when he became president decades later.
Shvets said that the advert was considered an “unprecedented” success in Russia’s attempts to promote anti-Western talking points in American media.
Trump has long denied that he had any financial connections to Russia, tweeting in 2017: “”Russia has never tried to use leverage over me,” he tweeted in 2017. “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”
The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow
In 1987, a young real estate developer traveled to the Soviet Union. The KGB almost certainly made the trip happen.
By LUKE HARDING
November 19, 2017
Luke Harding is a foreign correspondent at the Guardian. Excerpted from the book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win published by Vintage Books, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2017 by Luke Harding.
It was 1984 and General Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov had a problem. The general occupied one of the KGB’s most exalted posts. He was head of the First Chief Directorate, the prestigious KGB arm responsible for gathering foreign intelligence.
Kryuchkov had begun his career with five years at the Soviet mission in Budapest under Ambassador Yuri Andropov. In 1967 Andropov became KGB chairman. Kryuchkov went to Moscow, took up a number of sensitive posts, and established a reputation as a devoted and hardworking officer. By 1984, Kryuchkov’s directorate in Moscow was bigger than ever before—12,000 officers, up from about 3,000 in the 1960s. His headquarters at Yasenevo, on the wooded southern outskirts of the city, was expanding: Workmen were busy constructing a 22-story annex and a new 11-story building.
In politics, change was in the air. Soon a new man would arrive in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev’s policy of detente with the West—a refreshing contrast to the global confrontation of previous general secretaries—meant the directorate’s work abroad was more important than ever.
Kryuchkov faced several challenges. First, a hawkish president, Ronald Reagan, was in power in Washington. The KGB regarded his two predecessors, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, as weak. By contrast Reagan was seen as a potent adversary. The directorate was increasingly preoccupied with what it believed—wrongly—was an American plot to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the USSR.
It was around this time that Donald Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence. How that happened, and where that relationship began, is an answer hidden somewhere in the KGB’s secret archives. Assuming, that is, that the documents still exist.
Trump’s first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.
In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB’s operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans.
In addition to shifting politics in Moscow, Kryuchkov’s difficulty had to do with intelligence gathering. The results from KGB officers abroad had been disappointing. Too often they would pretend to have obtained information from secret sources. In reality, they had recycled material from newspapers or picked up gossip over lunch with a journalist. Too many residencies had “paper agents” on their books: targets for recruitment who had nothing to do with real intelligence.
Kryuchkov sent out a series of classified memos to KGB heads of station. Oleg Gordievsky—formerly based in Denmark and then in Great Britain—copied them and passed them to British intelligence. He later co-published them with the historian Christopher Andrew under the title Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations 1975–1985.
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