Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 31.10.2017
Paul Manafort was indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller in the United States on October 30. He is charged with numerous offences, including money laundering and failing to declare himself to be a foreign agent. The indictment focuses on the period from 2006 to 2014 inclusive, when Paul Manafort was a political operative working for Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions in Ukraine. Manafort is the first prominent alleged conspirator to be accused in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the US election of 8 November 2016.
Several lines of defence have sprung up to try to insulate Trump, Putin, and Russia from damage due to the Manafort indictment. The indictment covers actions in 2014 and before, and Manafort only became Trump’s campaign manager in 2016 – Trump is not implicated, it is argued. The indictment covers dealings with Yanukovych and the Party of Regions – Putin is not implicated, it is argued. The indictment covers dealings in and concerning Ukraine – Russia is not implicated, it is argued. These lines of defence are weak, and they collapse upon further examination.
Trump is responsible for hiring Manafort. The Trump campaign knew as early as April 2016 that Russia had possession of emails stolen from the Democratic Party, and was prepared to release them through its front organization WikiLeaks when the timing was right. In return for doing Trump this favour, the Russians demanded that a platform change be made at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The change was to remove language saying that the United States should provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to help defend against Russian aggression. To see that that change happened, the Trump campaign had to take control of the convention away from the Republican National Committee. Trump fired Corey Lewandowski and hired Putin’s man, Manafort. Manafort dominated the RNC in Cleveland, and the Russians got what they wanted. Manafort hand-picked Mike Pence to be be Trump’s running mate. Manafort got Trump to say NATO is “obsolete” and to say “Lock her up!” about Hillary Clinton. These themes echo Manafort’s experience with Yanukovych in Ukraine: Manafort and Yanukovych engineered anti-NATO and anti-US riots in Crimea in 2006 – US Marines were stoned; Manafort and Yanukovych engineered the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011. Trump and his team knew all about the crimes Manafort committed with Yanukovych. They hired him because of those crimes and because Russia demanded Manafort be hired. Trump is badly damaged by the indictment of Manafort.
Putin does not come off clean. Paul Manafort was Putin’s “grey cardinal” to direct Yanukovych, and he served the same function to run Trump for the Kremlin. Manafort is the political operative who got Yanukovych to eke out an election win over Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine in 2010 and who directed the US side of Russia’s election falsification which brought Trump an Electoral College victory in the US in 2016. Putin used Manafort as an instrument to manipulate Ukraine and the United States, but he over-reached. When Putin forced Yanukovych to withdraw from the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement, it sparked the “EuroMaidan” popular protests against Yanukovych Clan corruption. When Putin invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014 it led to sanctions against Russian individuals and entities and to the isolation of Russia. When Putin – through Manafort – falsified the US election of 2016, it led to the Trump-Russia probe that has led to the indictment of Manafort. Putin is badly damaged by the indictment of Manafort.
The indictment of Manafort describes dealings with Ukraine, but we need to dig deeper than that. The Ukraine that Manafort was involved with was a pre-2014 Ukraine, before the Revolution of Dignity. It was a Ukraine of Yanukovych and the Party of Regions and the corrupt oligarchy. It was not the Ukraine of the Orange Revolution: Manafort was connected to Yanukovych, not Viktor Yushchenko or Yulia Tymoshenko. It was not the Ukraine of EuroMaidan: Manafort backed the violent crackdown on the peaceful protestors. It is not the Ukraine that is now defending Europe from invasion by Russia: Manafort ensured that Trump never says a bad word about Putin or Russia, and never says unequivocally that Crimea is Ukraine. Manafort is connected to the old, corrupt Ukraine that was spiritually occupied by Russia. The strands of Manafort and Yanukovych and the Party of Regions and the corrupt oligarchy all tie back to Putin and to Russia. To say that the charges against Manafort concern Ukraine is misleading. The indictment points to the command and control centre, which is Russia.
The indictment of Paul Manafort seems to concern Manafort himself, about Yanukovych, and about Ukraine. In fact, the charges are a shouted “J’accuse!” against Trump, Putin, and Russia. The Putin-Manafort-Trump conspiracy is being unraveled in the US legal system, as the Putin-Manafort-Yanukovych conspiracy was unraveled in civil society in Ukraine.