By MR Josse
TAMPA, FL: The past week has been chaotic for American President Donald Trump. Viewing the overarching political landscape – from the sunny, verdant state of Florida – it is difficult not to conclude that the Trump administration is hurtling towards decidedly inclement and uncertain times in 2019, now just around the corner. It will, for starters, see the House of Representatives come under the sway of the Democrats.
The messy, muddled state of political affairs could not be more effectively underscored than by open warfare in the Oval Office between President Trump and leading congressional Democrats; the spectacle of British prime minister Theresa May barely clinging on to power in London; the European capitals deflated and in disarray; the escalation of U.S.-China tension; and the sentencing of former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen for a three-year jail term after implicating his former boss in a hush-money scandal.
It is precisely such a dystopian backdrop that doubtless prompted 44 former Republican and Democratic U.S. senators to draft a column in the Washington Post warning that “we are entering a dangerous period” and calling on all Americans “to defend the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.”
Notably, this influential group of Americans urged current and future senators to put partisanship and self-interest aside for the sake of national purpose, arguing that “we are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake.”
The magnitude of Trump’s travails, current and in the near future, could be fathomed when, again in the week just over, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution assigning responsibility to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for killing Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi and says that the Saudi regime’s “misleading statements” about the case have “undermined trust and confidence” in Saudi-U.S. relations.
Even a political neophyte can accurately surmise that it was a powerful repudiation of President Trump’s refusal to accept, or act upon, the truth about the Crown Prince – and it should cause the president to reconsider his policy position.
It would be remiss, incidentally, if one failed to mention that the above resolution’s passage came on the heels of a 56 to 41 vote in favor of another Senate resolution ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It, too, plainly represented a stinging rebuke of President Trump’s defence of Saudi Arabia.
Against such an inauspicious backcloth, who would be reckless enough to predict that Trump will be able to keep his ship of state afloat – leave alone the possibility (at least theoretically) of his winning a second term après the 2020 presidential election?
SPY AND TRAITOR
Let me now refer to Ben Macintyre’s “The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War” (Crown, New York, 2018) which I avidly consumed while still in New York.
There are umpteen interesting/revealing insights therein, in an account that celebrated author John le Carre, says is “The best true spy story I have ever read”; unfortunately only a few may be noted here.
Basically, the non-fictional novel tells in exquisite, thrilling detail about the defection of Oleg Gordievsky, a senior KGB officer, to Britain’s MI 6. The ‘spy and traitor’ once served as head of the KGB’s London station, functioning from within the Soviet Embassy.
An absorbing quote is this – from “former KGB officer Vladimir Putin” (who served in East Berlin, at the time the Wall came down in 1989): “There is no such thing as a former KGB man.” Well, well, well.
Here are a few other merit-provoking excerpts:
“The pantheon of world-changing spies is small and select and Oleg Gordievsky
is in it: he opened up the inner workings of the KGB at a pivotal juncture in history revealing not only what Soviet intelligence was doing (and not doing) but what the Kremlin was thinking and planning and, in so doing, transformed the way the West thought about the Soviet Union. He risked his life to betray his country, and made the world a little safer.
“Oleg Gordievsky was a spy like no other…The product of a KGB family and the best Soviet institutions, he eventually saw the lies and terror of the USSR and, consequently, began working for the MI 6, the British intelligence.
“As the Cold War heated up in the era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, he provided critical information that foiled Soviet plots, exposed spies in the West – all of which helped in avoiding catastrophic nuclear confrontation between the Great Powers…No Western country had ever run a spy so high up in Russian intelligence, including the apex position in the KGB’s London Station.
“It is a thrilling saga of intrigue in the Cold War’s twilight. Oleg Gordievsky still lives, under an assumed name, in a MI 6 safe house in suburban England, where he settled after his escape from Russia in July 1985.”
Earlier, I referred to a quote from ‘former KGB officer Vladimir Putin.’ Putin, of course, is the Russian President today.
Below are some capsule observations on Putin, culled from Condoleezza Rice’s “No Higher Honor”, a voluminous memoir of her eight years in Washington, that I’ve just acquired. Rice served first as National Security Advisor and subsequently as Secretary of State, under President George W. Bush.
These are some of her observations on Putin’s Russia, following her 2005 visit to Moscow and meeting with Putin:
“As authoritarianism rose within Russia,” in the aftermath of the “color revolutions,” she believed, “it would be matched by harsher policies towards Russia’s neighbors, particularly those that had the nerve to act on their independence from the former imperial power. The trend would only be exacerbated by the rising price of oil. These developments, not the great global issues of the time, would become the core of the conflict between Moscow and Washington.”
Year ending on sombre, chaotic note for Trump
By MR Josse