An unverified document alleging Russia has been cultivating President-elect Donald Trump as an asset for years included a claim that Trump “
agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” in return for in return for Russia’s feeding of hacked documents to WikiLeaks.
Though the specific claims in the document could not be independently verified, Russia’s incursion into Ukraine represented a significant break from standard GOP orthodoxy on the situation.
Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, said that it was likely Russian President Putin “would angle for Trump backing off Ukraine.”
“Trump, as president-elect, has already made a number of Ukraine statements that adhere extremely closely with the official Russian line,” Bremmer added.
Classified briefing materials provided to President Barack Obama and Trump by US intelligence officials last week indicated that Russian operatives claimed to have potentially compromising personal and financial information on Trump. Those materials included a summary of the unverified, 35-page document that was subsequently published in full by BuzzFeed.
The intelligence community gleaned the information from a former British intelligence operative who reportedly provided the FBI with a series of unverified memos in August 2016 detailing how Trump, his advisers, and Kremlin officials regularly exchanged information before and during the presidential campaign.
The collection of memos was presented to Trump and Obama in a two-page summary attached to a classified report about Russia’s attempts to sway the outcome of the election in Trump’s favour, according to CNN.
The full dossier claims that Trump — in return for Russia’s feeding the documents it hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, to WikiLeaks for publishing — “agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.”
That claim has not been independently verified. But ahead of the Republican National Convention in July, the Trump campaign, then led by Paul Manafort, gutted the GOP’s policy platform on Ukraine that called for increasing sanctions on Russia and arming the Ukrainian military against pro-Russian separatists.
Manafort served as a top adviser to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine between 2004 and 2012.
Secret ledgers uncovered by an anticorruption center in Kiev revealed that the political party earmarked $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort for his work between 2007 and 2012.
Trump’s staffers, The Washington Post reported at the time the policy was altered, “stripped” the language calling for the US to provide “lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian army and replaced it with softer language calling for “appropriate assistance.”
In an interview during his campaign, Trump would not condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, which led to US sanctions on Russia in 2014.
“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” he said.
In his speech about the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Putin told the Kremlin that “in people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia.”
Trump has given no indication so far, however, that he would “raise defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away ” from Putin’s activities in Ukraine.
Trump has been heavily critical of NATO, and said last July that the US would only help in defending the Baltics from Russian aggression “if [the Baltics] fulfil their obligations to us.”
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