TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder XI
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Translation: Fairpress

Author: Munir Podumljak

Who’s playing whom?
This is the last article of the series of articles from the publication of the Partnership for Social Development entitled “TRUMP’S CODE – Making Money on Populist Disorder”, a story about the course of events related to US President Donald Trump, members of the Trump organisation, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other actors who influenced the US elections in 2016 and BREXIT. In this last article, we bring you the key conclusions of this huge investigative story.

Many of Trump’s decisions constitute radical departures from US foreign policy, but perhaps none more so than his withdrawal from JCPOA, which reversed long-standing US and EU efforts to change the dynamics of world oil markets and improve energy security for the Western powers. Such decisions are often dismissed as reflecting Trump’s impetuous personality and supposedly anti-establishment ideology. This article has sought to demonstrate that there is another plausible explanation. It does so by pointing out that one of the key winners of Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA is Russia, a weak economy that is highly dependent on oil prices for growth. The recent increase in oil prices is bolstering Russia’s financial position, fattening the pockets of Putin’s inner circle of oligarchs, and boosting not only his domestic power but also his ability to engage in military ventures abroad. Yet showing how Putin benefits does not prove causality.

We have therefore sought also to provide evidence on some of the key mechanisms which might have enabled Putin to exercise influence over Trump. Broadly speaking, in our account of how Putin came to power, we have argued that he is expert in exploiting the fears of others to increase his own power. He trained as a KGB officer in a world where information was used to discredit reputations and immobilize critics. Since coming to office, Russia’s

political culture has embraced the KGB governance style – providing power and economic incentives for those that cooperate, while blackmailing, threatening, and if necessary, assassinating those that oppose, criticize or confront the regime with the truth. In one of his first speeches as elected president, Putin stated that the media should not become a “means of mass disinformation and tools of struggle against the state” [1], a media doctrine that would be seized upon by leaders elsewhere to discredit critics, and which laid the foundations for today’s ‘fake news’ narrative.

His KGB career may have taught Putin that not all relationships require heavy-handed manipulation. Sometimes, interests coincide, and unwitting collaborations can be engineered. Arguably, in the case of Wikileaks’ involvement, all that was needed was to place information at the fingertips of Julian Assange. Robert Mercer, meanwhile, provided skills and data that could be used to buy the support of another key player: voters. Mercer was on the lookout for a candidate with ideas radical enough to move markets. Helping to get such a candidate into power was a way of achieving greater certainty about which way the markets would shift; his company has performed unusually well in recent months. Mercer’s interests appear to have coincided with Putin’s, while his skills and techniques offered part of the means for achieving them.

Trump has certainly benefited in business terms from a closeness to Russians, stretching back to the oligarchs’ late 1990s ‘investments’ in his properties and his growing reliance on Russian financing as his series of bankruptcies disrupted his ability to borrow from US banks. But others have suggested that the power dynamic between Putin and Trump may be more one of handler and asset.[2] If that is the case, how much more will Putin seek to gain from this relationship?

The whole publication is available here.


This article was created with the support of the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media within the project “Media Reality” – Developing and Encouraging the Media Literacy Programme



Connected articles: TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder XTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IXTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VIIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IVTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder I


[1] Freeze, G. L. (2009) Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 505.

[2] Chait, J. (2018) Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler? New York, [online]. Available at:  [Accessed 18 Jul. 2018].




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