whistle-blower (-gate) is still about #TrumpRussia

As we wait for more whistle-blower news and an inevitable flurry of Trumpian disinformation and diversions, we need to review that Trump’s impeachable offense in Ukraine was also a move in a corruption history favoring Russia back through Manafort.

Trump’s hold on Congressional aid to Ukraine also favored a Russian-backed rebel buildup in eastern Ukraine. Military equipment was recently being sent there under the cover of “humanitarian aid”.

Something to keep in mind. Abuse of power need not be a single moment, but a series of sequential acts.We know OMB froze Congressionally directed money to Ukraine pending Trump’s call.We know Trump and his team pushed Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Trump’s admitted to both.

MK: In purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, the Russian defense budget is really large. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) releases an annual report that looks at countries’ defense spending, converts it into average U.S. dollars for the year, and shows us where everybody is. Thus, if the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate worsens by 50 percent in the course of a year, then Russia will appear to have a defense budget that is half its actual size. Those comparisons are why many do not appreciate the real size of Russia’s defense budget. My estimate for the actual purchasing power of Russia’s defense budget is somewhere between $150 and $180 billion.

You have to do it in PPP terms because Russia’s defense industry is largely autarkic. And U.S. sanctions have made it even more self-sufficient. The difference between Russia and Saudi Arabia is that Russia buys its weapons from Russian contractors and Saudi Arabia buys from the United States. Last year’s Russian defense budget (estimated in this year’s SIPRI report at $61 billion in exchange rate terms) appeared to be smaller than France’s. It’s delusional to think Russia spends less on defense than France, in real terms.

Russia can afford to buy far more force and equipment than Western countries. Western nations tend to be high-income economies, while Russia is on the higher end of the spectrum of middle-income countries. In Western countries, the defense force eats a lot more than it does in Russia. Even though the United States or its allies may be spending quite a bit of money, much of that does not go to defense procurement or R&D. The United States spends about 30 percent of its defense budget on procurement and R&D, while Russia spends close to 50 percent. You can buy a lot of modernized or new equipment with that kind of money spent every year.

[….]

Moscow is also actively trying to making itself a problem. Russia seeks to challenge U.S. policy abroad, gain leverage, and raise the transaction costs for the United States on the kinds of deals that Moscow does not particularly care about but its opponents do, such as Venezuela or Libya. Moscow comes in, establishes leverage on the cheap, and engages in arbitrage because it wants to raise the transaction costs for the United States and get revenge for various U.S. policies that seek to exert pressure on, punish, or coerce Russia.

[…]

Another important component of Russian strategy is launching destructive campaigns as an indirect form of competition. These are raiding campaigns, exemplars of indirect warfare, attacking state cohesion, disrupting decision making, and inflicting considerable political or economic damage. Probably the best-known political warfare campaign was the hacking of the 2016 U.S. elections. What matters is not whether the campaign is an operational success but whether the target’s reaction yields a substantial strategic benefit. One can inflict a large amount of damage with very few resources, and the efficacy can be forever debated, but the target of this type of indirect warfare might produce an outsized reaction.

www.wilsoncenter.org/…