The ideal of leadership in the soft-serve brain of Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin, a swaggering capo with nuclear capabilities, John Gotti topped by a Ushanka, a Bond villain painted so broadly that even the hideous hotelier, who understands politics in the same way that Elmer Fudd understands rabbits, can sort of get it.
Trump has long lusted for a piece of real estate in Russia to call his own, hoping to land his brand in a state known for suspect, remorseless dealings among oligarchs. For 25 years, it’s been a country of the gaudiest capitalism, a place seemingly made for a mogul who dines on vanilla ice cream and shits gold paint.
Putin, a 20th-century leader stuck in the wrong era, is forcing his nation into a past that no longer exists, fiddling while the oil burns. It’s no shock he’s pulling hard for a strongman wannabe in Trump to win the White House. What is bad for us is good for him, or at least that’s the plan.
In a smart Slate piece, Franklin Foer masterfully traces Trump’s lengthy flirtation with Moscow. An excerpt:
One of the important facts about Trump is his lack of creditworthiness. After his 2004 bankruptcy and his long streak of lawsuits, the big banks decided he wasn’t worth the effort. They’d rather not touch the self-proclaimed “king of debt.” This sent him chasing less conventional sources of cash. BuzzFeed has shown, for instance, his efforts to woo Muammar Qaddafi as an investor. Libyan money never did materialize. It was Russian capital that fueled many of his signature projects—that helped him preserve his image as a great builder as he recovered from bankruptcy.
The money didn’t come directly. Hunting for partners with cash, he turned to a small upstart called the Bayrock Group, which would pull together massive real estate deals using the Trump name. Its chairman was a former Soviet official named Tevfik Arif, who made a small fortune running luxe hotels in Turkey. To run Bayrock’s operation, Arif hired Felix Satter, a Soviet-born, Brighton Beach–bred college dropout. Satter changed his name to Sater, likely to distance himself from the criminal activity that a name-check would easily turn up. As a young man, Saterserved time for slashing a man’s face with a broken margarita glass in a barroom brawl. The Feds also busted him for a working in a stock brokerage tied to four different Mafia families, which made $40 million off fraudulent trades. One lawsuit would later describe “Satter’s proven history of using mob-like tactics to achieve his goals.” Another would note that he threatened a Trump investor with the prospect of the electrocution of his testicles, the amputation of his leg, and his corpse residing in the trunk of Sater’s car.
“Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” Trump said. “We will be in Moscow at some point.”
What was Trump thinking entering into business with partners like these?•