I have fucked this up creatively – RB
A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates
Megan Twohey, Scott Shane, NYT, Feb 19 2017
A week before Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for Pres Trump to lift sanctions against Russia. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix Sater, a business associate who helped Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian Rada member trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. While there is nothing illegal about such unofficial efforts, a proposal that seems to tip toward Russian interests may set off alarms. The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to end the war. Cohen asked:
Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?
But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrei Artemenko, the Ukrainian Rada member, sees himself as the Trump-style Fuhrer of the future Ukraine. He claims to have “names of companies and wire transfers” showing corruption by Pres Poroshenko. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Pres Putin. Artemenko said:
A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, or a Pindosi agent or a CIA agent, but how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?
Cohen and Sater said they had not spoken to Trump about the proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy. Cohen is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an FBI counter-intelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials; he has denied any illicit connections. The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts. Sater, a
Russian-Pindosi Jew, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Artemenko spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early ‘oughties on embezzlement charges, which were later dropped. He said the charges had been politically motivated. Former Pindo ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst said:
I’m afraid Pres Trump may be too eager to mend relations with Russia at Ukraine’s expense – particularly with a plan like Artemenko’s!
In late January, the three men met at the Loews Regency hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Cohen, a lawyer who joined the Trump Organization in 2007 as special counsel, lives two blocks up the street, in Trump Park Avenue. Cohen has a personal connection to Ukraine: He is married to a Ukrainian woman, and once worked with relatives there to establish an ethanol business. Artemenko arrived at the Manhattan hotel between visits to Washington. He said his wife had met Melania Trump years ago during their modeling careers, but he did not try to meet Trump. He attended the inauguration and visited Congress, posting on Facebook his admiration for Trump and talking up his peace plan in meetings with Congress critturs. He entered Parliament in 2014, after the coup. Manafort had been instrumental in getting Yanukovych elected. He helped shape the political bloc that sprang up to oppose Poroshenko. Artemenko emerged from the opposition that Manafort nurtured. The two men have never met, Artemenko said. Before entering politics, Artemenko had business ventures in the Middle East and real estate deals in the Miami area, and had worked as an agent representing top Ukrainian athletes. Some colleagues in Parliament describe him as corrupt, untrustworthy or simply insignificant, but he appears to have amassed considerable wealth. He has fashioned himself in the image of Trump, presenting himself as Ukraine’s answer to a rising class of Nazi Fuhrers in the West. He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the RNC, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Trump’s campaign. He wrote on Facebook on Jan 27:
It’s time for new leaders, new approaches to the governance of the country, new principles and new negotiators in international politics. Our time has come! The future belongs to us!
Artemenko said he saw in Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine — and help advance his own political career! Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine (? – RB). Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years (like Hong Kong – RB) . Artemenko’s project also includes the dissemination of “kompromat,” or compromising material, purportedly showing that Poroshenko and his closest associates are corrupt (Who knew? – RB). Only a new government might take up his plan. Sater was willing to help Artemenko’s proposal reach the White House, though Trump has sought to distance himself from Sater in recent years, telling the NYT in a 2013 deposition:
If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.
Sater worked on real estate development deals with the Trump Organization on and off for at least a decade, even after his role in the stock manipulation scheme came to light. Sater, who was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in New York, served as an executive at a firm called Bayrock Group, two floors below the Trump Organization in Trump Tower, and was later a senior adviser to Trump. He said he had been working on a plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow with a Russian real estate developer as recently as the fall of 2015, one that he said had come to a halt because of Trump’s presidential campaign. Cohen said the Trump Organization had received a letter of intent for a project in Moscow from a Russian real estate developer at that time but determined that the project was not feasible. Artemenko said a mutual friend had put him in touch with Sater. He said that helping to advance the proposal made sense. He said:
#1, I want to stop a war. #2, I absolutely believe that Pindostan and Russia need to be allies, not enemies. If I could achieve both in one stroke, it would be a home run!
After speaking with Sater and Artemenko in person, Cohen said he would deliver the plan to the White House. He said:
I don’t know who in the Russian government offered encouragement for the plan, but I understand there is a promise of proof of corruption by Poroshenko. Fraud is never good, right?
Sater gave Cohen the written proposal in a sealed envelope. When Cohen met with Trump in the Oval Office in early February, he left the proposal in Flynn’s office. The three conspirators were waiting for a response when Flynn was forced from his post. Now they are hoping a new national security adviser will take up their cause. On Friday the president wrote on Twitter that he had four new candidates for the job: