Radio Liberty is living up to its name, at least as far as freedom of information goes.
The U.S. government communications outlet — part of the international network that includes Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America — revealed previously undisclosed details today of a “flurry of communication” between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin over three weeks beginning earlier this year.
“On March 30, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by telephone, the first of five calls between the two over a period of three weeks, a flurry of communication unprecedented during Trump’s 3 1/2 years in office,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL).
While some may point to concerns about the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic as a reasonable explanation for the calls, the fact that only one of the calls was reported to the press and the public — and posted as usual on the White House website — has many people wondering what was discussed, particularly in light of the blockbuster revelation over the weekend that the Kremlin had offered to pay Taliban rebels in Afghanistan a bounty for every dead American armed forces member that they could kill.
“For many Russia watchers, the flurry of behind-the-scenes phone calls and other communications is a clear indication that something’s going on,” RFERL’s Mike Eckel noted. He notes, “the two countries’ diplomats have spoken at least three times over that same period, which also coincided with an unusual shipment of Russian coronavirus-related humanitarian aid to the United States.”
David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement (NCRM) wrote in an article on AlterNet:
“The White House appears to be hiding readouts from calls between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin. In fact, in a serious deviation, there are no readouts of any calls between President Trump and any foreign leader that took place this year, posted to the White House’s website for the public to access,” Badash revealed.
“In late September the Kremlin announced no calls between Trump and Putin could be released to the public without ‘‘mutual accord,’ another extreme deviation from prior practice. Notably, the Kremlin repeatedly has released readouts of calls and other interactions between Trump and Putin or other Russian leaders when the White House has not, embarrassing the U.S.,” he added.
Badash cites Laura Rosen of Al-Monitor, a website specializing in news from the Middle East, as confirming that Trump and Putin spoke not only on March 30 and June 1 as was previously disclosed, but also on April 9, April 10, and April 12. They also issued a joint statement on April 25th.
As one Twitter wag put it after seeing this number of closely-spaced calls, “I don’t call my mom that often.”
According to RFERL, the only hint that we can glean about the content of those calls comes from an April 11th interview with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Russian state television.
“The two presidents are able at the proper time to step back from strategic disagreements and to tactically engage in constructive dialogue,” Peskov said. “They absolutely understand each other. They understand there is no alternative to some kind of joint action, joint understanding. And this is fully demonstrated in the last two telephone conversations.”
Peskov’s comments are hardly reassuring to the American public demanding answers as to why Trump has failed to act on intelligence that indicates that U.S. intelligence sources knew about the Russian bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan as early as January of this year.
As Dmitry Suslov, a professor and foreign affairs expert at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, explained, the increased amount of communication between the two heads of state says less about the relationship between their two countries than it does about their personal relationship.
“It’s an unusual amount of communication, but these are unusual times,” he said. “This explains more the intensive interaction” between Washington and Moscow.
“In no way could it result in any sort of reset,” Suslov continued. “What kind of reset can we talk about if there is a strong consensus, in both countries, that we are adversaries,” he said.
Hmmm, if the U.S. and Russia are adversaries, yet Trump and Putin are collaborating in a friendly fashion — or should that read “colluding”? — doesn’t that make our president’s failure to confront the Kremlin on the reports of Russian bounties — reports that he denies being briefed about in a completely non-credible disavowal — tantamount to treason?
Although, given the penalty for that crime, Trump may regret allowing Attorney General William Barr to successfully petition the Supreme Court to allow the resumption of federal executions as they did earlier today.
“LAW & ORDER!” as the president likes to tweet.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.