A former KGB spy has claimed that Russia cultivated former President Donald Trump as an asset for over 40 years – and said there were celebrations in Moscow after their success in getting him to espouse anti-Western ideas and propaganda.
Yuri Shvets worked in Washington DC for the Soviet Union in the 80s and now lives in Virginia after moving to the US permanently in 1993 and becoming a citizen. He works as a corporate security investigator and was previously a partner of Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB secret service officer who was assassinated in London in 2006.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mr Shvets said: “People were recruited when they were just students and then they rose to important positions, something like that was happening with Trump."
Mr Shvets’ cover job was as a correspondent for the Russian state news agency Tass. The 67-year-old is one of the sources for the book American Kompromat written by Craig Unger, who claims in the book that the Russians first became interested in Mr Trump in 1977 when he married his first wife, Czechoslovakian model Ivana Zelnickova.
When Mr Trump bought and redeveloped The Grand Hyatt New York Hotel three years later, he bought 200 TVs from Soviet immigrant Semyon Kislin, co-owner of Joy-Lud electronics on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which was controlled by the KGB, Mr Shvets said. He claimed Mr Kislin was a "spotter agent," trying to find potential assets to be cultivated by the Soviets and saw a young Mr Trump as a possible target. The Guardian reported that Mr Kislin denies having any connection to the KGB.
KGB agents flattered Mr Trump, fed him talking points, and told him he should go into politics when he visited Moscow for the first time in 1987, Mr Shvets says.
The former KGB major told The Guardian: “For the KGB, it was a charm offensive. They had collected a lot of information on his personality so they knew who he was personally. The feeling was that he was extremely vulnerable intellectually, and psychologically, and he was prone to flattery. This is what they exploited. They played the game as if they were immensely impressed by his personality and believed this is the guy who should be the president of the United States one day, it is people like him who could change the world. They fed him these so-called active measures soundbites and it happened. So it was a big achievement for the KGB active measures at the time.”
After returning to the US, Mr Trump started exploring a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, taking out an ad in three large newspapers in the form of an open letter to the American people in which he put forward some of the ideas he also pushed when he finally entered office decades later.
An Associated Press report from 1987 states that the ad was headlined: ″There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.″
″For decades, Japan and other nations have been taking advantage of the United States," the ad said. It expressed scepticism of NATO, which Mr Trump also did while he was in the White House. The ad also said, “America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves," another talking point Mr Trump pushed as President.
“It was unprecedented … I haven’t heard anything like that or anything similar until Trump became the president of this country because it was just silly. It was hard to believe that somebody would publish it under his name and that it will impress real serious people in the West but it did and, finally, this guy became the president," Mr Shvets said.
Mr Unger said that Mr Trump “was an asset. It was not this grand, ingenious plan that we’re going to develop this guy and 40 years later he’ll be president. At the time it started, which was around 1980, the Russians were trying to recruit like crazy and going after dozens and dozens of people. Trump was the perfect target in a lot of ways. His vanity, narcissism made him a natural target to recruit. He was cultivated over a 40-year period, right up through his election.”
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