Julia Ioffe writes: Thirty years ago, in July 1987, Donald and Ivana Trump flew to the Soviet Union, apparently at the invitation of the Soviet ambassador to the United States, in order to scout locations for a Trump hotel in Moscow. “It was an extraordinary experience,” Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal. “We toured half a dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square.” He came away “impressed with the ambition of the Soviet officials to make a deal.”
And yet a deal was never struck, neither then nor in 1996, when the Moscow real-estate market really cranked up and Trump tried to bid on a renovation of Hotel Rossiya near the Kremlin. Nor did anything come to fruition in 2008 when Trump announced plans to build in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi; nor in 2013, when he visited Moscow and said he was going to build a Trump Tower there with the help of Russian mega-developer Aras Agalarov. In June 2015, shortly before declaring his presidential candidacy, Trump bragged to Bill O’Reilly that, “I was over in Moscow two years ago and I will tell you—you can get along with those people and get along with them well. You can make deals with those people. Obama can’t.” At the time, it has since been reported, Trump’s surrogates Felix Sater and Michael Cohen were actively pursuing another real-estate development on Trump’s behalf in Moscow, but, by winter of 2016, that project was moot, too.
The American president has often bragged about his ability to cut deals and about how well he gets along with the Russians. The press and investigators have speculated about the extent of his connections to the Russian business and political elite. And yet, Trump never actually built anything in Moscow. When the president said, shortly after his inauguration, “I don’t have any deals in Russia,” he wasn’t wrong.
The question is why. When just about every other major hotel chain in the world was able to build in Moscow and beyond, why didn’t Trump close a deal in Russia?
The absence of Trump real estate in Russia, it turns out, is a revealing reflection of the disconnect between the image Trump projects and the reputation he and his surrogates have established in Russia. [Continue reading…]