Steven L. Hall writes: For 30 years, my job as a CIA officer was to try to figure out how Russian operatives were trying to attack the United States. I oversaw intelligence operations in the former Soviet Union and the former Warsaw Pact and worked on counterintelligence and cybersecurity at CIA headquarters. So when I read the recent reports that President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had offered to brief Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska on the presidential election last year, I was alarmed.
Because to Russian intelligence in 2016, Manafort would have looked like the ideal spy. Someone like Deripaska is exactly how they would have gotten to him.
Deripaska, an aluminum magnate worth about $6.5 billion, is a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy. Putin demands fealty and pretty much whatever else he wants from people like Deripaska, who understand that if they don’t live up to their end of the bargain, they could end up like another famous former oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who displeased Putin and was sent to a tuberculosis-ridden prison for more than a dozen years. Although Deripaska has repeatedly denied any connection to Russian intelligence, these oligarchs understand that in addition to making money for themselves and Putin, they occasionally will be asked to be the Kremlin’s eyes and ears, and facilitators, if need be. Russia’s security services work closely with them; unlike in Western democracies, there’s no concept of a conflict of interest. Everyone has the same interests at heart: Putin’s. [Continue reading…]