Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has hired a Russian adviser with ties to a former Eastern Bloc oligarch and Russian intelligence infiltrated energy company, Gazprom.
The hire in question is a globe-trotting 44 year-old American investment banker Carter Page, who has built a career on deals with Russia and its state-run gas company.
Page’s resume includes a stint in the U.S. Naval Academy, working in arms control at the Pentagon and a fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Over his career, he’s earned three graduate degrees, including a PhD from SOAS University of London.
In 2000, Page moved into investment banking, getting a job at Merrill Lynch’s capital-markets group in London. After impressing a colleague with his relationship with Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire, Page was sent to help open the firm’s Moscow office in 2004.
One of the Ukraine’s richest men, Victor Pinchuk is the son-in-law of former pro-Russian Ukrainian President and longtime Communist Party boss, Leonid Kuchma.
Between 2009 and 2013, including when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, according to that foundation, which is based in Kiev, Ukraine. It was created by Mr. Pinchuk, whose fortune stems from a pipe-making company.
While in Moscow, Page developed close relationships with executives at Gazprom, the former Soviet gas ministry that was partially privatized in the 1990s. At that time Putin was consolidating his control of Russia’s economy and in 2005 the government became a majority shareholder. According to Bloomberg News:
Page says he advised Gazprom on its largest deals during this period, such as buying of a stake in the Sakhalin oil and gas field in the Sea of Okhotsk. He also helped the company court Western investors, assisting in setting up the first regular meetings with shareholders in New York and London. Before he moved back to New York in 2007, he says, many of its top officials showed up at his going-away party, at a restaurant near the Kremlin.
This connection should ring major alarm bells.
According to the Huffington Post affiliated The World Post:
A look at Gazprom’s leadership and murky history, particularly since Vladimir Putin rose to power nearly a decade ago, shows just how politicized the company is.
“To a large extent, Gazprom is almost a proxy for the government,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib, a Russian investment bank. “It is the state’s company and its most important asset…”
Soon after Putin assumed the presidency in early 2000, a little known bureaucrat named Dmitry Medvedev was elected chairman of the Gazprom board. Medvedev — who later became Putin’s chief of staff — remained chairman until ascending to the country’s presidency in May 2008, after receiving Putin’s endorsement.
Today, Putin’s first deputy prime minister, Viktor Zubkov, holds the chairmanship. The CEO is Alexei Miller, an associate of Putin’s from his days in the St. Petersburg government in the early 1990s. Miller has no gas industry experience, and it is said that he is merely a figurehead.
Nearly a dozen top Gazprom managers served in the KGB or its main successor agency, the FSB, including its deputy chairman, Valery Golubyov.
“The relationship is very close” between the company and the state, said Dmitry Peskov, Prime Minister Putin’s press secretary. “Although Gazprom is an international corporation, the largest shareholder is the Russian state. There is nothing strange in the fact that the relationship between the government and Gazprom is really very close.”
Page clearly wants to use his position with Donald Trump to help his Russian friends and business partners, who are still suffering economically from U.S. sanctions imposed after Vladimir Putin’s partial invasion of the Ukraine. Removing these sanctions, obviously, would be incredibly helpful to the Kremlin. It would also give a green light to further Russian encroachment into Eastern Europe.
According to Bloomberg News:
Carter Page says his business has suffered directly from the U.S. economic sanctions imposed after Russia’s escalating involvement in the Ukraine. When Donald Trump named him in March 2016, as one of his foreign-policy advisers, Page says his e-mail inbox filled up with positive notes from Russian contacts. “So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page said in a two-hour interview last week. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.”
Gazprom is among those companies particularly hard-hit by U.S. sanctions.
The Gazprom connection is ongoing. Sergey Yatsenko, a former deputy chief financial officer at Gazprom is now an official adviser to Page’s firm, Global Energy Capital LLC.
Sergey Alekashenko, another top Merrill executive in Russia in the mid 2000s and now an outspoken Kremlin critic, has described Page as a junior banker with little understanding of the country. “I could not imagine Carter as an adviser on foreign policy,” Aleksashenko said. “It’s really surprising.”
Page’s background at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pentagon’s arms control would have made him a prime target for Russian intelligence recruitment or influence. The fact that Carter Page has been so close to KGB/FSB connected Gazprom should be very concerning to U.S. intelligence agencies.
Page’s urging of closer ties to Russia and the easing of sanctions is completely in accord with Russian foreign policy goals.
Given Donald Trump’s recent talk of downgrading U.S. commitment to NATO, another long time Russian goal, it is not surprising that Carter Page now has the ear of the leading Republican presidential contender.
Not surprising… but extremely disturbing to say the least.