Trump gave his first major foreign policy “Russia-friendly” speech at the Mayflower Hotel on April 27, 2016. The speech was “substantially written by a Russia pipeline advocate and Russian Alfa Bank board member,” Richard Burt. This, according to Seth Abramson and backed up by other sources. Who is this guy, and why would Trump want him to craft his foreign policy speech?
(20) Trump's biggest 2016 foreign policy speech was substantially written by a Russia pipeline advocate and Russian Alfa Bank board member. pic.twitter.com/6zpop1xKBj
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 24, 2017
Burt served in the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations. During his Bush years, he was the US Chief Negotiator in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks with the former Soviet Union. It was the early 90s. He negotiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia around the time Reagan was done developing the so-called “Star Wars” defense system.
Salon reported in October of last year that Burt has “considerable connections to the Kremlin” and earned a significant income promoting Putin’s interests.
Richard Burt, a top Republican lobbyist, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top domestic priorities at the same time that he helped craft the Republican presidential nominee’s first major foreign policy speech.
What was that top priority? Burt earned $365,000 in 2016 advocating for the Nord Strem II pipeline project, a twin pipeline system transporting natural gas from Russia to the European Union, according to their website. The Russian government controls the firm called Gazprom that owned a 50 percent share of the company behind the pipeline (New European Pipeline AG) when it paid Burt. But now, Gazprom owns the company in total. Burt received payments from the firm while advising Trump on his foreign policy.
A Reuter’s report in June of last year stated that Burt had volunteered information to them about contributing to Trump’s speech himself, but denied being part of the Trump campaign.
“I was asked to contribute material” for Trump’s April 27 speech at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said Richard Burt.
Newsweek reported that this CNI think tank is strongly pro-Russia.
He went on to say that he would happily offer advice to Trump on foreign policy issues and made a point of stating that he would do the same for Hillary Clinton if she asked, but added, “She’s not going to.”
Richard Burt has been transparent on his (public) foreign policy ideas for Trump. In April of this year, he authored an article expressing just that to The National Interest.
In the article, he is critical of Trump’s “penchant for truculent tweets,” including those about China and Germany. He praised Trump from his positions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and for NAFTA and appeared to endorse Trump’s handling of NATO, where he says Trump emphasized that “U.S. allies must do more to share the burden of military spending.”
Then Burt reveals that he believes Trump’s ramped up military spending could give Russia the incentive for a “more productive relationship with the West.” That includes “new approaches to finding a settlement in Ukraine,” which would be key for the Nord Strem II pipeline project. The completion of that project would give Putin “leverage over Europe.” He also suggests that a “guarantee of nonalignment for Ukraine” might be advisable, meaning Ukraine would not align with NATO. NATO, on the other hand, calls the relationship with the Ukraine a “key to Euro-Atlantic security,” and “one of the most substantial of NATO’s partnerships.”
Trump himself reportedly pushed for changing the Republican party platform to adopt a pro-Moscow policy over the territory of the Ukraine, according to Republican advisor, JD Gordon. This was during the Republican National Convention last summer. Richard Burt’s view on the Ukraine certainly seems to match Trump’s view.
Burt’s article, entitled, “A Grand Strategy for Trump,” is critical of the United States “twenty-five-year-old policy of turning Russia into a Western-style democracy” and perhaps ironically suggests a Nixon-style solution:
“[…] if the United States were to adopt a Nixon-style détente model in the case of China, supported by an international collation of Japan, Russia and India, China would be offered a choice between containment and cooperation.
He references Nixon once again:
So that’s the “huge” opportunity available to the Trump administration. If it can weather the hue and cry over Russia and avoid another Middle East quagmire, the administration can construct a twenty-first-century equivalent of what Nixon used to call a “structure of peace”: a grand strategy of great-power balancing. If not, all bets are off.
We are seeing equivalents to Nixon’s administration, but not to a “structure of peace!” We’re seeing Watergate, only much worse…
Newsweek reported, “Not since the beginning of the Cold War has a U.S. politician been as fervently pro-Russian as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
Trump originally chose the pro-Russia think tank, the Center for the National Interest, as the venue for the speech Burt crafted, but it was moved to the Mayflower Hotel just 24 hours before it was to take place.
Featured image: Frank Plitt (CC BY 3.0 de) via Wikimedia Commons
48th Munich Security Conference 2012: Richard Burt, Mc Larty Associates, Washington.