December 5, 2019 --
Dear President Putin,
This letter is prompted by the story on the front page of The New York Times, November 23, that Russia has long been engaged in a campaign to frame Ukraine for your hacking of the 2016 U.S. election, "according to three American officials." The story also reported that, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, "Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies." The reason for this letter is not to ask you, specifically, about meddling in U.S. elections, but to ask if you have been sowing discord in the U.S.
This question occurs to me because the Times story reported that the revelations about your efforts to frame Ukraine, "demonstrate Russia's persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries...." The words "sow discord" called to mind a similar assertion in the Mueller Report - that Russia's Internet Research Agency "conducted social media operations targeted at large U.S. audiences with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. political system." The striking similarity of the images in the Times and the Mueller Report have whetted my curiousity.
Mr. President, permit me to raise a few questions here. Have you been sowing discord in America? If so, how is this accomplished? If not, do you think it is just a coincidence that months after the Mueller Report used the words "sowing discord," attributed to a Russian source, The New York Times used the same words in connection with your attempt to frame Ukraine.
Mr. President, a newspaper as formerly prestigious as The New York Times should know that this is not the first time you have expressed concern about Ukraine's gratuitous comments about President Trump. Curiously, however, the Times article of November 23 did not mention that three years ago, Politico reported a story with this headline: "Russia accuses Ukraine of sabotaging Trump." According to the Politico story, your press spokeswoman, Maria Zakhorava, said that the Ukraine government trashed candidate Trump and damaged his campaign by leaking information that Mr. Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort had received a great deal of money from Ukraine sources. This Politico article does not seem to point to a frame-up. The Times itself ran a story, in August 2016 - NYT LINK, reporting that from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Mr. Manafort received $12.7 million dollars from the "pro-Russian political party" of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Politico story also reported that Ukraine's Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, once called Mr. Trump a "clown" and said he was "an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism." A subsequent Politico story, January 11, 2017, "Ukraine efforts to sabotage Trump backfire," also included the insulting comments made by Mr. Avakov, and this one from former Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk: that Mr. Trump "'challenged the very values of the free world.'" Interestingly, I found from a google search - and not from the impeachment inquiry testimony of Mr. George Kent or Ambassador William Taylor -- that Arsen Avakov is again Ukraine's interior minister, serving in the cabinet of Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, at 35, the youngest prime minister of Ukraine.
(The prime minister was installed August 29. Does this suggest that there was no government in place in Ukraine to accept the military aid that is the subject of the present impeachment inquiry?)
Perhaps the presence of Mr. Avakov in President Zelensky's government is heartening to certain columnnists and media outlets in the U.S. By the way. do you know thaT Mr. Zelensky's press spokeswoman is Iuliia Mendel, who covered Ukraine for the Times? Have you ever thought of hiring a Times correspondent as your press spokesman? Ii might reduce the severe coverage you receive in this paper. Just a thought.
Mr. President, please allow a thought about that "sow discord" comment. Paul Krugman, in his November 22 article asserted: The G.O.P. [it stands for Grand Old Party. referring to Republicans] is now a thoroughly corrrupt party." Former national security adviser Susan Rice, writing in the Times, November 23, followed up by accusing Republicans of "seemingly stop[ping] at nothing to destroy faith in our public servants." She went on to declare "it is now apparent that most Republicans in Congress have abandoned all semblance of serving the national interest." It does seem that not just the president, but his party, stand accused of betraying the country.
Mr. President, the comments directed at Republicans from certain columnists in the United States and from former officials in the Obama administration suggest that there is no need for you to try to "sow discord" in America. There clearly seems to be not a few people in the U.S. willing to engage in the exercise for you.
On another subject, Mr. President, please accept my sincere compliments on your decision to meet with your namesake (Ukrainian-style) President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris, December 9, joined by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel. If President Zelensky is at all like his alter ego, Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko, I am confident that you will begin a successful peace process for Donbas and settlement of the problem of Crimea, cognizant of the fact that some 65% of Crimeans are Russian.
Indeed, it would be a matter of high irony if the presidents of Russia and Ukraine announced reconciliation the Same day that articles of impeachment were announced with Ukraine as rationale.
Before ending, here is a quote from Henry A. Kissinger that might be of some use: "The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country."
Accept, Excellency, assurances of my highest consideration,
D. R. Zukerman,
for Lonely Pamphleteer Review