Russia cultivated Donald Trump as an intelligence asset and anti-western propaganda mouthpiece for over 40 years, according to a former KGB spy.
The spy, KGB Major Yuri Shvets, was posted to Washington by the then Soviet Union in the 1980s. Shvets is a major source for the book “American Kompromat” by journalist Craig Unger, which explores Trump’s ties to Russia and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, reports the Guardian.
“This is an example where people were recruited when they were just students and then they rose to important positions; something like that was happening with Trump,” Shvets said.
Shvets was under cover as a correspondent for Russian news agency in Washington in the 1980s.
According to Unger, Russia first noticed Trump when he married first wife and Czech model Ivana Zelnickova in 1977. Three years later, he opened his first major property development: the Grand Hyatt New York hotel.
Shvets told the Guardian that Trump bought 200 TVs for the hotel from Semyon Kislin, a soviet immigrant who co-owned Joy-Lud electronics.
Joy-Lud was controlled by the KGB and Kislin worked as a spotter agent, Shvets said, adding that Kislin identified Trump as a young business man on the rise who could be a potential asset.
Kislin denies any ties to the KGB.
Shvets further said Russia conducted a “charm offensive” on Trump when he visited Moscow and St Petersburg with Ivana, even suggesting that he go into politics.
“They had collected a lot of information on his personality, so they knew who he was personally. The feeling was that he was extremely vulnerable intellectually, and psychologically, and he was prone to flattery,” said the former KGB spy.
“This is what they exploited. They played the game as if they were immensely impressed by his personality and believed this is the guy who should be the president of the United States one day: it is people like him who could change the world. They fed him these so-called active measures soundbites and it happened. So it was a big achievement for the KGB active measures at the time,” he added.
After returning to the US, Trump explored the idea of running for the Republican presidential ticket and even organized a campaign rally. On September 1, he took out an advertisement in the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe headlined: “There’s nothing wrong with America’s Foreign Defence Policy that a little backbone can’t cure.”
The ad was in the form of an open letter and included opinions that were controversial in the Cold War era US, such as questioning US participation in Nato and accusing Japan of exploiting the US. Once published, it was seen as a victory in Moscow and there were celebrations at the KGB headquarters, said Shvets, who was in the headquarters at the time.
On Trump, Unger told the Guardian: “He was an asset. It was not this grand, ingenious plan to develop this guy and 40 years later he will be president. At the time it started, which was around 1980, the Russians were trying to recruit like crazy and going after dozens and dozens of people.
“Trump was the perfect target in a lot of ways: his vanity, narcissism made him a natural target to recruit. He was cultivated over a 40-year period, right up through his election,” he added.