Putin's point man in Congress:
How did a one-time hawkish Reagan aide become Putin’s favorite congressman?
How did Dana Rohrabacher become Putin's favorite congressman?
In this old photograph, a middle-aged man with a beard looks at the camera, smiling. He’s wearing a traditional Afghani tribal outfit: a vest and pakol. Equally traditionally for Afghanistan is the machine-gun in his hands—a Kalshnikov. Only this isn’t a mujahideen or a Taliban fighter. It’s US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. A Republican from California, shortly after his first election Rohrabacher took time off and went to fight against communism on the side of the Afghan fighters. It was an understandable move on the part of a former special assistant to the notoriously hawkish Ronald Reagan. A journalist by profession, Rohrabacher’s main task was writing speeches for Reagan. Later he decided to enter politics himself.
Nearly 71, Rohrabacher is now one of the grey beards of American politics. And yet, even though he was shortlisted for the post of Secretary of State by the Trump Administration, his next career move, which is coming up soon, will likely be retirement. In the meantime, though, Rohrabacher is holding on tightly to his seat, including the chair of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats under the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
What threats in Europe might a man who fought against the soviet army somewhere outside Jellalabad see? Yes, indeedy. Rohrabacher thinks the main threat to Europe are the armed neo-Nazis who came to power in Ukraine after the Euromaidan and are now, as soldiers in private oligarch armies, busy killing the peaceful residents of Donbas with impunity. At least that’s the kind of thing he stated at hearings by former State Department official Victoria Nuland and ex-US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. And the only peacemaker that Rohrabacher believes capable of bringing order to the region is...Russia.
Interestingly, Rohrabacher also says the Kremlin should not be blamed for interfering in US elections because the US is no pinnacle of morality or innocent, either, and has frequently taken upon itself to interfere in the political affairs of other countries. He has expressed annoyance at American politicians who see Moscow as the enemy and he has very heatedly insisted that the US should improve its relations with the Russian government. After Donald Trump was elected president, Rohrabacher announced that there was nothing weird about his wish to “be friends with” Russia.
How did this hawkish Republican ever turn into Vladimir Putin’s biggest fan? The answer to this may be found in recent developments around the Magnitsky Act. When asked by The Ukrainian Week to comment, Bill Browder, the British financier and Russia investor who had hired the late Sergei Magnitsky as his lawyer, said:
“Putin is highly motivated to stop the Magnitsky Act from spreading to new countries and to stop it from being implemented in countries where the law has been passed. He uses many methods to do this. First and foremost, he makes grand threats about Russian retaliation if any country passes it. Sometimes those threats are credible, as in the case of the US, where Russia cancelled adoptions of Russian orphans by US families. In some cases the threats are empty, like with Canada, where Russia has so far done nothing. In the cases of the US, Canada and the U.K., the threats haven’t worked, but we’ve seen Ireland, for example, back down from Magnitsky legislation because of the threats.”
In addition to threatening other countries, the Kremlin uses less obvious but no less effective means—politicians that are in its pocket to broadcast the necessary views of things. It came to light that, during his several visits to the Russian Federation, Congressman Rohrabacher was given information directly from the Russian government, including officials at the Prosecutor General’s Office, as well as from Vladimir Yakunin, a Putin insider and a one-time boss of the Russian state railway. Yakunin was famous for being critical of “the consumer society imposed by the West,” but was then exposed for having a storage closet full of luxury furs and an exceptionally lavish lifestyle. More recently, Yakunin’s name joined the US sanctions list.
In addition to Yakunin, Rohrabacher managed to meet with Denis Katsyv, a Moscow-based businessman and the son of a former RF Minister of Transport. Katsyv’s company, Prevezon Holdings, was involved in a money-laundering case that it settled with the US Department of Justice in May 2017 for US $5.9mn in fines. Interestingly, Prevezon was represented by attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who just happened to be a go-between during the handover of compromising materials against the Democratic Party to Donald Trump Jr in summer 2016. Rohrabacher admitted to these
Unexpected trajectory. Rohrabacher has swapped his anti-soviet sentiments for open support for Russia