Yesterday, February 14, 2017 was a bad day for the government of the Russian Federation. One of their highest placed assets in the U.S. government was removed from leading the National Security Council after weeks of pressure from intelligence agencies and the Justice Department to do so. General Michael Flynn did not lie to the Vice President. He was told to lie to the Vice President. General Flynn did not keep contact with the Russian government, he was told to do so. No person in his position would travel to Russia in December 2016, a month after the election of Donald J. Trump under suspicious circumstances, without the approval of the president-elect.
Flynn and Trump’s links to the Russian government have been the topic of many reports in the press during the presidential election campaign. The exposure of Paul Manafort as a close associate of the Russian backed Ukrainian president, who was expelled, forced Trump to let go of his campaign manager on August 20, 1016. Manafort is still under investigation in the Ukraine for receiving illegal payments. His role in the deposed government and the subsequent invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula is yet to be fully exposed. His and Secretary of State Tillerson’s ties to Russian oil interests are in the open, but not many people seem to care.
There are likely more Russian agents placed deep within the Trump administration. Their access to classified materials as well as their influence on pro-Russian policies of the administration is known only to U.S. intelligence agencies. Whether these agencies will reveal what they know is a matter of security for them. Indications of their caution are the withholding of classified information from Trump and his advisors, as well as carefully placed leaks to lead Congress and the Press in the direction of treasonous activity of the new administration.
In 2012, I wrote a biography of the German naval intelligence agent Felix A. Sommerfeld. There are many parallels of how this man ended up the right-hand man of the Mexican President to people like Flynn, Manafort, maybe others like Bannon and Miller who suddenly appeared in powerful positions next to the American president. Like Russia, the German government in 1910 did not know that Francisco Madero, an opponent of President Porfirio Diaz, would be able to capture the reins of power in Mexico. As a result, Germany placed agents like Sommerfeld with all leaders of the resistance, in case they should gain the upper hand in the upheavals. But Madero won, and Sommerfeld became his trusted advisor and head of the Mexican Secret Service. All access to the international press came through Sommerfeld. Not unlike Flynn, Sommerfeld controlled much of the information reaching the Mexican president. In Sommerfeld’s case, he tried to keep detractors of Madero’s regime away from the new leader. Flynn seemed to have filtered information to influence Trump’s opinions on Russia.
In 1913, President Madero died in a coup d’état that members of the old regime engineered with the support of a rogue American ambassador. Sommerfeld quickly moved to join the resistance against the putchists, again placing himself at the heart of the Mexican Revolution. Other German agents under Sommerfeld’s leadership monitored, even militarily supported several revolutionary factions, most notably those of Venustiano Carranza and Emiliano Zapata. Sommerfeld covered Pancho Villa and became his chief weapons buyer in the U.S. During World War I, when it became clear that the U.S. government had taken sides against Germany in 1915, Sommerfeld used his connections and executed the German War Department’s order to create a war between Mexico and the United States. I am not trying to tell the entire story of Sommerfeld and the German Secret Service in America during World War I. You can read that in my four books on the topic (www.felixsommerfeld.com).
The purpose here is to point out that well-placed intelligence agents of a hostile foreign government often appear in plain sight (the title of my first book on Sommerfeld). In hindsight, it appears almost unbelievable that they were not exposed. More shocking is the realization how much damage these people can do while active. Sommerfeld succeeded in the entire U.S. military and reserve save for one division protecting Washington D.C. fighting in Mexico or protecting the Mexican-American border in the summer of 1916. That was precisely the plan of the German government: Keep the U.S. military distracted and from entering the conflict against Germany in Europe.
The damage people like Flynn and Manafort have already caused to the international standing of the United States can only be estimated. At this point, only one month after the Trump administration took power in Washington, NATO is seriously evaluating ditching the United States and mounting a European defense force, Russia is firmly entrenched in Crimea and has reignited its military operations against Ukraine. The forces that fought on the side of the United States in Iraq and Syria (Syrian free army, Peshmerga, and several others) have been sold out to the murderous regimes of President Assad of Syria and Erdogan of Turkey. Russia has thus stabilized its foothold in this strategic region, while the U.S. has been expelled. In the future, receiving support from hitherto friendly Arab states will be next to impossible. Bellicose statements from the Trump administration allow the suspicion that the U.S. government is planning to challenge Iran to the point that it can be attacked. Just like destroying Iraq increased the regional power of Iran, starting a war with Iran will empower Syria as a Russian backed actor.
In the Far East, the United States has cancelled the TTP agreement, a strategic economic alliance against the expanding influence of China. While not perfect, it has been replaced with … nothing. The U.S. has ceded its influence in the entire region to China without gaining anything. Weakening American influence in Asia, Europe and the Middle East has created power vacuums to be filled by Russia and China.
Germany dispatched Sommerfeld and a few others to gain intelligence. It did not realize that an agent like Sommerfeld one day could be in a position to influence, even direct events in the North American region. It might well be the case that seemingly fringe elements in American politics like Manafort, Bannon, Flynn, Miller and others have been influenced, maybe even compelled with rewards of some kind to gather around a fringe candidate who might never win a presidential election, but had the power to seriously destabilize the U.S. political system. Spreading fake news, paying members of the press to report only one side all have been tactics of the German government in the U.S. in World War I. The Secret War Council®, Germany’s command center in New York, paid off journalists, even bought a newspaper, while subverting the peace and labor movements. The Wilson administration did not change course or fell, but it certainly had its hands full.
In 2016, similar efforts destroyed the Clinton campaign and propelled Trump into the White House. Russia now has intelligence assets placed deep and high within the U.S. executive branch of the government. Exposure has become a vital national security requirement, in the face of foreign influence designed to prevent it, in the face of corrupt domestic forces in Congress and elsewhere, in the face of people who can simply not grasp the severity of what is happening in this country. This has happened before. In 1917, the U.S. passed the Espionage Act to counter German clandestine attacks on this country. Thousands were caught, interned, and expelled. Our great grandfathers fought in World War I to make the world Safe for Democracy. Will we wait until we all must fight to protect this country?