Trump Opposes China’s Plans at Economic Leadership

President Trump, already leading the U.S. into a trade battle with China, plans to ratchet commercial tensions higher by barring many Chinese companies from investing in U.S. technology firms, and by blocking additional technology exports to Beijing.

.. the measures are meant to forestall Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan to become a global leader in 10 broad areas of technology

..  With little evidence the escalating trade feud is hurting their economies, the U.S. and China aren’t close to backing down. Before one of them cracks, Heard on the Street columnist Justin Lahart warns, investors may get squeezed.

A New Keeper of Putin’s Secrets

Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin won reelection to another six-year term, there was growing speculation about how he intends to preserve his power and legacy after 2024. But with the nomination of Alexei Kudrin to the government’s central budgeting body, Putin’s long-term plan seems to be taking shape.

.. Putin’s nomination of former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to chair the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation. The selection of Kudrin for this role calls to mind former President Boris Yeltsin’s own search for a successor who would preserve his legacy and protect his family and fortune.

.. Yeltsin had amassed around $15 million while in office, and he ultimately put his trust in Putin – a former KGB man – to protect his children and his money, and to keep him out of prison.

.. Dmitry Medvedev, keep his seat warm until he could return to the presidency in 2012. A far more competent placeholder would have been Sergei Ivanov, a former KGB general. But Ivanov is much taller than Putin, who, at any rate, had only achieved the rank of colonel. An obvious potential threat to Putin’s power, Ivanov was passed over,

.. Despite his years in office, Medvedev is still known more for his fancy ties and expensive watches than for his executive actions.

.. In 2011, Kudrin resigned as finance minister after publicly suggesting that Medvedev was an incompetent fool.

.. Kudrin’s nomination as Russia’s chief accountant matters because it will give him – and thereby Putin – more knowledge of corruption. And with that, Putin will be able to manipulate anyone who may have future designs on the presidency, perhaps with the goal of reinstalling Medvedev as a placeholder after 2024.

..   – former Soviet military and intelligence officers – who make up the bulk of his cabinet and account for the Kremlin’s unchecked power over Russian political life.

.. By championing Russia’s military-industrial complex, Putin can keep the siloviki occupied and on his side. To that end, he has reinstated the World War II victory parades that were discontinued under Yeltsin. The events now grow more breathtaking and grandiose with each passing year.

But recent reports suggest that Russia’s military readiness is more fiction than fact. The “invincible” missiles that Putin has touted have apparently crashed during tests, and are thus little more than militaristic props. One conclusion to draw from these failures is that someone in the Ministry of Defense is stealing. There is no other plausible excuse for failing to deliver the weapons Putin ordered.

..  a new study finds that Russia’s defense and intelligence ministries are among the state’s most corrupt institutions.

.. Kudrin has clearly been installed to ensure that the “trusted” security apparatus can actually be trusted.

.. current defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, is probably now in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

.. Shoigu looks like a man in charge. But that poses a problem for Putin’s own claim to be the protector of the Russian nation. There can be only one brave leader who saves people from Siberian tigers and hang-glides with endangered Siberian white cranes.

.. Though Shoigu’s Siberian-Mongolian ancestry effectively disqualifies him from being elected by the country’s vast majority of ethnic Russians, Putin is not one to take chances.

.. If a rival from the security establishment were to assume the presidency, he could choose to build his own legacy, rather than honor Putin’s. It is up to Medvedev and Kudrin, the rare civilians in Putin’s inner circle, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

 

Why Trump Can’t Quit Steve Wynn

Wynn expressed optimism about Cruz’s chances within the crowded GOP field. Wynn then lambasted Trump, the frontrunner at the time, castigating the real-estate mogul’s record as a “businessman” and “casino owner.” Wynn snickered about how Trump’s Vegas property stood pitifully far from the Strip, the stretch of land coveted by any hopeful casino or hotel owner in the city. “He was just clowning on him,”

.. So when, on the eve of Trump’s decisive victory in the Nevada caucus two months later, the candidate touted his support from none other than Steve Wynn, Cruz’s camp was stunned. Wynn, standing alongside fellow casino mogul Phil Ruffin, beamed from the crowd.

..  In the space of a year, Wynn would become a member of the president’s cadre of informal advisers, his hand-selected finance chair of the RNC, and as such, an indispensable fundraiser for the party.

.. Multiple Republican sources say Wynn’s retreat from the political scene will have a lasting and negative impact on the GOP’s fundraising prowess. “No small number of GOP lawmakers have stayed at Wynn Resorts in the last two years and relied on him for donations,” the Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said. “This could be devastating.”

.. not one seemed to think that the president would simply sever ties with Wynn.

.. The initial bout of friction between Trump and Wynn dates back to the 1990s, when the two engaged in a vicious legal battle over Wynn’s efforts to expand to Atlantic City that included allegations of fraud, money laundering, perjury, and even claims that an investigator working on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. had become a mole for Wynn’s Mirage Resorts,

.. “They hate each other’s guts. It’s like poison,”

.. The president still nurses the wound of those years and the insults Wynn lobbed at him

.. “It was always just billionaire ego bullshit,” said one Trump campaign official who witnessed their exchanges. “Like, ‘Haha, my building is a couple feet taller than your building.’ That kind of thing.”

.. Yet far from keeping Wynn at a distance, Trump seemed insistent on tightening their relationship. “They became pretty close,”

.. the president took great pleasure in how their roles had reversed.

.. During the transition, Wynn bordered on “sycophantic” in his outreach ..  particularly on the topic of China.

.. Wynn, who runs a massive casino operation in Macau, often urged Trump to reconsider his pledge to be “tough on China.”

.. Wynn then volunteered to arrange entertainment for Trump’s inauguration

.. Not even Wynn’s extensive rolodex of celebrities could help him nab the artists he wanted most, including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Elton John. “As soon as he’d get close to bringing one on, word would leak out, and they’d immediately deny,” the source said. “Steve got very frustrated. He was clearly upset.”

.. it raised a record-breaking $107 million in the first three quarters of 2017

.. “He’s been a bigger success as a fundraiser than people thought he would be,

.. Wynn spoke with no notes, “as he’s mostly blind.” (Wynn suffers from a degenerative eye disease.)

.. The Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn hand-delivered a letter from the Chinese government urging the return of Miles Kwok, the Chinese businessman who fled the country, seeking asylum in the U.S.

.. But one source directly familiar with the matter remembered notably how Wynn was able “to work Trump up into a tizzy” over the situation, playing into the president’s well-known desire “to get the bad guys out” of the country.

.. “The president will want to keep Steve around him. He likes him—he’s gonna be last to throw a rock at a buddy of his.” Which means that Wynn’s access to Trump could very well continue unfettered—in the shadows, off the schedule, as it largely has been until now.

Coreligionists in Kleptocracy

What Russia and Iran have in common is someday their people will say ‘enough.’

.. Vladimir Putin must get a clammy feeling from the logic of Iranians taking to the streets against a corrupt government conducting costly adventures in places like Syria.

.. The average Iranian in the street doesn’t think the benefits of the nuclear deal failed to materialize. He thinks they were hijacked and hoarded by regime cronies.

.. Widely reported was the Obama administration’s shipment of $1.7 billion in untraceable cash, via cargo plane, directly to Iran’s leaders. Of 110 international business deals touted in the Iranian press as the fruit of sanctions relief, a Reuters accounting showed that 90 went to companies controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or other top officials.

.. the average Russian has seen his real income continue to shrink, no end to sanctions

.. Nor can the Kremlin shield him from the growing phenomenon of internet-based reporting on the absurd luxuries enjoyed by such regime favorites as Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, much less the astonishing offshore wealth of Mr. Putin’s personal “friend,” the cellist Sergei Roldugin.

.. In both countries, normal, patriotic feeling has clearly begun leaching away from leaders whose defining quality is hypocrisy.

.. Under current leadership, 100% of everything is gobbled up in the corrupt power rivalries and overseas adventures of the leadership class (e.g., the Syrian war).

.. Nobody predicted the Arab Spring, the Ukrainian revolution that overthrew his ally Viktor Yanukovych, or the roadside execution of Gadhafi, an omen that Mr. Putin reportedly dwells on.

.. He was angry at Hillary Clinton for what he considers her efforts to foment a coup against him personally.

.. What the U.S. has over such countries is stable institutions in which to contain unpredictable events and forces.