- - Thursday, February 2, 2017


I listened with curiosity to the news Thursday that sanctions on the Russian security services, or FSB, the reincarnation of the notorious KGB, had been “eased” by the Trump administration. White House press secretary Sean Spicer glossed over the issue in his news conference when asked about the seemingly innocuous information posted on the government website. He described it as a “routine” course of events in the oversight of sanctions by the Treasury Department.

I highly doubt that explanation. I think what we’re seeing is that an archetypal Trump “deal” is in the works.

The Russians don’t exactly see Mr. Trump’s move as “routine.” Listen to the former director of the FSB, Nikolai Kovalyov, now a member of the State Duma, discussing the issue with the Tass news service: “This shows that actual joint work on establishing an anti-terrorism coalition is about to begin. This is the first step on the way leading to cooperation in the war on terror.”

“Without easing these sanctions, it would have been impossible to take the next step,” the lawmaker said. “These practical actions indicate that U.S. President Donald Trump has been consistent.”

Even the language of General License No. 1, posted by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, says the Trump administration eased sanctions against Russia’s FSB.

It is obvious to me that there have been prior and ongoing discussions between the Trump White House and the Kremlin regarding the war on terror. A “deal” has been made. The Russian security services are the “Oprichnina” — the palace guard — for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Easing sanctions on his protectors would have been a high priority for Mr. Putin. He takes care of his own.

It seems Mr. Putin has achieved this objective. Now the only question is what Mr. Trump and the U.S. asked for in return.

Mr. Putin has increased the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Kiev is also attempting to show it needs U.S. help in the east. Donbass is once again in flames. Soldiers and civilians are dying, pawns in this geopolitical struggle.

Ukraine also announced Thursday plans to hold a referendum to authorize the country to join NATO. No matter how that vote comes out, that will not happen. Mr. Trump is not going to put the lives of American kids on the line for Ukraine. That is just a simple fact of life.

I think the discussions between Moscow and Washington have been proceeding in earnest. Mr. Kovalyov, who announced that anti-terror operations with the U.S. can now begin, did so only with the authorization from the Kremlin. He would not have said such a thing without a green light from Mr. Putin.

Look for a big announcement soon on the global war on terror. I predict Mr. Trump will unveil sometime soon a massive operation against the Islamic State, in coordination with Russia. Our president obviously sees the ISIS threat as an existential one for the United States. Weapons of mass destruction have to be used only once to ruin America forever. Perhaps Mr. Trump’s gut instincts have been sharpened on this subject now that he has gotten an in-depth look at what the U.S. intelligence services know.

Mr. Obama really didn’t care about the security of America or our allies. Mr. Trump does. He has calculated that he can address any problems with Russia later. They are not planning to bomb our cities and cut off our heads.

This is the art of the deal.

L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.

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