World: How the Republican right found allies in Russia - - PressFrom - US
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World How the Republican right found allies in Russia

02:51  01 may  2017
02:51  01 may  2017 Source:   msn.com

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In Russia , Torshin and an aide, a photogenic activist originally from Siberia named Maria Butina, began building a gun rights movement. Relationships between Russians and American conservatives seemed to blossom in 2015, as the Republican presidential race geared up.

Butina founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms, and in 2013 she and Torshin invited Keene and other U.S. gun advocates to its annual meeting in President Trump's warm rhetoric toward Russia on the campaign trail is just one instance of a softening stance toward Russia among some U.S

Russian President Vladimir Putin waves as he leaves the Formula One Russian Grand Prix car race in Sochi on Sunday. © Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/European Pressphoto Agency Russian President Vladimir Putin waves as he leaves the Formula One Russian Grand Prix car race in Sochi on Sunday. Growing up in the 1980s, Brian Brown was taught to think of the communist Soviet Union as a dark and evil place.

But Brown, a leading anti-gay-marriage activist, said that in the past few years he has started meeting Russians at conferences on family issues and finding many kindred spirits.

Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has visited Moscow four times in four years, including a 2013 trip when he testified before the Duma as Russia adopted a series of anti-gay laws.

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Growing up in the 1980s, Brian Brown was taught to think of the communist Soviet Union as a dark and evil place. But Brown, a leading opponent of same-sex marriage, said that in the past few years he has started meeting Russians at conferences on family issues and finding many kindred spirits.

Growing up in the 1980s, Brian Brown was taught to think of the communist Soviet Union as a dark and evil place. Read more here. Found a spelling error? Let us know – highlight it and press Ctrl + Enter.

“What I realized was that there was a great change happening in the former Soviet Union,” he said. “There was a real push to re-instill Christian values in the public square.”

A significant shift has been underway in recent years across the Republican right.

From gun rights to terrorism to same-sex marriage, many leading advocates on the right who grew frustrated with their country’s leftward tilt under President Barack Obama have forged ties with well-connected Russians and come to see that country’s authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, as a potential ally.

The attitude adjustment among many conservative activists helps explain one of most curious aspects of the 2016 presidential race: a softening among many conservatives of their historically hard-line views of Russia. To the alarm of some in the GOP’s national security establishment, support in the party base for then-candidate Donald Trump did not wane even after he rejected the tough tone of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who called Russia America’s No. 1 foe, and repeatedly praised Putin.

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KIEV, Ukraine — A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin He told them how the Russians meddled in European politics and called for “unity” in addressing the threat, according to U.S. and Ukrainian

Republicans still had negative views about Russia , but not as negative. Elsewhere, Democrats had relatively more favorable views of Cuba, Iran and Doug Rivers, the chief scientist at YouGov, said: “Americans tend to think that countries populated by people of their own race are allies of the United

The burgeoning alliance between Russians and U.S. conservatives was apparent in a series of events in late 2015, as the Republican nomination battle intensified.

Top officials from the National Rifle Association, whose annual meeting Friday featured an address by Trump for the third time in three years, traveled to Moscow to visit a Russian gun manufacturer and meet government officials.

Around the same time in December 2015, evangelist Franklin Graham met privately with Putin for 45 minutes, securing from the Russian president an offer to help with an upcoming conference on the persecution of Christians. Graham was impressed, telling The Washington Post that Putin “answers questions very directly and doesn’t dodge them like a lot of our politicians do.”

The growing dialogue between Russians and U.S. conservatives came at the same time experts say the Russian government stepped up efforts to cultivate and influence far-right groups in Europe and on the eve of Russia’s unprecedented intrusion into the U.S. campaign, which intelligence officials have concluded was intended to elect Trump.

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According to the Constitution, the Russian Federation is divided into 85 federal subjects (constituent units), 22 of which are "republics". Most of the republics represent areas of non- Russian ethnicity

American evangelicals who come to Russia seeking allies in the fight against unbelief have proven equally gullible. Their official interlocutor, the Russian Orthodox Russian religious leaders love telling their American counterparts — such as star Trump supporter Franklin Graham — how much

Russians and Americans involved in developing new ties say they are not part of a Kremlin effort to influence U.S. politics. “We know nothing about that,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov. Brown said activists in both countries are simply “uniting together under the values we share.”

It is not clear what impact closer ties will have on relations between the two countries, which have gotten frostier with the opening of congressional and FBI investigations into Russia’s intrusion into the 2016 election and rising tensions over the civil war in Syria.

But the apparent increase in contacts in recent years, as well as the participation of officials from the Russian government and the influential Russian Orthodox church, leads some analysts to conclude that the Russian government likely promoted the efforts in an attempt to expand Putin’s power.

“Is it possible that these are just well meaning people who are reaching out to Americans with shared interests? It is possible,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired from the CIA in 2015 after managing Russia operations for 30 years. “Is it likely? I don’t think it’s likely at all. . . . My assessment is that it’s definitely part of something bigger.”

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Asked about Russia ’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, one of the most pro-American allies in the region On the third day of the Republican convention, the refusal by Senator Ted Cruz to endorse

House Republicans investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election say they found no evidence that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign. What we couldn’t see is how many people would be complicit in that, how many people would be willing to resign their obligations under the Constitution

Interactions between Russians and American conservatives appeared to gain momentum as Obama prepared to run for a second term.

At the time, many in the GOP warned that Obama had failed to counter the national security threat posted by Putin’s aggression.

But, deep in the party base, change was brewing.

At least one connection came about thanks to a conservative Nashville lawyer named G. Kline Preston IV, who had done business in Russia for years.

Preston said that in 2011 he introduced then-NRA President David Keene to a Russian senator, Alexander Torshin, a member of Putin’s party who later became a topofficial at the Russian central bank. Keene had been a stalwart on the right, a past chairman of the American Conservative Union who was NRA’s president from 2011 to 2013.

Neither Keene nor Torshin responded to requests for comment. An NRA spokesman also did not respond to questions.

Torshin seemed a natural ally to American conservatives.

A friend of Mikhail Kalashnikov, revered in Russia for inventing the AK-47 assault rifle, Torshin in 2010 had penned a glossy gun rights pamphlet, illustrated by cartoon figures wielding guns to fend off masked robbers. The booklet cited U.S. statistics to argue for gun ownership, at one point echoing in Russian the old NRA slogan, “Guns don’t shoot – people shoot.”

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It was also informally called Russia (and its citizens Russians ),[22] though that was technically in schools.[44] In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the The civil rights , personal freedoms, and democratic forms promised in the Stalin constitution were trampled

I suppose the main allies of Russia right now, can be coined with a big shift. And this shift is something I need both you guys to pay at least attention Plus they supply Russia with Uranium ore - and considering how much in Russia 's policy based on their nuclear untouchable status, that is critical.

Torshin was also a leader in a Russian movement to align government more closely with the Orthodox church.

“The value system of Southern Christians and the value system of Russians are very much in line,” Preston said. “The so-called conflict between our two nations is a tragedy because we’re very similar people, in a lot of our values, our interests and that sort of thing.”

Preston, an expert on Russian law whose office features a white porcelain bust of Putin, said he had told Tennessee friends for years not to believe television reports about the Russian leader murdering journalists or dissidents.

Preston was an international observer of the 2011 legislative elections in Russia that sparked mass street protests in Moscow charging electoral irregularities. But Preston said he concluded the elections were free and fair.

By contrast, Preston said he and Torshin saw violations of U.S. law — pro-Obama signs posted too close to a polling place — when Torshin traveled to Nashville to observe voting in the 2012 presidential election.

In Russia, Torshin and an aide, a photogenic activist originally from Siberia named Maria Butina, began building a gun-rights movement.

Butina founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms, and in 2013 she and Torshin invited Keene and other U.S. gun advocates to its annual meeting in Moscow.

The event, where about 200 people gathered at Moscow’s convention center, included a fashion show in which models donned “concealed carry” garments with built-in pockets for weapons.

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Russia ( Russian : Росси́я, tr. Rossiya, IPA: [rɐˈsʲijə]), or the Russian Federation ( Russian : Росси́йская Федера́ция, tr. Rossiyskaya Federatsiya, IPA: [rɐˈsʲijskəjə fʲɪdʲɪˈratsɨjə]

Governor of Russia in a Provisional All- Russian Government, but The Whites wanted to keep from alienating any potential supporters and allies and thus saw an Depending on the time and place, those White Army supporters might also exchange right -wing allegiance for allegiance to the Red Army.

One American participant, Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, recalled that Torshin and Butina took him and his wife out for dinner and gave them gifts that displayed research into their interests — exotic fabric for Gottlieb’s wife, a needle-point enthusiast, and for Gottlieb, commemorative stamps that Torshin had received as a member of the Russian legislature.

“They wanted to keep communications open and form friendships,” Gottlieb said.

Butina, now a graduate student at American University in Washington, told The Post via email that her group’s cause is “not very popular” with Russian officials and has never received funding from the government or from the NRA. She said she’s never worked for the government and added that she and the American activists she has befriended simply share a love of gun rights.

“No government official has EVER approached me about ‘fostering ties’ with any Americans,” she wrote.

Hall, the former CIA officer, said he was skeptical. He said he did not think Putin would tolerate a legitimate effort to advocate for an armed citizenry, and asserted that the movement is likely “controlled by the security services” to woo the American right.

When Torshin and Butina attended the NRA’s 2014 annual convention, their profiles as scrappy Russians pushing for gun rights were rising. Butina attended an NRA women’s luncheon as a guest of one of the organization’s past presidents.

Interviewed by the conservative website Townhall, Butina called the NRA “one of the most world famous and most important organizations” and said that “we would like to be friends with NRA.”

While Russians are allowed to own shotguns, Butina said her group hoped to reverse a ban on carrying handguns.

That year’s turbulent events — in which Russia’s incursion into Ukraine prompted the Obama administration to enact strict sanctions against Moscow — illustrated the Russians’ alliance with U.S. gun advocates.

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Russia does have a number of friends and allies around the world. Parts of the former Soviet Union (Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Crimea) have many pro- Russian emigrants. With over one million Russian Jewish immigrants, Israel is quite friendly to Russia .

Butina argued in a Russian interview that firearm sellers in her country, including the popular Kalashnikov, were among the “most impacted” by sanctions, which specifically blocked its assets.

In Washington, the NRA’s lobbying arm blasted the order, saying such restrictions have “long been used by the executive branch as a means of unilaterally enacting gun control.”

Relationships between Russians and American conservatives seemed to blossom in 2015, as the Republican presidential race geared up.

Butina posted social media photos showing how she and Torshin gained access to NRA officials and the U.S. politicians attending events. That April, Butina toured the NRA’s Virginia headquarters, and she and Torshin met Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), then a leading White House contender, at the NRA annual convention. Torshin told Bloomberg last year that he had a friendly exchange with Trump at the 2015 convention and sat with his son Donald Jr. at an NRA dinner the following year.

Walker’s spokesman said the encounter was brief, as speakers mingled with attendees before their remarks. A senior White House official said Trump may have briefly interacted with Torshin at the 2015 convention but did not recall. At the next year’s event, the official said Torshin briefly greeted Donald Jr. at a restaurant.

In June, as Trump announced his candidacy, Butina wrote a column in the National Interest, a conservative U.S. magazine, suggesting that a Republican in the White House might improve U.S.-Russia relations.

She wrote that Republicans and Russians held similar views on oil exploration and that cultural conservatives would identify with Putin’s party and its aggressive take on Islamic terrorism.

Butina that summer immersed herself in U.S. politics. In July, she showed up at FreedomFest in Las Vegas, a meeting of libertarians where Trump and rival Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were speaking.

She made her way to a microphone during Trump’s speech and asked in accented English, “What will be your foreign politics, especially in the relations with my country?”

It was the first time Trump had been asked about Russia as a candidate.

“I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” he said.

Trump would go on to repeatedly praise the Russian president as a strong leader.

But Trump, who at the time was considered a long shot for the nomination, echoed a sentiment then bubbling up from some corners of the conservative grass roots — that Putin was a potential friend.

That was the takeaway for Graham, the North Carolina-based evangelist, following his November 2015 Kremlin meeting with Putin.

The last time Graham had visited Moscow, with his father, Billy Graham, in the 1980s, the practice of religion was prohibited. On this trip, he said, conditions for Christians in Russia remained difficult. But Graham recalled that Putin listened as he described evangelical Christianity and the challenges facing Christians around the world. Putin explained that his mother kept her Christian faith even during the darkest days of atheistic communist rule.

“He understood,” Graham said of the Russian leader.

Putin offered to help Graham organize an international conference on Christian persecution in Moscow, Graham said. Instead, a Russian delegation is expected when the conference takes place next month in Washington, Graham said.

At the end of 2015, Butina welcomed a delegation to Moscow that included Keene, by then a member of the NRA board, as well as top NRA donors. The group also included a rising star in GOP politics, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who went on to be a campaign surrogate for Trump and has been mentioned as a contender for a high-level job at the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke did not respond to requests for comment.

The group toured a gun manufacturing company and met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was among the officials sanctioned by the White House following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Keene told the Daily Beast, which first reported the meeting, that the interaction with Rogozin was “non-political” and consisted of touring the headquarters of a shooting group that Rogozin chairs.

After Trump’s victory, Torshin returned to the United States with a delegation of prominent Russians to attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February. In addition to his gun-rights work, Torshin also had helped build a similar prayer breakfast in Moscow from an obscure monthly event a decade ago into one more resembling the annual ritual in Washington.

Putin now sends an annual greeting to the Russian event, a recognition of its value in allowing “Russian and American guests to come together under one roof in order to rebuild the relationship between the two countries that has degraded under the administration of President Obama,” said the breakfast’s organizer Peter Sautov in an email.

Torshin, accompanied by 15 Russian church and government officials, requested to meet the new president before Trump spoke at the event, according to people familiar with the arrangement.

But they said the meeting was canceled as reports surfaced from Spanish authorities alleging that Torshin led an organized crime and money-laundering operation. Torshin has not been charged and denied wrongdoing in an interview with Bloomberg, which first reported the allegations.

A White House official said the requested meeting was never confirmed in the first place. The proposed meeting was first reported by Yahoo.

That night, Torshin gathered for a festive dinner at a Capitol Hill restaurant with conservative thought leaders who have supported warmer ties with Russia.

“There has been a change in the views of hard-core conservatives toward Russia,” a participant, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), said in an interview. “Conservative Republicans like myself hated communism during the Cold War. But Russia is no longer the Soviet Union.”

Andrew Roth in Moscow and Alice Crites and Karoun Demirjian in Washington contributed to this report.

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