A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates
A week before Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Donald Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
在迈克尔·弗林(Michael Flynn)辞去国家安全顾问职位一周前，一项密封的提议被人亲手送至他的办公室，其中概述了唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)总统解除对俄罗斯制裁的新方案。
Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
弗林因为被发现在与俄罗斯大使讨论制裁的问题上撒谎而辞职，但这项提议——让乌克兰与俄罗斯达成和平的方案——及推动它的人依然还在：递送该文件的总统私人律师迈克尔·科恩(Michael Cohen)；曾帮助特朗普在俄罗斯物色交易机会的生意伙伴费利克斯·H·塞特(Felix H. Sater)；试图在部分由特朗普的前任竞选经理保罗·马纳福特(Paul Manafort)促成的一个政治反对派运动中崛起的一个乌克兰议员。
At a time when Trump’s ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by U.S. intelligence agencies, the FBI and Congress — some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.
Trump has confounded Democrats and Republicans alike with his repeated praise for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his desire to forge a U.S.-Russian alliance. While there is nothing illegal about such unofficial efforts, a proposal that seems to tip toward Russian interests may set off alarms.
The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Cohen asked.
But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Putin.
但这项提议包含的不只是一个和平方案。那位自认为是乌克兰未来的特朗普式领导人的议员安德里·V·阿尔乔缅科(Andrii V. Artemenko)声称自己握有——“企业名称、电汇证明”——可以证明乌克兰总统彼得罗·O·波罗申科(Petro O. Poroshenko)存在腐败行为的证据，这有助于罢免后者。阿尔乔缅科表示，他的这项计划受到普京高层助手的鼓励。
“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a CIA agent,” Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”
Cohen and Sater said they had not spoken to Trump about the proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy. Cohen is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an FBI counterintelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials; he has denied any illicit connections.
The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts: Sater, 50, a Russian-American, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Artemenko spent 2 1/2 years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.
While it is unclear if the White House will take the proposal seriously, the diplomatic freelancing has infuriated Ukrainian officials. Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, said Artemenko “is not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine to any foreign government, including the U.S. administration.”
At a security conference in Munich on Friday, Poroshenko warned the West against “appeasement” of Russia, and some U.S. experts say offering Russia any alternative to a 2-year-old international agreement on Ukraine would be a mistake. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about the conflict in Ukraine.
But given Trump’s praise for Putin, John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said he feared the new president might be too eager to mend relations with Russia at Ukraine’s expense — potentially with a plan like Artemenko’s.
The FBI is reviewing an unverified dossier, compiled by a former British intelligence agent and funded by Trump’s political opponents, that claims Cohen met with a Russian representative in Prague during the presidential campaign to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets. But the Russian official named in the report told The New York Times that he had never met Cohen. Cohen insists that he has never visited Prague and that the dossier’s assertions are fabrications.
Cohen has a personal connection to Ukraine: He is married to a Ukrainian woman and once worked with relatives there to establish an ethanol business.
Before entering politics, Artemenko had business ventures in the Middle East and real estate deals in the Miami area, and had worked as an agent representing top Ukrainian athletes. Some colleagues in Parliament describe him as corrupt, untrustworthy or simply insignificant, but he appears to have amassed considerable wealth.
He has fashioned himself in the image of Trump, presenting himself as Ukraine’s answer to a rising class of nationalist leaders in the West. He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the Republican National Convention, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Trump’s campaign.
“It’s time for new leaders, new approaches to the governance of the country, new principles and new negotiators in international politics,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 27. “Our time has come!”
Artemenko said he saw in Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine — and help advance his own political career. Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.
The Ukrainian ambassador, Chaly, rejected a lease of that kind. “It is a gross violation of the constitution,” he said in written answers to questions from The Times. “Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.”
The reaction suggested why Artemenko’s project also includes the dissemination of “kompromat,” or compromising material, purportedly showing that Poroshenko and his closest associates are corrupt. Only a new government, presumably one less hostile to Russia, might take up his plan.
Sater, a longtime business associate of Trump’s with connections in Russia, was willing to help Artemenko’s proposal reach the White House.
Trump has sought to distance himself from Sater in recent years. If Sater “were sitting in the room right now,” Trump said in a 2013 deposition, “I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”
But Sater worked on real estate development deals with the Trump Organization on and off for at least a decade, even after his role in the stock manipulation scheme came to light.
Cohen said he was waiting for a response to the proposal when Flynn was forced from his post. Now he, Sater and Artemenko are hoping a new national security adviser will take up their cause. On Friday the president wrote on Twitter that he had four new candidates for the job.