Trump Adviser’s Links to Russia on Display During Moscow Trip

Carter Page hits U.S., West for pursuing ‘democratization’ in Moscow speech

Carter Page in Moscow / AP
July 11, 2016

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, traveled to Moscow last week and criticized the United States and other Western powers for their "hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change" in other countries.

Page, an energy executive with ties to Russian gas giant Gazprom, praised Russia and China for embracing foreign policies built on "non-interference," "tolerance," and "respect" while describing U.S. foreign policy as too interventionist during remarks at Moscow’s World Trade Center.

"The United States and other developed powers, including in the EU, have often criticized [China, Russia, and Central Asian nations] for continuing methods which were prevalent during the Cold War period," Page said. "Yet ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change."

He also accused Western powers of approaching Russia and Central Asian nations with a "nearly universally critical tone" despite their "advancements." This he said, may "understandably advance a certain level of insecurity.

The remarks, delivered at an event hosted by the New Economic School, were hardly out of character for Page, who has a history of criticizing U.S. foreign policy and portraying Russia in a favorable light. In online writings, Page has defended Moscow’s involvement in the takeover of government buildings in Ukraine by pro-Russian forces in 2014 as "minor," attributed the crisis in Ukraine to U.S. policy, and accused NATO of "meddling in the affairs of Eastern Europe."

His habit of criticizing Western countries raises questions about the foreign policy advice Trump is receiving.

Trump has described NATO as "obsolete," advocated for illegal torture techniques, and exchanged compliments with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hope Hicks, the press secretary for the Trump campaign, told the Washington Free Beacon that Page’s trip to Russia was "not on behalf of the campaign."

Page, who has no government experience and helps run an energy investment company called Global Energy Capital LLC, first emerged as one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers in March. He spent three years living in Moscow in the early 2000s, where he worked as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch and adviser on transactions for Gazprom and RAO UES, a Russian electric power company.

On Friday, Page also delivered remarks at the graduation for the New Economic School, whose board of directors includes Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Economic Minister Alexei Ulyukayev. Page blamed the United States for "mistakes" that have damaged U.S.-Russian relations during the speech.

Before advising Trump, Page criticized U.S. foreign policy in essays published by the Global Policy Journal between 2014 and 2015.

In April 2014, Page argued against President Obama’s decision to deny a visa application for Hamid Aboutalebi, an Iranian diplomat and U.N. ambassador who served as a translator for Iranian militants who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held Americans hostage there for over a year.

Obama’s decision garnered rare praise from Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who introduced the bill allowing the president to deny admission to any diplomat who "has been engaged in terrorist activity against the United States or its allies and may pose a threat to U.S. national security interests."

"Avoiding the punishment of a distinguished diplomat whose most heinous charge is previous service as a translator would be an excellent step toward not remaining trapped in the past," Page wrote in the blog post.

The following month, Page defended Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine by comparing it to the United States’ support for the ouster of Ukraine’s Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.

"While U.S. officials have protested the Russian government’s influence in current events, Moscow’s impact remains minor when compared to Washington’s fundamentally important encouragement at the national level which started the crisis in the first place," Page asserted.

In an article the same month, Page accused the United States of "instigating" the crisis in Ukraine.

In September 2014, during a NATO summit where the alliance agreed to increase its presence in Eastern Europe after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Page accused Western powers of "meddling in the affairs of Eastern Europe" and characterized Russia’s actions as "defensive." He suggested that NATO was "banging on Russia’s door" and, like Trump, characterized the alliance as unnecessary.

"As most vividly seen in Ukraine, recent results of the North Atlantic Alliance’s unsuccessful interventionist strategy may largely speak for themselves. But another benefit of reconsidering past precedents from the end of the first Cold War is that this historic context helps highlight the extent to which elements of the legacy NATO framework have become severely antiquated," he wrote.

In February 2015, Page likened Western nations to "football team bullies" for their "condescending mistreatment" of Russia, Iran, China, and other emerging nations. He also compared their actions to slave owners’ treatment of slaves. Page asserted that Western policies had spurred "economic disaster" in Russia and Ukraine.

"From U.S. policies toward Russia to Iran to China, sanctimonious expressions of moral superiority stand at the root of many problems seen worldwide today," Page wrote.

Page criticized U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian entities and individuals as a result of the country’s intervention in Ukraine.

"So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy," Page, who remains an investor in sanctions-targeted Gazprom, told Bloomberg in March, shortly after he became a Trump foreign policy adviser. "There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation."

Page delivered the speeches during a trip to Moscow this week. He dodged questions Thursday about how the United States should shape policy toward Russia and would not comment on the presidential campaign. Still, a slide Page displayed during the lecture suggested that the United States could collaborate with Russia by providing the country with "emerging technologies and potential capital market access (contingent upon U.S.’s refocus toward resolution of domestic challenges)."

Page’s speech was highlighted by state-owned Russian media.

"The United States may grant Russian companies access to new technologies and capital markets in exchange for cooperation in the energy sphere, presidential candidate Donald Trump’s foreign policy adviser Carter Page said," an article on the Kremlin-run Tass News Agency stated.  

An email to Page through his investment company was not immediately returned.

Page is not the only Trump adviser who has been scrutinized for his friendliness toward Russia. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, has extensive ties to Russian interests. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former Defense Intelligence Agency chief who favors closer U.S.-Russia relations, is also advising Trump on foreign policy.

Flynn has emerged as a possible vice presidential pick for Trump, Politico reported Friday.

Page’s remarks come at a time of heightened tension between the United States and Russia. NATO members agreed on Friday to send four multinational battalions to the Baltic states and Poland on a rotational basis in the face of increased Russian provocations.