In 2012, after a series of negotiations, Exxon Mobile, and Rosneft, one of the largest oil, and natural gas companies in Russia, announced a 500 Billion dollar joint partnership, one of the largest energy deals in history. The deal would develop Russia’s vast energy reasources in the Black Sea and the Arctic utilizing Exxon’s experience and technology, to create natural gas pipelines. The deal would lead Vladimir Putin to award Rex Tillerson, then CEO of Exxon Mobil, Russia’s Order of the Friendship medal, the highest honor awarded to foreign nationals.
The deal would later be derailed, by a series of political events in the Ukraine. Victor Yanukovych was elected the 4th president of Ukraine, in 2010. During his run for office, a major issue was a 2010 Ukrainian-Russian Naval Base and Gas Treaty, referred to as the Kharkiv Pact. The Pact would extend Russian’s lease in Crimea from 2017 to 2042. Sevastopol, in Crimea, is the traditional home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The Port is of great strategic value, because it provides Russia’s only access to the Mediterranean, though Istanbul, Turkey, and the port was also critical for Russia’s transportation and sales of natural gas. The Ukraine signed a deal with Russian to lease several bases in exchange for lower natural gas prices. In the early days of his administration Yanukovych stated the Ukraine had a strategic aim to integrate with the EU, and be a neutral state where the EU, NATO, and Russian will take part. Later, Yanukovych would lean in toward Russian, and he moved away from European alliances, strengthing Ukraine’s economic ties to Russia. A series of protests kicked off demanding for closer integration with the European Union. Yanukovych passed anti-protest laws that would eventually lead his removal from office.
After his removal, Yanukovych fled the Captial to avoid arrest, and investigators uncovered evidence of mass corruption, including records indicating money laundering and illegal payments. Paul Manfort, later Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, was listed in the documents, and Manafort would later plead guilty to acting as a foreign agent and money laudering, related to his service to Yanukovych.
Yanukovych was considered pro-kremlin, and he aligned his policies closely with Putin’s. After his fall, in 2014, Russia’s gas, and military base interests where under threat, and Putin responded by annexing Crimea by force. In response the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russia, including Rosneft, which effectively killed the Exxon Rosneft gas pipelines. The sanctions contributed to the collapse of the Russian Roble and precipitated the 2015 Russian financial crisis. Numerous Russian banks were sanctioned. Around the same time, in 2015, Russia would increase several influence operations aimed at targeting U.S. politicians and the US elections system.
Carter Page, later to become a Trump campaign advisor, earlier in 2013, was approached by Russian operatives, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy. who were later convicted as foreign agents during an FBI counter-terrorism investigation. The Russian spies used employment with VEB bank as cover for their U.S. operations. VEB is a Russian state owned bank directly under the control of Putin. A dialogue was started regarding Russian energy policy, and Page transferred unspecified documents to the agents. The FBI had the Russian agents under surveillance, and they were arrested and charged, but the investigators made a decision not to charge Page, since he cooperated with investigators, at the time. His contacts with these Russian spies would later lead to a FISA warrant issued to monitor Page, during the Trump campaign.
In 2014, page praised Igor Sechin, a member of Putin’s cabinet and Executive Chairman of Rosneft for his accomplishments advancing US-Russian relations. Rosneft under financial sanctions would later merge with Gazprom, the Russia State owned energy company, in 2014. On December 8, 2014, a day after the deal went through, Page traveled to Russian and met with top managers of Rosneft. Page also held financial investments in Gazprom. Page’s business ties to state-owned Russian companies were investigated by a counterintelligence task force, an investigation, which may still be ongoing. Page later joined the Trump Campaign in March 21, 2016, as a foreign policy advisor. The same month Paul Manafort joined the campaign.
On June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort would meet in Trump Tower to discuss U.S Sanctions with several Russians. The GOP convention took place from July 18-21. The event was attended by The Russian Ambassador Sergy Kislyak. At the convention, Kislyak would meet with Carter Page, Jeff Sessions, and J.D. Gordon, all campaign advisors. Paul Manafort was instrumental in changing the GOP platform regarding the Ukraine, taking pro-Russian positions. Shortly after, Carter Page would make a Trip to Moscow to meet with Russian Business leaders.
In August 2016, United Arab Emirates officials, George Nader, an advisor to Crown Prince bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and consultant to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, meet with Donald Trump Jr, at Trump Tower. At the meeting, Nader offers assistance to the presidential campaign. One attendee was an Israeli speicalist in social media manipulation. In 2014, The UAE sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, invested 271 million in a Gazprom oil subsidiary to stabilize the oil market after prices crashed. Erik Prince, brother to Housing Secretary Betsy Devos helped the UAE create a private army for the crown prince.
On December 1, 2016, Jared Krushner and Michael Flynn, who would later become Trump’s national security advisor, meet with the Russian ambassador Kislyak, in Trump tower. later in December 2016, U.S. Intelligence officials who were monitoring the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Kislyak when he relayed a message from Krushner requesting a ” secret and secure communication channel” with the Kremlin. On January 20. 2017, Flynn had a phone conversation with Kislyak, which was intercepted by U.S. Intelligence. On the phone call Flynn discusses cooperating with Russia to lessen the impact of sactions.
The Same month, Nader attended a December 2016 meeting in New York between the UAE officials, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon. Mohammed bin Zayed personally attend the meeting. Kushner later confirmed the meeting in a written statement, but stated they discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria.
On December 13, 2016 Krushner attended a meeting in New York with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, after being asked, by Kislyak. Gorkov is chairmian of VEB bank, and deputy chairman of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. He is also a graduate of the Academy of Federal Counter-intelligence Service. VEB bank is the same organization that employed the two Russian agents involved with the Carter Page investigation. It is known as Putin’s slush fund, and was sanctioned after annexation of Crimea. Gorkov stated he met with Kushner as head of Kushner companies, but Kushner denied the meeting had anything to do with his personal finance, but rather was related to Russian economic investments. VEB bank had previously invested in Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant, in 2013, and Trump tower, and they were involved with the financing of Trump’s hotel in Toronto.
In January 2017, Erik Prince traveled to the Seyshelles and met with George Nadar and a Russian banker named Kirill Dmitrieve who manged a Russian State run investment fund. Dmitrieve also serves on the board of directors of Gazprombank. Nader remained in contact with senior Trump administration officials, as Trump transitioned into office.
In Spring of 2016, after the hack of the DNC computers, a group of computer scientists determined. Trump tower computer servers had repeated communication with Alfa Bank, and Spectrum Health, a company owned by the husband of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, brother to Erik Prince. Comupter logs indicate Trump and Alfa Bank had created a lines of communication between the two entities. The exact nature of the communication is unknown, but the computer logs indicate a large amount of data sharing, which could indicated some sort of electronic coordingaiton.