On 29 December 2016, President Barack Obama announced certain sanctions against Russia in response to certain Russian intelligence breaches upon our nation in the form of attempting, and likely succeeding, to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election held the month before. Among those sanctions were the expulsion of some 35 Russian diplomats and their families, as well as the ejection of Russian diplomats and staff from compounds on U.S. soil, in Centreville, Maryland and Oyster Bay, New York. These were valid sanctions that came as no surprise to the Russians, since the Trump transition team had already told the Russians about them well in advance of President Obama’s announcement. And Putin just smiled and shrugged, because the Trump team had sent word to him not to worry, that the sanctions would be lifted once Trump took office. In other words, they shared classified information that Don Trump was privy to as the “president-elect”. Already he had proven that he could not be trusted to protect classified information.
Fast forward to 31 May 2017. The two luxury compounds that were used for recreational purposes by Russian diplomats, and according to President Obama, were also used “by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes”, may now be returned to the Russians. Initially, Trump told Russia that he would return the properties to them if they would lift their freeze on construction of a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. The freeze has been in place since 2014 and was imposed as a retaliation for sanctions we imposed because of Russian actions in the Ukraine. But now it appears that earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov that the United States would no longer link the compounds to the issue of St. Petersburg, leaving the door open for returning the compounds to the Russians, no strings attached.
The compounds, sprawling luxury estates on multi-acre sites, are technically owned by Russia. In 1995, the former USSR paid to the United States a sum of exactly $1 for the 45-acre Maryland property. That’s right, folks … no, there are no zeros behind that ‘1’ … they paid exactly one dollar for 45 acres, a mansion and several other buildings on Maryland’s Eastern shore. And now Trump is planning to return them to the Russians. Can there still be any doubt about the collusion between team Trump and team Putin???
Russia has said it used the facilities, both of which had diplomatic immunity, for rest and recreation for embassy and U.N. employees and to hold official events. But U.S. officials going all the way back to the Reagan administration, based on aerial and other surveillance, have long believed they were also being used for intelligence purposes.
I have no idea what the value of these two compounds is today, but the 45-acre Maryland compound was valued at $3 million in 1992, while the 14-acre compound in New York was valued last year at $9.4 million. The Russians also receive partial tax breaks on these properties.
Back in February, Trump said it was “still too early” to lift all sanctions, but he authorized the Treasury Department to issue a license that authorizes certain transactions between U.S. companies and the FSB, Russia’s security service, a license that authorizes certain transactions between U.S. companies and the FSB, Russia’s security service. In other words, U.S. companies were to be allowed to sell such electronic devices as cell phones and tablets with encryption software to Russia. Makes sense, doesn’t it, to provide them with the very type of equipment they used to interfere in our election last year!
It would appear that if, as is suspected, Trump did authorize his transition team to send word to Russia that sanctions would be lifted after he took office, he is well on his way to keeping that promise.
Note: Fellow-blogger Gronda wrote an excellent piece on this same topic, and her post provides much additional information, so please take a moment to check it out.