I have done the Sunday TIMES crossword puzzle and both the 5 x 5 and 7 x 7 KenKens, so it is time for some idle speculation. I trust everyone understands that I have absolutely no first-hand knowledge of any of the subjects I shall be speculating about. Pay attention at your peril! Here goes. I write with an air of certainty simply because speculation is no fun if it is hedged round with caveats.
It is now clear that Jared Kushner really did approach the Russians with a proposal to use their Embassy equipment to communicate with the Kremlin. This follows from the fact that H. R. McMaster and John Flynn have publicly stated that there is nothing untoward about the action. If this were a Russian trick, they would be condemning the media for publishing false stories.
Why did he do this so close to the time when the Trump team would take over the government anyway? It is not because he and his colleagues in the Trump White House are inexperienced or stupid or reckless or impatient. And it certainly is not because he and the Trump team have any substantive national policies that they wish to pursue. They don’t.
I think I know the answer. Here it is [for what it is worth.] Trump and Kushner are real estate speculators. They are not ideologues, they are not right wing or left wing or middle of the road, they are real estate speculators. That is who they have been all their lives and it is all they know or care about, leaving aside sociopathic narcissism and all that.
After Trump’s serial bankruptcies, he was forced to seek foreign and dodgy financing for his schemes, because American banks would no longer lend to him. So he went deeply into debt with DeutscheBank, with a Chinese government owned bank, and with Russian oligarchs hand in glove with Putin. Kushner took an enormous flyer in high profile Manhattan real estate, paying 1.8 billion for 666 Fifth Avenue at a time when New York real estate was booming. He borrowed enormous sums at very disadvantageous terms, gambling on high rents and occupancy rates in excess of 90%. Now, the real estate market is weak, and the building has an occupancy rate of 70%. He is very close to default on the loans, and has been trying desperately to refinance. He wanted a secret channel of communication to the Russians because he needs refinancing, and he needs it fast.
Why would the Russians be interested in helping him? Putin has imperial ambitions. He seeks to recapture at least some of the former glory of the Soviet Union. But he is hamstrung by the weakness of the Russian economy. Russia is a Petrostate, propped up by its oil sales. Three or four years ago, when crude was selling on the world market for ~$80 a barrel, he had the means to throw his weight around in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, despite the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU. But oil is now selling at half that price, roughly $40 a barrel or even less, and the sanctions are hurting. Alternative energy sources are booming, the world economy is plodding along with slow growth, and high oil prices are not likely to reappear any time soon.
Kushner and Trump need Russian money, and Putin needs an easing of the sanctions. That, I suggest, is why Putin has been wooing Trump camp figures, and that is why Kushner wanted a secure communications channel to the Kremlin.