Behind Trump's Low-level Russia Connection

In stories about her meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, the unlikely celebrity in the latest installment of the Trump-Russia story, is often described as someone with "connections to the Kremlin." That's misleading, although her involvement still says much about how power works in Russia.The Kremlin's red-brick fortress at the center of Moscow is the wrong architectural landmark in which to look for the ties that made Veselnitskaya a successful lawyer. The right building is a hulking, futuristic glass structure just outside the city limits that houses the government of the Moscow region -- the constituent part of the Russian Federation, which surrounds but doesn't include the city of Moscow.The Russian system of power -- at least its all-important informal part -- has always been about "levels." Russian President Vladimir Putin often uses the word to discriminate between matters that are worthy of his attention and those that aren't. The regional elites are several notches below the Kremlin level, which explains Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov's snobbish reaction to news about Veselnitskaya: "No, we don't know who that is, we cannot follow all the meetings of all the Russian lawyers both inside the country and overseas."  Continue reading...

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