In March 1986, Yuri Dubinin arrived in New York to assume his post as the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations. Dubinin’s daughter, Natalia, was already a diplomat serving at the Soviet mission, and she picked her father up at the airport and drove him into a city to which he’d never before been. (He wouldn’t stay long—within weeks of his arrival, Dubinin was reposted as Soviet ambassador to the United States and relocated to Washington, D.C.) Their first stop, Natalia told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, was a Tetris-like black skyscraper on Fifth Avenue. Professing himself impressed by what he saw in this monument to American capitalism, the graying apparatchik asked to meet its owner. So the Dubinins traveled to the top floor and were introduced to Donald Trump.
It was a mutually delightful encounter. “The first thing I saw in the city is your tower,” the ambassador exclaimed to the developer (it must have been an exceptionally cloudy day on the Grand Central Parkway). “Trump melted at once,” Natalia recalled. “He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him like honey to a bee.”
A year later, in 1987, Trump would visit Moscow for the first time. As his ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz wrote in The Art of the Deal—which, in fact, elides this encounter and places Trump’s first meeting with Dubinin at a lunch six months later—that Trump talked “about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.” A few moments of preying upon Trump’s vanity had gotten him to Moscow; preying upon his greed would do the rest.
By this point, Trump was well known to Soviet intelligence. For a decade already, the Czech secret police, the StB, had maintained a file on him, following his marriage to Czechoslovakian native Ivana Zelníčková in 1977, and like other Warsaw Pact intelligence services, the StB was wholly subordinate to the KGB. And as the British journalist Luke Harding has observed, while Dubinin had no discernible ties to the Lubyanka, the FSB’s Moscow headquarters (formerly the KGB’s), that doesn’t necessarily mean that Natalia, who was serving on the Soviet delegation to the United Nations when her father arrived in New York, was purely a diplomat. In the Soviet era, as with Russia’s delegation today, the UN mission was rife with spies for both the KGB and GRU, Soviet military intelligence, many of them residing in the same building in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. Dubinin’s other daughter, Irina, later confirmed that her father’s express purpose was “to make contact with America’s business elite.” [Continue reading…]