Crossroads Asia

Trump Diamond: An Unsuccessful Bid for the Astana Skyline

A McClatchy investigation uncovered an unsuccessful attempt by Trump to make his mark on the steppe.

Trump Diamond: An Unsuccessful Bid for the Astana Skyline

Trump Tower in New York City. The Trump Diamond designs called for the Trump name at the tower’s top.

Credit: Flickr / quintanomedia

Donald Trump’s name was nearly the tallest thing in Central Asia.

That is one of the primary findings from McClatchy’s most recent investigation into Trump’s investments abroad. As McClatchy’s investigators found, in 2012 the Trump Organization pitched an “obelisk-shaped tower” to the Kazakhstani government, proposing its construction not far from the presidential palace in Astana. A rendition shows a glittering, gleaming tower — nicknamed Trump Diamond and designed by John Fotiadis — spiking from the steppe, with Trump’s name crowning the skyscraper. Explained McClatchy, the tower “would have soared over everything else within miles.”

As it is, Astana declined the Trump Organization proposal in favor of the 75-story Abu Dhabi Plaza, set for completion next year. But one wonders how much Astana is rueing an opportunity missed, now that Trump has ascended to the American presidency.

The pitch was part of Trump’s broader thrust into the post-Soviet space, with the president having “ventured more aggressively into the former Soviet empire from 2005 to 2015 than has previously been known,” McClatchy wrote. Among other projects, Trump landed trademarks for hotels and vodka alike in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, although Iran declined similar attempts at trademarks. One of those investments, in Azerbaijan, has been tabbed Trump’s “worst deal,” and is but one aspect of ongoing investigations surrounding the president.

But towers and booze aren’t Trump’s sole connections to the region uncovered in the recent investigation. McClatchy also revealed Trump’s relationship with an organization called Silk Road Group, which, among other things, served as an “integral part of a supply line” that delivered fuel to the Manas Air Base — an American base whose fuel supply generated more than a fair share of controversy before the United States left in 2014. For good measure, Silk Road Group is referenced nearly 2,000 times in last year’s Panama Papers release — a reveal that, among other things, has also linked Kyrgyzstan’s former Bakiyev regime and Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, through the same offshore company in Belize.

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The latest reveal adds to the expanding litany of strange wrinkles Trump brings to U.S.-Central Asian relations. Not only have Trump properties been linked to Central Asian offshoring attempts, but his properties are tied directly to Kazakhstan’s most prominent, albeit exiled, opposition figures — each holding properties in a tower that hoists Trump’s name high, unlike that failed project in Astana.