Putin Would Rather be Feared Than Respected: Quest for Power and Loot

Update: Russians and Russophiles love a good liar

Putin Wants Absolute Power and All the Loot

In this 2005 photograph, Russian president Vladimir Putin holds a diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP  http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/jun/18/putin-kraft-superbowl-ring-sochi-winter-olympics

In this 2005 photograph, Russian president Vladimir Putin holds a diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/jun/18/putin-kraft-superbowl-ring-sochi-winter-olympics

In the photo above, you can see Putin in the act of stealing a 2005 Super Bowl ring owned by NE Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Putin asked Kraft to let him try it on . . . made a comment about “killing someone with this ring” . . . then put it in his pocket and left the room, surrounded by laughing security guards.

How Putin Came to be Mafia Tsar of Russia

In the late 1980s, Putin was a KGB officer in Dresden, East Germany. There are conflicting accounts of what he was doing there. In his official and unofficial biographies, Dawisha writes, quoting Putin’s German biographer Alexander Rahr, this period is covered in a “thick fog of silence.” But there is some evidence that he may have been helping the KGB prepare for what it feared could be the imminent demise of the Soviet empire. Indeed, when he became president in 2000, German counterintelligence launched an investigation into whether or not Putin had been recruiting agents who would remain loyal to the KGB even after the collapse of communism. As Dawisha explains, “the Germans were concerned that Putin had recruited a network that lived on in united Germany.”

… After leaving Germany, Putin returned to St. Petersburg, eventually making his way, with KGB patronage, into the St. Petersburg city government, where he was responsible for “foreign liaisons”—and where he could put some of his foreign contacts to immediate use. In 1991, Marina Salye, a member of the St. Petersburg city council, accused Putin of having knowingly entered into dozens of legally flawed contracts on behalf of the city, exporting hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of commodities—timber, coal, steel—in exchange for food that never arrived. Her attempts to censure him came to nothing: the council called for his resignation but nothing happened. At a higher level, Putin had protectors. Salye, spooked by threats, went into hiding and disappeared from Russian politics.

… Dawisha also describes the origins of the Twentieth Trust, a “construction company” also linked to Putin. According to Russia’s own Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Twentieth Trust received money from the budget of the city of St. Petersburg and subsequently transferred that money abroad. Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, discovered that the company had purchased property in Spain where it constructed villas using Russian army labor. These kinds of reports led Spanish police to become suspicious of Russian activity in Spain, and in the 1990s they began monitoring the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, as well as several well-known leaders of Russian organized crime, all of whom had houses on the southern coast of Spain. In 1999, to their immense surprise, their recorders picked up an unexpected visitor: Putin. He had arrived in Spain illegally, by boat from Gibraltar, having eluded Spanish passport control.

By the time he made this secret visit to Spain—apparently one of many—Putin had already graduated to the next phase of his career: until August 1999, he was the boss of the FSB, the KGB’s successor organization. He had moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow, taking many of his cronies and all of his criminal connections with him.

… [Yeltsin’s inner circle] duly anointed Putin prime minister and then president—the wishes of voters and democratic process had little to do with it. But having obtained high office, he turned the tables on them. Soon after taking over, he made it clear that he intended to remove the Yeltsin-era elite and to put a new elite in its place—mostly from St. Petersburg, equally corrupt, but loyal exclusively to him. Among others, he removed the CEO and chairman of Gazprom—the old Soviet gas ministry, now a private company—and replaced them with Dmitry Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and Putin’s colleague since his days in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office, and Aleksei Miller, his former deputy at the St. Petersburg Committee for Foreign Liaison. Very quickly, Gazprom became a source of personal funds for Putin’s projects, useful, for example, when he needed a large chunk of money to bribe the president of Ukraine.

… During what seemed at the time to be a golden era of Russian–Western political relations, the economic picture for foreign investors was also mixed. Some Western businesses flourished in Russia, but only so far as it suited Putin and his cronies. Westerners who annoyed the regime—or Westerners whose businesses were coveted by powerful Russians—could be destroyed with tax demands, lawsuits, and worse.

This was the fate of Bill Browder—grandson of Earl Browder, leader of the American Communist Party—who set up a Russian investment fund that invested heavily in Gazprom. After he turned out to be an annoyingly activist shareholder—he kept asking why the company’s accounts were so untransparent—Browder was barred from the country in 2005. His companies in Russia were subsequently destroyed by a particularly Putinist form of corporate raiding: tax officials and police attacked their offices, reregistered them, declared them bankrupt, stole their money, and arrested and harassed their employees. Browder’s lawyer, Sergey Magnitsky, was eventually beaten to death by guards in a Russian prison.

… while constantly speaking of “reform” in Western capitals—Putin was systematically destroying the nascent institutions of liberal democratic society. Whatever embryonic political movements had come to life in the 1990s were crushed in the 2000s. Refusing to tolerate any real political opposition, Putin instead sponsored phony political parties whose leaders were ultimately loyal to himself. He eviscerated independent media, especially television, which he considered to be an essential tool of social manipulation. Although he left a few very small “dissident” newspapers open, presumably in order to placate the tiny middle class, he pushed back hard when they went too far. Anna Politkovskaya, an extraordinarily brave reporter who wrote about Putin’s war in Chechnya, was one of several Russian journalists to be brutally killed in gangland-style murders.

With the media out of the way, Putin also took on “civil society,” meaning any charitable, educational, or advocacy organizations over which he did not exert direct control. This included the slow suffocation of apolitical groups such as Memorial, the historic human rights organization that has produced internationally admired accounts of the crimes of Stalin, the history of the Gulag, and more generally the history of repression in Russia. Because Memorial had received foreign funding—from organizations such as the Ford Foundation—it was told that it had to be registered as a “foreign agent,” a phrase that heavily implies foreign espionage. More recently, the Russian Justice Ministry has filed a lawsuit that seeks to shut down Memorial altogether, on spurious administrative grounds.2

In place of a genuine media and a real civil society, Putin and his inner circle slowly put into place a system for manufacturing disinformation and mobilizing support on a new and spectacular scale. Once the KGB had retaken the country, in other words, it began once again to act like the KGB—only now it was better funded and more sophisticated. Today’s Russian “political technologists” make use of their state-owned media, including English-language outlets such as the TV news channel Russia Today; armies of paid social media “trolls” who post on newspaper comment pages, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and other sites; fake “experts” whose quotes can be presented with fake authority; and real experts to whom Putin’s officials have granted special access, or have simply paid. Former Western ambassadors to Moscow, businessmen who have been recruited to Russian company boards, European politicians as high-ranking as Schröder and Silvio Berlusconi—all have been well compensated, directly or indirectly, for offering their support. __ How Putin and His Criminal Gang Stole Russia

That’s just who Putin is, under the Kremlin generated facade

Putin’s move into Ukraine was meant to be another show of power and stealthy loot-grabbing. But it is turning out somewhat differently for the criminal loot-meister of Moscow.

Russia… finds itself in something of a Catch-22 situation. The fragile Minsk II ceasefire has eased pressures on the Russian economy – but it has done the same for Kyiv. It will be hard for Moscow to destabilize Ukraine further without renewing its military assault, yet the resumption of fighting would reverse any progress in undermining Western sanctions. With no more quick and easy Crimea-style operations on the horizon, the Kremlin finds itself stuck in a psychologically unsatisfactory holding pattern—waiting for oil and gas prices to recover, for the West to fragment, and for Ukraine to implode. Without a serious stroke of good fortune on at least two of those fronts, Moscow faces the prospect of endless subsidization of an isolated Crimea and a shattered Donbass under conditions of Russian economic stagnation, while the rest of Ukraine, even if economically hobbled, slips ineluctably away from Moscow’s gravitational pull. The realization might gradually take hold that Russia’s strategy in Ukraine, notwithstanding some moments of tactical brilliance, has ultimately failed. ___ http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/05/06/the-failures-of-putins-ukraine-strategy/

Putin wanted to force Ukraine back into a slavishly subservient position to the Kremlin mafiocracy. Instead, he has drawn NATO and the EU closer to Ukraine, and has pushed Ukrainians away from Russia with his bloody-handed maneuvering.

Let’s assess the results of these “victories” under Putin. The people of what Moscow has long hailed as its “brotherly neighboring state” now view Russia as an unmitigated aggressor. The Ukrainian representatives at the Tallinn conference were unanimous on this point.

Now Moscow will have to wait decades before it can even broach the subject of integrating Ukraine and Russia in any form. Conference attendees repeatedly called on NATO to abandon its previously declared principles and immediately bring Ukraine into the alliance, arguing that it is the only way to stop Russian aggression.

Recall that Moscow justified its decision to seize Crimea and start a war in Ukraine as the best way to prevent NATO forces from nearing Russia’s borders. Now that policy has only intensified NATO’s presence and hastened its approach.

Russia had just as fiercely objected to the appearance of NATO troops in the Baltic states. However, Moscow’s escapade in Ukraine prompted NATO leaders to decide at their most recent summit in Wales to rotate NATO forces through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

In doing so, they followed the example of Moscow when it announced that, by positioning contingents of thousands of soldiers near the Ukrainian border, it was not violating the Vienna Document — the last agreement still in force that seeks to maintain some measure of trust and transparency between Russia and the West on military matters.

Moscow argued that it was simply conducting uncoordinated maneuvers of various units, and was therefore under no obligation to inform NATO in advance or invite foreign observers.

However, Estonian politicians at the conference took this logic one step further. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the basic NATO-Russia agreement does not preclude [NATO] from permanently deploying troops to countries bordering Russia, and that to contend otherwise is to falsely interpret that document. __ When Victory Turns to Defeat

So there we have it. Putin wants to recover all the lands of the former USSR, and then to proceed to expand Moscow’s “sphere of dominance” to include as much of Europe as possible — hopefully including Germany, if he can create a scandal large enough to remove Merkel and put one of his German friends in power in Berlin.

Putin has always been a liar and a thief (typical KGB) but now he is a bloody liar and a bloody thief as well. No one of intelligent and honest mind should fall prey to the Kremlin propaganda machine. Only a purposeful self-blinding and a shared hatred for the US could explain such self-delusion.

Bill Browder — once Russia’s largest foreign investor — has a vastly entertaining account of his experiences inside Putin’s Russia

Every bit as enlightening and entertaining is NPR’s David Green’s account of his time in Russia — both as NPR Moscow Bureau Chief and during an extended train ride across the country, full of dynamite interviews with ordinary Russians.

Or read the accounts of former Moscow television reality-TV producer Peter Pomerantsov, “Nothing is True, and Everything is Possible”

“Long-term economic progress,” says Eberstadt, “depends on improving productivity through new knowledge . . . Patent awards and application provide a crude but telling picture . . . Consider applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty . . . Russia comes in No. 21—after Austria—racking up less that 0.6 percent of the world’s total. The population of Russia is more than fifteen times that of Austria. Russia’s ‘yield’ of patents per university graduate is vastly lower than Austria’s—thirty-five times lower. By this particular metric Russia is only fractionally better placed than Gabon.”

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2 Responses to Putin Would Rather be Feared Than Respected: Quest for Power and Loot

  1. Matt Musson says:

    Putin understands that the International Community of Nations is a lot like High School.
    It is better to be feared than loved.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It makes sense for Putin to be feared inside Russia. Just like black Africans and tribal Muslims, Russians have always needed a strong leader to keep things together. Putin believes that he is the same as Russia, and as long as his inner circle of mafia chiefs, siloviki, and oligarchs concur, he will continue to induce fear and intimidation to get his way.

      On the international scene, that approach can backfire. Look beneath the Potemkin facade to Russian reality, and wise persons can understand the risk that Putin is putting Russia through — unnecessarily.

      Putin and his mouthpieces have been threatening nuclear war. Russia’s elite will cut Putin into tiny pieces before it allows Putin to take the country into all out nuclear war. They are already conspiring against him — just in case — just as there were multiple conspiracies against Hitler and Stalin in their day.

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