Victor Wynne

Our Oligarch

David Klion:

Abramovich is perhaps the most visible of the “oligarchs” surrounding Putin, who are widely perceived as extensions of the Russian president and keepers of a vast fortune that is effectively under the Kremlin’s control. Much of this wealth was extracted from Russia’s enormous energy and mineral resources, and is now stashed in secret bank accounts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, in empty mansions and condos from London to Manhattan to Miami, and in yachts and private jets on the French Riviera. A 2017 paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that as much as 60% of Russia’s GDP is offshore—which would amount to roughly a trillion dollars outside the country. As Russian forces bombard Ukraine’s cities, the United States and its allies are mobilizing to seize the oligarchs’ overseas assets as a way to isolate and undermine Putin’s government. “Putin views the money in the hands of so-called oligarchs close to the Kremlin as really his money, which can be deployed—and often has been—to pursue interests abroad,” said Ben Judah, a British journalist and author who has written extensively about Putin’s kleptocracy. “Dismantling this network of Kremlin wealth across the West is dismantling a system to advance Putin’s interests.”

Though calls to sanction the oligarchs are escalating, they preceded Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In January 2021, for example, the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny put Abramovich at the top of a list of eight Russian business and political elites who he thinks should be sanctioned by Western governments, calling him “one of the key enablers and beneficiaries of Russian kleptocracy.” (Shortly thereafter, Navalny returned to Russia and faced immediate arrest, and he remains in prison more than a year later.) Navalny’s call is now being echoed by some of the most powerful people on earth. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called out the oligarchs directly. “Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who built billions of dollars off this violent regime, no more,” said Biden to bipartisan applause. “The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We are joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for you.”

The key takeaway being Putin laying claim to his close allies’ money to fund deplorable acts of violence.

I want to give Jewish Currents the props they are due for choosing to exercise good permalink structure.