WASHINGTON – It is now accepted that Putin’s Russia is animated by a strong nationalist/revanchist spirit. After having lost the Cold War, the former Soviets decided that they really needed to regain at least some of what was historically “theirs”: the near abroad, pieces of Georgia, and now Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
We sort of know this, even though we do not know what to do about it. And responses to Putin’s moves in Eastern Ukraine are affected by how anybody evaluates the size of Russian appetites. Are we talking about a few border rearrangements here and there? Or is there a bigger plan for gobbling the Baltic States, and who knows what else?
The real story
Well, be that as it may, there is a bigger story underneath that is currently overshadowed by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. And here it is. Russia is not an autocratic state with neo-imperial aspirations. No, Russia is a criminal state disguised as an autocracy.
Does this sound outlandish? Well, may be.
Bill Browder’s thesis
But this is the thesis formulated by Bill Browder in his book Red Notice. Browder used to be an investor in Russia during the turbulent post-communist years characterized by confusion and lawlessness. His point is that Russia, after having digested the epochal transformations caused by the end of Communism, had a decent chance to become a quasi-normal emerging market.
But that did not happen. The privatizations became high way robbery. 22 people (later on known as the oligarchs) “bought” 40% of all the assets.
Just like the Mafia?
And what followed is not pretty. According to Browder, Russia today is run like a Mafia Family. Putin sits at the top, while his underlings control critical segments of all national assets.
Please click on the link below and watch Browder interviewed by Reuters.
And then you can draw your own conclusions.