Staunton, May 22 – “The main export of Russia today to the West is hardly oil and gas ass many think,” Vladimir Pastukhov says. “Rather it is the export of [Putin-era Russian] ethical and political standards, or crudely speaking, the export of corruption,” given the enormous sums of unearned cash that suddenly fell into the hands of some Russians 20 years ago.
Speaking via Skype on the Ekho Moskvy program, “Personally Yours,” yesterday, the Russian historian who currently works at University College London says that the amount of such money “is so large that it has had a traumatic impact on the political system of the West, on its judicial and law enforcement systems” (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalnovash/2204896-echo/).
“The Western system of course has a higher level of immunity to corruption that does Russia and countries of the third world,” Pastukhov says; “but it isn’t absolute. And therefore Western countries must do something about it.” That is what Britain and other Western countries are now trying to do.
But the Russian historian says that he is “deeply skeptical” that the measures taken so far or even being contemplated will have an impact on Putin and his friends as their authors hope. They are more likely to affect those Russians who have simply tried to protect their wealth by putting some of it beyond the borders of Russia.
Complicating the response is the fact that many Western societies are deeply split about what to do, with some now moving in an extremely left-wing direction as in Britain and quite sympathetic to Putin and his regime if not to the oligarchs regarding whom they draw a clear distinction and others only too happy to profit from the corrupt Russian money.
In the course of a wide-ranging discussion, Pastukhov made a number of other noteworthy comments:
· “In Russia over the last 20 years and perhaps more, a process of desstorying elites and the degradation and reduction to nothing of their autonomy and independence has been going on.”
· Aleksey Kudrin’s return to the government “must not be underrated.” Not only is he likely to have a chance to rise higher than his current position as head of the Audit Chamber, but he represents a focus of hopes and dreams of many in the elite precisely because he is one of the last who is able to differ with Putin and survive.
· With its propaganda outlets like Russia Today, “Russia is producing an ideological product without having a serious ideology,” something that is obvious to anyone who plays close attention.
· And, perhaps most intriguingly, “Putin is one of the numerous essences of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, one of those many people who live within him. These faces are not always in a position to agree with one another in much the same way that the heads of a mythological dragon can’t either.”