Staunton, September 12 – Unless the West finds a way to return to the Russian people the trillion US dollars the Putin regime looted from Russia, Andrey Piontkovsky says, it risks losing the second cold war because the Russian people will conclude that the West’s goal over the last 30 years was to allow Putin to enrich himself so he in turn could enrich them.
For much of the last 20 years, the West turned a blind eye to the looting of Russia that Putin and his cronies engaged it, deferring to their insistence that the newly privatized property there was sacred and that much of their wealth would be invested in the West to the profit of Western firms and governments, the Russian analyst says.
Only when Putin began projecting power beyond the borders of his country and demanding that the West support him in his actions did some in the West begin to wake up to the fact that the Russian people viewed the West as a kind of co-conspirator with Putin against them rather than as their ally against him (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F5CD900D5E1B).
Although “the theft of Russia and aggression against Ukraine are different crimes,” Piontkovsky continues, “they were committed -- and this is not an accident but the most fundamental logic – by practically one and the same people. And we know their names.” Many of them have been sanctioned, but that isn’t enough.
The Russian analyst, who was one of the co-authors of an Atlantic Council report on this requirement, quotes that report as insisting that returning “ill-gotten assets” of the Putin elite “to the Russian people is a requirement for a Western victory in the new cold war (atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/how-to-identify-the-kremlin-ruling-elite-and-its-agents/).
The Putin regime reacted with extreme anger even to the sanctions, let alone to this appeal to return the wealth it stole to its proper owners, the Russian people. “The Putinoids stole one trillion US dollars from Russians, and these enormous sums have already been invested in the American economy where they have become an organic element” of its functioning.
Returning this money will be complicated and difficult, Piontkovsky argues; “but if it is not returned, then everything that has occurred with Russia over the last three decades will be viewed as a gigantic two-step combination by the insidious Anglo-Saxons to steal this wealth. Any other interpretation will turn out to be impossible.”
According to the Russian analyst, “the strategic goal of the West, the most important task of its security, is not to worsen relations with Russia but to end the hybrid war the Kremlin regime has launched against it.” What has to be recognized by the West is that “the West can win this war, just like the previous cold war, only in the hearts and minds of Russian citizens.”
That requires in the first instance that the West make clear that it is opposing not Russia and Russians “but rather the Kremlin kleptocracy which has humiliated its own people” and that at a fundamental level, the West recognize that its “real and not imaginary guilt” is that it has cooperated so long with the Putin kleptocrats.
“It is still not too late to change the situation,” Piontkovsky says. The West must simply follow its own laws, seize the assets of the Russian kleptocrats held in the West and transfer them to their “lawful owner, the first post-criminal government of Russia.” More people in the West are prepared to take this step now than were a few years ago.
That will hurt some in the West who have benefited from the Faustian bargain they have made with criminals in Moscow, but it will benefit both Russia and the West in more fundamental ways.