Sanctions are one of the important ways to America and Europe are retaliation against Russia for myself Invasion of Ukraine. These sanctions are holding back the Russian economy, and they are especially hard on life and business for Russia’s oligarchs, an elite group of wealthy people who get their start had enormous influence on Russian politics as they became rich during the post-Soviet privatization era. status.
Foreign governments around the world are seizing oligarchs’ assets and yachts, banning them from travel and cutting them off from most business with the US and Europe. The aim is to squeeze Russia’s wealthiest citizens, censor them, and force them to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his campaign against Ukraine.
“That’s the trillion dollar question,” writes Oliver Bullough, a journalist. Newsletter about the oligarchy at Coda. “Can these people restrain Putin?”
But it’s important to realize that since Putin was elected in 2000, the oligarchic regime in Russia is not as active as it once was; Its members have far less power and influence than they ever did. These sanctions have so far only led to a handful of oligarchs commenting on Ukraine, many of them based outside of Russia.
Bullough told Recode: “Putin brought the tycoons inside. “And now we have much of the same system as the Tudor court of Henry VIII, with a king and then a number of nobles around him who owned their property as long as he was willing. tolerant of them.”
Bullough added: “The word ‘oligarchy’ is a bit old-fashioned, in a weird way, but we don’t have a better word.
The limited power of Putin’s oligarchs 2.0
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, the world has grappled with questions of how the conflict might end, and whether Putin’s advisers or the country’s elite – have been so. influential in the Kremlin – can play some role.
However, the idea that individual oligarchs can sway Putin is now a misunderstanding of modern Russia, said Ben Judah, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author. belong to Fragile Empire: How Russia Loved and Infatuated with Vladimir Putin. “That’s how Russia worked 15 or 20 years ago,” Judah said, “not how Russia works today.”
Controlling Russia’s oligarchs was something Putin promised during his first presidential campaign, and he didn’t wait long to get started. In 2003, Putin arrested and jailed Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who owned a 78% stake in the Russian oil giant Yukos and was then the richest man in Russia. Khodorkovsky was officially charged financial crimebut he is also funding Putin’s opposition parties.
The example Putin cites when arresting Khodorkovsky is clear: “The oligarchs basically realize that they only own property as long as they [Putin] want them to own it. That changed their whole approach to politics. It also increases their motivation to earn more wealth outside of Russia, to get as much as possible abroad, where it will be safe,” Bullough told Recode.
Meanwhile, a new type of oligarch has gained power: siloviki, which mainly depicts businessmen with connections to the Federal Security Service, the police and the military. The siloviki are tools that help Putin consolidate power, acting as his muscles. They became extremely wealthy by being near the president, creating a class of “delusions” who are even more dependent on Putin than the oligarchs who amassed their fortunes in the 1990s. .
All the power and wealth of the Russian oligarchs is for nothing, and they know it. That is why the limited number of people who have spoken out about the war so far are those who hold foreign passports or reside outside of Russia. Some tycoons, and even their childrencalled for peace – but did not explicitly condemn Putin.
Oleg Deripaska, a Russian industrialist is now worth a little more 2 billion USD, according to Forbes, called peace “very important.” “The whole world will be different after these events and Russia will be different,” he wrote on Telegram. He was sanctioned by the US government in 2018 for his ties to Putin following allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election.
Mikhail Fridman, founder of Alfa Bank, called the invasion a tragedy in a press conference. But when asked about using his influence to put pressure on the Kremlin, Fridman replied: “You should understand that it’s a very sensitive issue,” and said he could not make his partners and its staff is at risk by commenting on Putin. Britain was sanctioned by the EU on February 28.
Evgeny Lebedev, who owns the British newspapers Independent and Evening Standard, wrote an op-ed in the Standard begged Putin to stop the war. Lebedev holds dual Russian and British citizenship; He is also a member of the English football team. He was not punished.
Again, these measured reactions from the oligarchs should come as no surprise. Stanislav Markus, a University of South Carolina professor who has studied Russia’s oligarchs extensively, told Recode that direct criticism of Putin would be “a rather dangerous position to hold”.
Judah, a senior member of the Atlantic Council, said: “When it came to making all-out decisions in Ukraine, Putin made it alone. “Over the past few years, Putin has become increasingly alienated from the so-called old inner circle and the Russian elite in general.”
Judah quoted a scene from security council meeting Putin made the call on February 21, shortly before the invasion of Ukraine. Sergey Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, stammered when Putin asked if he supported the recognition of Russia’s independence. Donetsk and LuhanskUkraine’s two territories have been controlled by pro-Russian rebels for nearly a decade. “The way Putin talked to him made him so scared that he forgot about the topic being discussed,” Judah said. “So if Sergey Naryshkin is scared of Putin, seemingly away from him, there is little chance of those entrepreneurs simply stepping in and stopping him.”
The story that Putin’s siloviki – or other oligarchs – can meaningfully dissent is “fantasy,” says Judah.
“[The sanctions] can really cause grumbling, discontent and fear in the political system,” he continued. But when it comes to what could happen to Putin, he said we should think about “what happens to dictators, not what happens to people who are strong with governments”.
How Putin’s war could affect power in the long term
If this war is really Putin’s Decision alone, he is both controlling and isolated.
Squeezing Russia’s oligarchs may not lead to Putin facing a war he has indicated he ready to sacrifice a lot for. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t have an impact later on. These sanctions will have aftershocks; if so, they reveal to the Russian oligarchs the limits of their power and how their destiny is tied to a dictator who has begun to close them off from most of the rest of the world to pursue war.
How they will react is an open question.
Markus, whose research has investigated what Russian oligarchs want and how they try to influence the government, told Recode that part of the reason they don’t often turn against their own government is because Existing global financial players allow them to hold too much capital. offshore. With so much of their wealth stashed outside the Kremlin’s grip, there’s no need to demand Kremlin reform.
That means prolonged sanctions could affect the extent to which Russian elites want institutional change, even if getting there remains difficult. Over the years, Putin showed them How easy is it? not good for himand its dire consequences.
“If before, they thought, ‘No matter what the Kremlin does, I still have my commercial profits with the United States or Europe or whoever, I don’t need to get involved in politics in Russia’, Now, more and more, they’re saying Markus.
https://www.vox.com/recode/22971179/russian-oligarchs-influence-putin-ukraine-war-sanctions-limits Could sanctions on Russian oligarchs affect Putin’s war in Ukraine?