“Nothing makes a man more nationalistic than to think his country is owned by foreigners. He can adjust in time to losing a war. That only means the enemy was stronger. But to lose his economy means the enemy was smarter; the period of occupation lasts longer, and so do the scars.” ~ “The Bourne Identity”
I’ve read a series of books about Russia lately. I want to understand what’s going on over there if only to have intelligent opinions when my friends bring up Putin’s antics. The Russians are, after all, saying some very pro-family and pro-Christian things. They’re openly defying the politically correct Western ethos and seem to promote nationalism. But the indoctrinated Red-state baby boomers, including all the Republican presidential candidates, have a different idea. To them, Putin isn’t a pro-family, traditionalist hero; he’s an ex-KGB agent trying to secretly re-build a communist empire so he can take over the world.
Fr. Raph Johnson introduced many alternative rightists, not only to Eastern Orthodoxy and monarchy, but to Russia and the Eastern European political situation. I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of his podcast audio. His enthusiasm for Russia and Eastern Europe never rubbed off on me but I did pay close attention to his interpretation of events. If not for Raph Johnson, my study into Russian politics would have landed me in the Neo-Con camp. But thanks to him, I was able to see a different story behind the one being spun by English-speaking commentators.
First, I read Bill Browder’s “Red Notice.”
Browder was one of the jewish bankers trying to take financial control of Russia after the fall of communism; he was one of the only Western investment bankers willing to exploi…er…I mean… invest in Russia initially. Browder, like most jews I’ve met, comes across as a likeable guy and his book was exciting and well written. It tells how he muscled through the underbelly of the fledgling post-Communist market in Russia. He made a successful investment in Russian vouchers which catapulted him to fame in the Western banking world, making him the go-to liaison for billionaires and hedge fund managers Everyone wanted a piece of the Russian pie.
He went into business for himself, starting his own hedge fund in Russia. It was initially successful, but then he ran afoul of one of the infamous Russian “oligarchs”.
“What’s an oligarch” you ask? After the fall of communism, the KGB was left holding the majority of Russia’s assets. Eventually, deals were made and a small group of filthy rich business men, about a hundred or so, ended up with thirty percent of the entire nation’s assets. These men are referred to as the “oligarchs”.
Browder paints his clash with the oligarch as an example of Russian ineptitude and stubbornness. Russians do not want their neighbors to succeed and will stop at nothing to screw them over, even if it hurts their own interests. This didn’t make sense to me. I thought there must have been another reason for this powerful business owner to clash with Browder’s hedge fund. Browder hints at it himself: the Russians have a backwards notion that foreigners shouldn’t make money at Russia’s expense.
Long story short, Putin kicks Browder out of Russia. Browder, as jews are wont to do, went crying to the media, raised a ruckus in 2012, and managed to persuade the American government to pass the Magnitsky Act which barred the offending Russian “oligarchs” from traveling to the U.S. My readers may be familiar with how Putin retaliated against the Magnitsky Act; he barred the Western adoption of Russian children. My friends in the alternative right were applauding this, citing the morally decrepit nature of Westerners and seeing it as a slight against the degeneracy of America. Well done Putin. Browder, however, saw it as a horrible attempt (he drones on and on about it with typical jewish melodrama) to use children in a political game of cat and mouse.
What troubles me about Browder’s story is that, according to him, foreign investors take no controlling interest in the companies they invest in. If that’s so, then my paradigm, building off Raph Johnson’s work, which says that Russia is protecting its national integrity by forcefully regulating (through bully tactics) its economy, would be wrong. And Browder’s paradigm – of Putin as a bloodthirsty, greedy, tyrant, interested only in keeping his power and wealth, would be true. Why would Putin’s wolf pack attack Browder if Browder posed no thread to Russia? The only explanation would be that they wanted the hedge fund’s wealth.
I suspect there’s more to the story than Browder’s willing to tell us though – for example, he doesn’t disclose all of his investments. He mentions his investment in Russian oil, but I suspect he was also trying to muscle in on Russian media and television. And even though he claims he wouldn’t have exerted any influence over the companies, is that really true? What would you think if an enemy of yours up and buys 30 percent of your house?
Even if Browder has accurately described Putin’s tyrannical “tactics” (unexplained police raids, etc.), in my mind, they were warranted.
Heck, Browder brags about being at a meeting of international bankers and powerful rich people. There, he saw George Soros as well as many of the infamous Russian “oligarchs”. They were concerned that Boris Yeltsin would lose the election to a communist and all their chances for investing in Russia would be lost. They were all on edge, but assured Browder that they’d “make sure Yeltsin would win – they controlled the media, after all. If these interests were able to control Russia before Putin came to power, then – were I Putin – I’d be very touchy about them trying to reassert themselves financially.
No – Putin, in my mind, was right to throw Browder out of the country and he’s right to carry on his legal campaign against him. That’s what a real nationalist leader ought to do.
Next I read “Kleptocracy: Who really owns Russia” – a fascinating book detailing the exact nature of Putin’s rise to power and outlining the make up of his “shadow” government which, from my perspective, seems more like a quasi-feudalist arrangement. Even in this book, also written from a view that’s hostile to Putin, the author mentions how “paranoid”Russians are about foreign financial interests. “Kleptocracy” was written by a reporter and aims at educating the reader more than entertaining – so it’s less of a narrative account, like Browder’s had been, and more a book-length time-line of events. Snooze.
I’ve read other books and, of course, hope to continue my study as my interest allows. But for now, I’m choosing to see Russia as Raph Johnson sees her – a quasi-feudalist state, where Vladamir Putin forcefully wrested control away from the “oligarchs”, centralized it to himself, and set up a loose system of “tribute” and under-the-table pay-offs. “For my friends, everything. For my enemies…the law!”
…and God bless him for it…