Opinion | The Putin I Knew; The Putin I Know
The UdPRF’s black budget is in the billions of rubles. It controls perks dispensed to obedient Kremlin apparatchiks, but also covert action programs of the sort that resulted in the Trump dossier assembled by Christopher Steele in 2016. It’s certain that under the Mr. Putin I know, all of Russia’s varied intelligence agencies will continue to practice deza, vranyo, and kompromat operations against the United States. And personnel from Russia’s main intelligence agency, the F.S.B., and its military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., will be involved in more attacks against and murders of Russian dissidents and opponents of Mr. Putin living in the West. To the Mr. Putin I know, borders mean nothing.
A couple of months ago Volodya tried — luckily, he failed — to insert a crony as head of Interpol, the international police organization, presumably so he could turn it into his personal posse. Of course he did. Corruption is in Russia’s DNA, as it is in Mr. Putin’s.
Something else I’ve discovered since moving is that many of America’s Kremlin-watchers don’t understand that Mr. Putin is running scared these days. His recent election may have been guaranteed; his future is anything but.
Why? Because Volodya has no one watching his back. Mayor Sobchak and President Yeltsin hired and promoted him because of his personal loyalty, but both are long dead. The Mr. Putin I knew back then allowed his superiors to accumulate huge wealth, and then he shielded them from indictment. He built a protective wall around Mr. Sobchak even as the mayor was caching millions of dollars in Paris. Later, as head of Mr. Yeltsin’s F.S.B., Mr. Putin quashed an investigation of the Yeltsin family by the prosecutor general at the time, Yuri Skuratov, by vouching for the authenticity of a fuzzy video of a man said to be Mr. Skuratov in bed with two prostitutes. And in his first hours as acting president of the Russian Federation on Dec. 31, 1999, Volodya wrote a decree that pardoned Mr. Yeltsin and his family from any criminal charges.
But there are no such decrees in Volodya’s future. It has long been rumored that he has a huge fortune stashed away. But if that is true, it is likely held by friends, associates or even some of the criminals Mr. Putin has made filthy rich.
So, my question is: When Volodya finally leaves power, will those filthy-rich friends, associates and co-conspirators give him back any of those billions?
Somehow, I don’t think so. I’ve lived in Russia. Sharing’s not the Russian way.
Franz J. Sedelmayer is the chief executive officer of MARC, the Multinational Asset Recovery Company,and the author of “Welcome to Putingrad.”
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