Hypocrisy, kleptocracy and energy
The hypocrisy of the kleptocracy that is Russia is mind-boggling. They are not alone, however (more on that toward the end of this post). But let’s examine Russia first. The children of the hypocrites that steer the Russian kleptocracy (Putin, his homies and oligarchs) range far and wide, enjoying all the luxury and glamor that the decadent West offers. They live in mansions in posh areas, flaunt designer clothes, drive expensive cars, fly on private jets, take luxurious vacations, cruise on mega-yachts and attend exclusive educational institutions in Europe and the US, all while their Russian parents continue to rant, rail and criticize the West. I’m having difficulty getting my head around the fact that the parents of these spoiled brats are allowing them to grow up in societies the parents claim to reject. Is it only me or do others see the hypocrisy in this?
Hypocrisy and double standards
It’s pretty apparent that double standards are alive and well for the elite in Russia. Activist Alexey Navalny’s investigations and videos about the apparent unexplained wealth of top government officials have particularly angered the Kremlin. Navalny survived an assassination attempt and remains imprisoned, which is par for the course in Russia today. One of the many ironies of this bloody war is that the Kremlin’s strategy in the West is trying to exploit our fears of censorship, which is ludicrous since tolerates no dissent within its borders. Another example of Russia’s hypocrisy is its effort to drum up concern about Western imperialism, all while waging an aggressive and brutal imperialist war against its neighbor.
Putin, scum and traitors
Despite his own family members’ connections to the West, Putin recently went on a rampage in a speech against Russians who “mentally align with the West,” saying that they think they belong to a “higher race” and accusing them of “working with the West to destroy Russia.” Among other things, Putin said, “The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths.” Fish or cut bait. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If the West is so horrible and is only out to destroy Russia, shouldn’t they bring their children home to “enjoy” the benefits of Russian education, the free media and high living standard? I mean, it only makes sense. Moreover, bringing them home would lighten the enormous financial load on the pocketbooks of Russian government officials struggling to support their offspring on their government salaries. It’s obvious that corruption and hypocrisy abound.
Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s deputy chief of staff and chief spokesman, spews forth Putin’s hardline criticism of the West while praising the virtues of Russia, is an excellent example of living luxurious lifestyles that can’t possibly be supported by his annual civil-servant salary of some $175,00 (2020 figure). Peskov has been seen sporting a $600,000 designer watch and rented a yacht for his honeymoon that reportedly cost more than $400,000 per week. But that’s not all. According to the Russian Anti-Corruption Foundation, his ex-wife, current wife and children own expensive cars and luxurious residences around the world. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is another excellent example.
Lavrov can best be characterized as Putin’s version of “Baghdad Bob,” who, if you remember, continued to claim Iraq was winning even when you could see coalition troops and tanks entering Baghdad in the background. Despite railing about the failures of the West, Lavrov’s children and “stepchildren” enjoy the benefits of Russia’s “corruption-free” government payments (declared income: $136,000/year combined for Lavrov and his wife) while living in the corrupt West. They own multimillion-dollar residences and study at the best universities. One of Lavrov’s daughters lived in New York for 17 years while studying at Columbia University and then moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics. And let’s not forget his eldest son, who grew up in England, flies in private jets, owns prime real estate in Moscow and “races his fleet of luxury vehicles through the city accumulating a reported 116 traffic violations,” all while allegedly unemployed. Lavrov’s real estate value is more than he would earn in 100 years, according to the Russian publication The Insider (now designated as a “foreign agent”). I don’t know about you, but I just can’t square that circle. And then there’s the Putin clan.
The Putin clan
The plot thickens as I take on the puppet master himself. Putin excels in regurgitating harsh anti-Western rhetoric. He claims to be religious yet continued to bomb Odessa during the Russian Orthodox Easter. He talks a great game but fails to follow his own “supposed” beliefs. He’s made sure that his clan has taken advantage of the cream of what the hell-bent-to-destroy-Russia West has to offer. OK, I’m sure his salary as head of state is quite good but is it this good? One of his alleged mistresses suddenly gained the title to a $4 million apartment in Monaco right after their “love child” was born, according to the Russian independent media outlet Proekt. Putin is rumored to have more children out of wedlock, all of whom appear to have lived in Western countries, which the Kremlin has always denied, of course. After marrying a Dutch businessman, his oldest daughter lived in a $3 million residence in the West (granted, his salary probably helped somewhat). Putin’s youngest daughter has done quite well, too. When she was married, her husband purchased an eight-bedroom villa in Biarritz, France, from one of Putin’s longtime friends, who, coincidentally, was a billionaire. Imagine that. So, how do they get away with it? The answer is simple: kleptocracy.
Kleptocracy comes from Greek and means “I steal.” Georgetown University professor Jodi Vittori, an expert on corruption and global policy, defines kleptocracy as follows: “A kleptocracy is merely a government that is ruled by thieves and where the policies and decisions are made are on behalf of those thieves.” Russian kleptocrats just love to spend their ill-gotten wealth in the West. In fact, they’re downright stoked about it. What a surprise. They squirrel away their fortunes by using offshore banks, hidden transactions and shell companies. They also want to get their funds to the West because they’re safer there, thanks to the rule of law, which is ironically one thing they don’t want to see introduced in Russia. I’m sure you can guess why. Russian officials and their families are hypocrites – plain and simple. They enjoy the very best of the West while millions of their fellow countrymen live in poverty. When it comes to these cynical individuals, I guess the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak! It’s always valuable to know the caliber of people you’re dealing with and hearing in the media so you can take what they say with a grain of salt. So much for Russia, but what about the EU and the US? Do they also have a role in helping the “bad guys?” Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
Admittedly, weaning itself from Russian oil and gas quickly is difficult to accomplish, but how hard is the EU trying, especially Germany? “European Union imports of Russian fossil fuels accounted for 44 billion euros ($46.3 billion) from February 24, the day Russia launched its invasion, to April 24. That’s more than double the value of Russian energy imported by EU states during the same two-month period last year,” according to Lauri Myllyvirta, the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). CREA says exports of fossil fuel are financing Putin’s war and are a critical component of Russia’s military buildup and brutal aggression against Ukraine. “The largest importers in order were Germany (EUR 9.1 billion), Italy (EUR 6.9 billion), China (EUR 6.7 billion), Netherlands (EUR 5.6 billion), Turkey (EUR 4.1 billion) and France (EUR 3.8 billion),” according to CREA’s most recent report. Kudos go out to Poland and Bulgaria for refusing to pay for their energy imports in rubles. Russia responded by shutting off energy supplies to the two countries, despite Russia’s previous hype about being a “secure provider of energy to Europe.” Yet another example of hypocrisy.
Oligarchs continue buying, spending and getting rich because they can do so anonymously in the US. “American industries have long offered Russian oligarchs an anonymous place to stash away billions of dollars from the prying eyes of government officials and regulators,” according to a recent report. That’s right, oligarchs worldwide have targeted the US for their ill-gotten gains because no country has provided more anonymity for their loot in recent years than the US. According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, “There’s a good argument that, right now, the best place to hide and launder ill-gotten gains is actually the United States.” States such as Nevada, Delaware and South Dakota have offered anonymous shell companies and trusts for decades. “American real estate (mansions, commercial buildings, sports arenas, factories, plants and more) has enjoyed a two-decade-long exemption from basic anti-money laundering checks, meaning that the entire industry — worth tens of trillions of dollars, in every jurisdiction around the country — is effectively open for untraceable, anonymous oligarchic wealth,” the report continues. If we want to be serious about sanctions and expect other nations to do the same, this has to stop. Until we remove these options for oligarchs and other nefarious figures worldwide, they will continue to take advantage of the financial secrecy offered in the US to hide their wealth anonymously. And that is also hypocrisy.