The long-awaited “Kremlin list,” which was published by the US Department of Treasury and which included 210 names of the top Russian officials and businessmen, did not produce the expected bomb shell effect on the Russian elite. However, just like any hint at a possibility of denouncing your enemies to a powerful “regulator,” it unleashed an avalanche of Stalinist times-like denunciations from the so called liberal opposition in Russia. As usual, the people from Yabloko party and their likes revealed themselves to be capable of nothing except reporting to their Western sponsors on “nasty oligarchs,” who prevent the likes of Grigory Yavlinsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza (the Western media’s choices for Russia’s leaders) from coming to power in Russia.
NO PANIC AT THE TOP
Instead of trembling with fear, Russia’s finance minister Anton Siluanov, who was included in the list, said he viewed this situation “philosophically” and planned to continue working as usual, since almost all the other government members were included. Other officials also found the list somewhat too inclusive. Vice-premier Arkady Dvorkovich, with his liberal reputation and fresh tan from his recent trip to Davos, said the list read like “Who is Who in Russia” booklet. Indeed, everyone who means something in the government, Kremlin administration and Russian Forbes’ rating of the country’s richest citizens, ended up on the list. “As a government minister, I just had to be there, otherwise people wouldn’t understand,” Dvorkovich commented.
Some analysts even thanked the lazy girls and boys from the US Treasury Department for their idiotic list: first, preparing for the worst, Russia made some important changes since last summer; second, the list is an almost copy-paste plagiarism of the rating of Russia’s most influential people from Russian dailies and the conspicuous absence in it of the powerful Anatoly Chubais and Elvira Nabiullina immediately marked them as the persons whom the US views as the preferred candidates for getting more power.
THE LIST AS AN INCENTIVE
“This list had been expected in Russia since August last year, and it helped us correct some of our past mistakes. For example, last year the Central Bank published information on the Russian banks that credited our defense industry. Fearing sanctions, Alfa Bank’s owners publicly stopped crediting this sphere, obviously trying to avoid being included in the list. So, now all information on loans for defense industry is classified, as it should be. The decision has been taken to entrust one powerful bank with doing this job,” explained Andrei Sidorov, the head of the Department of Global Processes at Moscow State University (MGU). “Besides, when [Americans] add to the black list the heads of Russia’s main companies, such as Lukoil and Sberbank, they help the Russian government “nationalize” the heads of these companies and move the companies’ assets back the country. The reason is simple: it becomes dangerous to keep money abroad.”
The list was produced in accordance with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSA), passed by the Congress and approved by US President Donald Trump in summer last year. http://prod-upp-image-read.ft.com/40911a30-057c-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5 The law obliged the US government to provide “a list of senior political figures and oligarchs” as determined by “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth” (you had to own no less than $1 billion to qualify for the list). The US authorities were expected to find out the sources of income of the list’s members and their relatives – and report this information to Congress. So that the US would have it at hand in order to be able to put pressure on Moscow, thus reducing Russia’s capabilities for “aggression.” The idea of the Treasury Department’s list is to fight against these mythical “aggressions” by the trusted method of Hitler and Stalin – by hitting at the enemy’s children and parents, their freedom and property.
THANK YOU, FRIENDLY FIRE
It was not immediately clear how Russia’s potential aggressions could benefit from the activities of the list’s member Mikhail Fedotov, the chairman of Russia’s Council on Human Rights, which defended just about every Western agent in the NGOs, every “artist” specializing on anti-Putin and anti-Russia insults in the last 5 years. But thank you, the Treasury Department, for including this truly powerful and truly cruel (Fedotov never defended poor people, preferring to concentrate on Khodorkovsky) person in your list. We understand it was some “friendly fire,” but thank you anyway.
The other problem of the idiot girls from the Treasury Department is that their list brought together some of the members of Russian elite, who are known to be antagonists. So, instead of antagonizing, the list actually melds the Russian elite together by showing the common threat – the US government’s dangerous inadequacy. For example, the list includes both Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin and his longtime opponent Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the owner of Sistema investment company. These strange bedfellows found themselves next to each other in the list of oligarchs to be watched, even though the Western press loves to write about the “evil patriot” Sechin suing in courts the nice liberal Yevtushenkov, presenting the latter billionaire as a victim of the “regime.”
LIBERALS’ LUST FOR REVENGE
The other moment of truth about the list is the avalanche of “denunciation initiatives” from the so called Russian liberals, including journalists. Leonid Bershidsky, the founder of the ultraliberal, pro-Western Moscow-based Vedomosti daily, who is now residing abroad, suggested via his article on Bloomberg’s Internet site some additional candidacies for the bill. These candidacies included a Russian businessman who bought RBC – a formerly virulently anti-Russian media outlet, where a lot of Bershidsky’s former “students” in journalism continue to work. Thus Mr. Bershidsky is ready to sacrifice the financial stability of his own colleagues and comrades-in-arms to his insatiable lust for revenge. It has been clear that the never-changing list of “bad oligarchs,” provided to the Western media by the US-certified “anti-corruption crusader” Alexei Navalny, is produced by the same motives as Bershidsky’s initiatives: personal antipathy and the desire to improve the situation of the competing “good oligarchs.”
The idiocy of the Treasury Department’s bill is an indicator not just of the US government’s own inadequacy. It also reveals the level of “competence” of the Russian liberal opposition, which the American side reportedly consults before imposing new sanctions. The Treasury Department’s list was also a fruit of joint labors of American bureaucrats and pro-Western Russian “activists.”
“Yabloko supports the idea of personalized sanctions against the oligarchate, against the people who perceive Putin as a guarantor of stability,” Emilia Slabunova, the chairwoman of Yabloko party, is quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying in December last year.
Add to it some pure incompetence and laziness on the side of US officials, who confuse the names and are generally uninterested in the inner workings of the countries they want to govern from outside. For example, the list includes Oleg Budargin as the head of Russia’s “Rosseti” company, even though Budargin quit that position months ago. The same is true about Kirill Shamalov, who sold his share in SIBUR company for an undisclosed amount of money, but who is still listed in the American report as SIBUR’s top person. Which he was – but only last August, when Mr. Trump signed the CATSA bill. Indeed, the professionalism of the people who compiled the list is much more in question now than the future of the list’s members.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.