Thursday, March 06, 2008

Putin World's Richest Man

An increasing number of surveys rate Russian president Vladimir Putin the richest man in Europe. Putin is allegedly to have amassed enormous wealth during his presidential reign and all the way back to the Petersburg days. At his annual press conference on 14 February, Putin for the first time commented on these rumours:

It is true. I am the richest man not only in Europe, but in the world: I amass emotions and am rich in the sense that the Russian people twice put the trust in me to rule such a great country as Russia. I count this as my biggest wealth.
What concerns various rumours concerning my financial situation, I have seen some documents on this issue. This is simply gossip, which there is no reason to discuss - mere nonsense.
In Russia, there is a tradition of denial whenever such accusations arise. Instead, Putin chose to make fun of the issue - or rather make himself out as honoured by the trust and responsibility the Russian people has put in him. Judging from his body language, the Russian president appeared somewhat ill at ease with the question. Not that it was unexpected, and the answer was certainly rehearsed. Still, one did not need more than a glance at Putin's reaction to gather that he would not have passed a polygraph test.

The question of rising wealth and power in Russia is destined to determine the future development and stability of the country. As long as the elites may share the dividends of growing wealth and power, they will remain loyal to the system. The day this situation will change - e.g. by falling international oil prices - there is nothing to hold the system together except mere repression. The question is but for how long the elites will accept such a system, if they no longer have anything to gain from it. The risk is that a lack of growth will eventually lead Russia into crisis and turmoil with little to keep the system together.


stalker said...

Alternatively, he could be thinking that these charges are so ridiculous that there is absolutely no need to deny them.

Indeed, given that there is only one source of these rumors (Stanislav Belkovsky) with no supporting evidence that I'm aware of, the reaction is quite logical.

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Stalker,

I am really ironising over the whole affair. In any normal country, it would be likewise normal for a president to earn quite a lot of money before, during or after his tenure. Not so in Russia though.

So, what if Putin owns 40 billion USD? Would it be all that wrong - at least if he had made them honestly?

Oh, yeah - right. I almost forgot. As there were no functioning laws in Russia during the 1990s, everyone who made some money broke the law. So, if Putin really had been stinking rich, he would have been a criminal - just like Khodorkovsky or any wealthy person disapproved by power.

Then, corruption would be the only alternative to explain Putin's alleged wealth. The logic would be: Corruption by next to any public office is presupposed, why Putin must be corrupt if he actually was so rich, because he has been a public servant all his life and has not had any other known source of income. Because Putin cannot possibly be a speculator, who has earned a fortune during privatization or on the stock-exchange. It is not even thinkable that Putin might have exploited the masses in such a way.

Such reasoning and discussion could go on and on forever. My point is that it is impossible to deal with such a question in current Russian society, because the system works as it does - regardless of whether Putin is the richest man in the world or not (Who cares?). Nobody really wants to rock the boat by publicly discussing the merger of political and economic power in Russia. As long as that is not the case, there is no way to avoid speculations like that about Putin, and such a discussion is legitimate as long as transparency in these matters does not prevail.

The whole affair - both allegations and denials - implicitly smells of a greater moral collapse and double standards, because nothing in such a discussion can ever logically add up, why the conclusion must be that all the gaps in the logic is due to corruption or criminality, etc. In the end it becomes wholly absurd.



Anonymous said...

He is a very powerful man not only in Europe but the whole world. If only you knew...