03.10.2014 07:09 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: hit Putin where it hurts – in the bank account

Dear Barack Obama, Stephen Harper et al.:
We sense Vladimir Putin is making you angry. Even worse, we sense that he is – once again – making you look like a band of powerless eunuchs.
As he did over Syria. As he did with Edward Snowden. As he did with his gay-hating laws leading up to Sochi. As he even did with that female punk rock band, Pussy Riot – when he defied popular culture deities like Madonna, U2 and Bruce Springsteen.
Putin has made all of you – all of the civilized world, in fact – look pathetic.
Every time he does something outrageous, we raise our voices in protest. And, every time, he keeps on doing what he is doing – laughing at us. Ignoring us.
With his invasion of the Ukraine, he is repeating his tried and true formula. He is expecting the West to act like we have done in the past. That is, say much, but do very little.
We know you don’t want a war with Russia. No one does. But, if any of you were in any way intelligent, you’d simply ask your own citizens for advice.
Because average citizens already know how to bring Putin to heel.
Go to L.A. or the Big Apple. Go to London or Paris or Palm Springs. In each of those places, you’ll hear the same thing: the local language, to be sure.
But the second language-of-choice? It’s Russian.
Those places are overflowing with the new Russian bourgeoisie. They are loud and boorish and easy to spot. And they have money. Lots of it.
Most of them owe their newfound largesse to Putin. They give him their allegiance, and he in turn bestows upon them riches.
They then – pay attention, here – invest those riches in Western banks. Not Russian banks. There was a flight of capital from Russian banks about six years ago. Ever since, the new Russian moneyed class have parked their riches abroad.
In the West.
You can deny visas to powerful Russian officials, to be sure. You can expand the U.S. Magnitsky Act, and cause discomfort to some of those same officials.
You can (and should) revisit Obama’s decision to “reset” relations with Russians, and go ahead with deployment of ballistic missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. You can (and should) kick him out of the G8, and abandon plans to attend a meeting of world leaders in Sochi in June.
But Putin has probably anticipated each of those things. He’s a canny little bastard, after all. What he has not anticipated – and what he cannot contain – is the panic that will grip the new Russian oligarchs when their bank accounts in Miami and London are frozen.
And don’t just stop there, either: bring down a regulatory hammer on the property that Russians have snapped up in the West. Squeeze them until they squeal.
There’s a reason, world leaders, why there was a bloodbath in Russian markets on the day the Crimea was invaded. There’s a reason why there was a massive sell-off in Russian equities, and why the ruble plummeted to an all-time low.
The reason is this: Putin may WANT a new Cold War. But the people who prop him up, the new Russian overclass?
They can’t AFFORD one.


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    smelter rat says:

    Exactly. Money talks, bullshit walks.

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    Kelly says:

    There’s too much money to be made with another cold war. A large part of the US economy is salivating at the prospect. Now the neo-cons get to push everyone around for ANOTHER 10 years. Putin doesn’t care about money; he cares about power and saving face. And in a country like Russia the guys with the guns have the power. At the end of the day politics always trumps economics. The libertarians think otherwise and then the Putins of the world just shoot them in the head and get on with things until someone shoots them, then the cycle repeats.

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      Swervin' Merv says:

      So, whatever became of covert assassination actions in the American toolbox?

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        Kelly says:

        They don’t bother with covert assasinations anymore. They engage in overt ones, now. There is a large flock of drones in the air this very minute for just that purpose.

        Frankly if anyone has to worry I think its the current leaders of Ukraine. Putin has quite a history of just up and offing people he doesnt like.

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    davie says:

    Reminds me of one attributed to Mark Twain, When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

    I see this increasingly as western aggression. Western financials want to get Ukraine so they can privatize whatever will make them a buck, or a euro, and leave the Ukrainian people paying them tribute for decades. At eh same time, NATO, ever looking for a reason to be, wants to get Ukraine for its manpower, and to continue its constant closing in on Russia.

    Couple of things that strike me:

    Our politicians and media want to focus us only on Crimea. They do not want us to notice the cabinet in Kiev. Some time ago there was the leader of the moderates, Vitali Klitschko ( he is easy to recognize in the videos), braving the street crowds to argue moderation; he was the guy sitting across from Yanukovich working out the truce for the streets…the truce that was deliberately broken by Svoboda’s hired soccer thugs with their street weapons. So a new cabinet appoints itself, and no Klitschko. The new cabinet invites in western financials, and invites a meeting with NATO.

    Is no one concerned about the political background and behaviours of the Svoboda members who fill all the justice portfolios in the new cabinet? Where are all our human rights types about who now has police, intell, and military power in Kiev? Are we okay with being on that side politically?

    The cold war rhetoric is all coming from our politicians and media, salivating for those lucrative good old days. For several months we have had a rising shrillness of Them bad Russian, Them Russian are bad, Russians bad…and Putin is Hitler (How many Hitlers have we had to deal with since 1945…I have lost count) Heck, a guy has a tough time finding the usual anti Muslim stuff any more.

    You think you’re getting tough with Putin, but all you’re doing is strengthening his hand in Russia, – same way you did with Ahmadinijad, Same way you did with Saddam Hussein.

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    e.a.f. says:

    The ideas are good,. However, if any foreign countries were to seize these people’s bank accounts, these people would sue, either in the country their bank accounts were seized or in the Hague. They have done nothing illegal. It would be like anther country seizing Canadian bank accounts becaause they disagree with how the Canadian government treats First Nation People.

    The western governments won’t seize bank accounts because it might cause some of their political backers to loose money. That won’t happen. It is one thing to complain about Putin, its another to put your money where your mouth is. Putin could retaliate with cutting oil and gas supplies to Europe. They don’t want to freeze in the dark and they would cave before Putin.

    Putin has been doing inappropriate things since he came to power. No one has stopped him, If anything was said he ignored them. As a result he has continued to push. Now he is in Ukraine. The G7 ought never have permitted him to join the group. It gave him status. It made him exceptable. He should never have been given the Os. It made him look acceptable. Putin is all about power and glory. He sees himself as some sort of demi god. You only have to look at some of his pictures.

    As Ms. Merkle has said, he isn’t dealing with reality. If Ms. Merkle can’t get him to change no one will be able to. Putin doesn’t care how often Obama calls him. He doesn’t like Obama so that is all. Harper calling him, he most likely thinks its funny. By calling him, the other world leaders are saying what you are doing is important. The other countries either need to accept he will push as far west as he can and yes that includes right up to and into Germany, if he can. Remember he was raised on a hatred for Germany. He wants all of the U.S.S. R. back. Perhaps the only country which might be able to influence him is China and they have their own agenda.

    If the Muslim extremists don’t start giving Putin trouble, or someother group, he will continue into the Ukraine and through it. We either go to war, which no one wants or we put up and shut up. What might be best is if some one shoots him. This guy is another Hitler type. He isn’t normal.

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      Kelly says:

      “It would be like anther country seizing Canadian bank accounts becaause they disagree with how the Canadian government treats First Nation People.”


      That is actually not a bad idea. Just might work.

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    Bruce A says:

    Try this podcast on for size.

    I think the Western World, particularity, the United States and Canada are, as Bob Rae contends, drunken gasbags with air horns and painted faces. Baird invoking Godwin’s Law, is especially appalling. We just can’t get over ourselves and it doesn’t matter what side of the ideological fence one is on.


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    Kre8tv says:

    Your prescription is bang-on. The more interesting question: why haven’t they pursued this path?

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    Paul Brennan says:

    The seizing of funds must be strategic…difficult to attack them financially as Russia also holds 200,000,000,000 in US bonds …the US debt situation can probably not handle those being dumped into the market , add in the chinese ally and its trillions and the US could very likely be bitten in the ass very badly.

    Have to try something of value …lets start here

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    Derek Pearce says:

    Now, this *is* a bit rich seeing the US lecture the UK when it comes to money for moral compromise, but the fact is that your (quite morally right, quite effective) prescription will almost certainly, sadly, come to naught: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/londons-laundry-business.html?_r=4

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    Bluegreenblogger says:

    I get a chuckle out of Russian, (and Chinese) commentators who argue that Russia has the ability to crash the $US by dumping T-Bills on the market. There is an old adage, ‘ Borrow a little bit and the bank owns you. Borrow a LOT and you own the bank.’ America has those creditor nations by the short and curlies. Vladmir Putin has hinted darkly that he will retaliate for economic sanctions by using an alternate currency for Russias reserves. If it were so easy, they, many others would already have done so. As far as crashing the US currency, $200b is nowhere near enough. China probably has enough, but heres the kicker. IF the markets did not believe the US could absorb all those T-Bills, then the value would tank, and every nation in the world that kept $US reserves would see their national wealth shrinking before their eyes as the value of their T-Bills evaporated. So very many international debts are settled in $US, and virtually millions of contracts would need to be re-negotiated on the fly. Aside from the damage this would do to Russia, and China, there would be a whole lot of highly pissed off nations.
    Nope, there is little in the way of risks from cutting the Russians off from the worlds financial markets. Some money to be lost, but you cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

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    Paul Brennan says:

    If this worldwide debt debacle continues – no currency will be worth anything ..save precious metals , China is onto that and is buying all they can and encouraging (those who can) Chinese folks to do same


    Word is that all Ukraine gold stores has been flown out of the country

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    Tim Baldwin says:

    Really good article – you don’t pull any punches.

    Seems part of the problem is Putin apologists are out in force e.g. Henry Kissinger wrote, “Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century. Not surprisingly, its leaders have not learned the art of compromise, even less of historical perspective.” (Ukrainians have ample historical perspective – the Holodomor with 3.9 million famine deaths, and a 6.1 million birth deficit.)

    Doug Saunders writes in the Globe and Mail: “Mr. Putin is seeking to ensure that Ukraine’s loyalties will remain neutral, out of fear or out of persuasion…Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former U.S. Secretary of State, argued last week for “the Finnish model as the ideal example for Ukraine, and the EU, and Russia.” Essentially, neutralization, intimidation, coercion, of dissident states is legitimate.

    Almost no coverage of the fact that 10% of Ukraine’s arable land was leased to Chinese state-owned conglomerates (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (XPCC), a quasi-military organization also known as Bingtuan.) The CCP wants the old regime back, or the equivalent, to preserve her leases and supports the Putin line that this is a coup (when in reality it is desperate effort to ensure survival.) The CCP also relishes the thought of the “West” and Russia bogged down in some Slav vs. Slav quagmire indefinitely. Putin is too short sighted to figure this out.

    The EU is deeply compromised, happy for cheap imports, massive investments in Russia. UK banking sector as you allude to. The West, swamped in materialism and sensuality, increasingly places global trade and profiteerism above human rights and the rule of law. These recent disturbing turns are the bitter fruits of that mentalite.

    In closing, an organizing metaphor – i.e. the root of the problem is within:


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