West can stop Putin only by focusing on the dirty money Moscow keeps and uses abroad

Putin and Medvedev. Expert estimated Putin's net worth at $200 billion, (CNN)

Experts estimate Putin's net worth at $200 billion, gotten through plundering state resources (CNN) 

International, More

Sanctions against Putin’s Russia and other authoritarian regimes are like those imposed in the past against apartheid in South Africa: morally necessary but insufficient by themselves to cause political change. And moving up forces to areas threatened by Russia is also limited in its impact on the Kremlin leader’s behavior, Lilia Shevtsova says.

If the West is to contain Putin, she says, it must begin by recognizing that it needs a new paradigm, one that reflects the centrality for the Putin elite of money, generally illegally obtained, the desire of that elite to keep it in safe havens abroad, and Moscow’s willingness and ability to buy support among Western elites.

Only by recognizing this and taking action to expose and then limit such financial operations, the Moscow commentator says, can the West hope to “liquidate the cancerous tumor” within itself and establish new post-Cold War rules of the game that the Kremlin will have an interest in not violating.

Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Moreover, Shevtsova argues, Western governments and especially European ones should adopt a similar strategy against the authoritarian regimes in “Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and other [post-Soviet] countries lest they exploit the openings the West has provided them by using methods that no longer affect key elites directly.

In an interview with Charter 97’s Natalya Radina, Shevtsova says that Europe has undergone a stress test over the last year because of Putin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas. It has shown far more unity and gumption than many might have expected given all its internal divisions.

But the statements it has made and the sanctions it has employed against Putin’s Russia are “only a tactic and not a strategy,” and they are unlikely to be effective on their own unless combined with a clearly developed range of measures designed to “force a regime which is crossing a red line not to do something bad.”

The place to start for thinking about what such a strategy should look like, Shevtsova says, is to recognize that “the Soviet Union survived on account of its confrontation with the West. But the post-Soviet Russia of Yeltsin and now Putin survives by integration with the West, by the formation inside it of a source of enrichment, a ‘fifth column’ and spheres of influence.”

That is “a completely new model of survival,” she says, and consequently, “it is impossible to cope with the Putin Kremlin, to contain and limit his freedom of action by applying to Russia only economic and military sanctions, by sending five armored vehicles or tanks to Lithuania, by creating rapid deployment forces” or something similar.

What needs to happen, the Moscow analyst says, is for Europe and the West more generally to investigate Russian money abroad, where it is being invested, and to whom it is being paid, and then block the flows of money that Putin and his entourage have illegally obtained, as is the case with much of it.

That won’t easy for Europe to do, she says, because many in Europe are profiting from the existence of this Russian money; but Europe will not succeed in containing Putin if it does not focus on this issue and take decisions. “The situation is completely new, and one must not compare it with ‘the cold war.’” A new “system of taboos” must be developed.


Had Western analysts been paying attention, Shevtsova says, they would have noticed that the Kremlin well before Ukraine, indeed as early as 2007, had developed and ultimately formally approved a new concept of its foreign relations which reflected its new concerns with money and its placement abroad.

Before the Crimean Anschluss, Moscow saw as the matrix of its approach integration with Europe and the Western community on the basis of dialogue. Now, Shevtsova argues, it sees this wealth as a means of survival, of “containing the West inside and beyond the borders of Russia,” an approach in which Ukraine has become “a laboratory for testing this doctrine.”


More on the topic:

SWIFT disconnect: Why does it absolutely terrify the corrupt Russian elite?

One bank official from Cyprus* explained to me why Medvedev, Kostin, etc. responded so nervously and inadequately to reports of a possible disconnection of Russia from SWIFT. The fact is that while the other Western sanctions affect the Russian economy as a whole, a disconnection from SWIFT would primarily affect them personally.

Ban RUSSIA from the SWIFT payment system!

Ban RUSSIA from the SWIFT payment system!

Edited by: A. N.

Dear readers! Since you’ ve made it to this point, we have a favor to ask. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is ongoing, but major news agencies have gone away, which is why it's extra important to provide news about Ukraine in English. We are a small independent journalist team on a shoestring budget, have no political or state affiliation, and depend on our readers to keep going (using the chanсe - a big thank you to our generous supporters, we couldn't make it without you.)  If you like what you see, please help keep us online with a donation

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. Avatar James Godber says:

    Blind Freddie. could see this is what is needed , but Putin, all so knows , how corrupt
    the leaders , of the west are , they need . Russia dirty money for there
    own political selfish, need to be elected . this simple wont happen , and
    I agree , this is the way to go . but the current Weston leadership . is more
    interested , in keeping , there . respective political party , in power . so they can chase there , dream of a super tax on climate . than to confront
    the worlds biggest . threat which is Putin’s Russia , and again
    Blind FREEDDIE can see that Russia is a far bigger threat to man kind
    than . in change in climate , if Weston country’s spent the money on this real and immurement . danger . than wast , the free worlds , money on something
    that may or may not happen thousands of years from now . we will all know in our life time , which threat is real , and my bet it is Russia , not climate.
    but Obama, will for the last two years of his presidency, spend billions on something that cant be seen or ever proven to exist, than to face the reality of , a real threat off nuclear WAR , from Russia , while Putin is in power

    1. Avatar disqus_aJpixObjG7 says:

      who/what do you mean by BLIND FREDDIE?

  2. Avatar John Christmas says:

    There is a huge problem that isn’t widely known because very few journalists are brave enough to write about it: the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been fighting whistleblowers for years to fraudulently fund and protect the Putin Regime’s bank network. Anyone who wants to know the ugly details can look at the Lawless Latvia website or follow Lawless Latvia on Facebook or Twitter.