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Obres de Catherine Belton


Coneixement comú

Data de naixement
País (per posar en el mapa)
Llocs de residència
Moscow, Russian Federation
London, England, UK
financial journalist



An incredible story one would not believe if it was the plot of a film. Its credibility here is high but perhaps even more powerful than what is real is what one could imagine being the case. So in that sense the book has a bit of a conspiratorial tone and does not clarify how the system could remain sustainable and aligned over such a long timeline.

Ultimately discussion is franed in a west vs east conflict without considering the complexity of political discourse in countries around the world. The conflict might be better characterised by age old progressive versus conservative values where the tactics in the information age are much more sophisticated where countries and companies play through plausible deniability.

It would have been interesting to consider the expected way ahead. The book ends questioning sustainability of the system from economic point of view but does not spend much time explaining why and how it relates to governance.

I think the story is not considering a flip side of the system that must be producing some economic development wifh success and this is a key difference to the USSR. Maybe the route to a win win collaboration ahead some day.
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yates9 | Hi ha 14 ressenyes més | Feb 28, 2024 |
Yesterday it snowed.

By the time I managed to work a walk into my daily routine it was dusk. I took my usual route through the park overlooking Lake Ontario.

There were few people in the park. Just a few of us and the whiteness all around.

Walking along the fenced cliff toward the meadow at the eastern boundary of the park virtually the entire vista of Lake Ontario was shrouded by a white mist. I could barely make out the marina at the base of the cliff.

Everything else was hidden.

That feeling, that so much was hidden beneath the surface, reminded me of Catherine Belton’s dogged study of corruption in the Putin regime.

You could only see glimpses of the enormous graft that runs deep in the Russian state. My reading stopped as in shock I read that experts estimate the stolen assets leaving Russia since Boris Yeltsin’s revolution at $800 billion, roughly the equivalent of all the other wealth in the country.

This includes the proceeds of share sales in state enterprises, stolen oil and gas royalties, stolen loans from western governments and from lenders in the west.

Belton’s key thesis is that the guardians to the wealth of Russia — and hence the conspirators — derive their authority from connections to Russia’s security services, once called the KGB, now called the FSB, SVR, and other agencies. Vladimir Putin’s top advisors worked in the security organs.

They are informally called the siloviki.

Belton shows us how KGB alumnae like Vladimir Putin stepped into the power void after the demise of the Soviet Union and continued to funnel resources to their covert offshore activities, and most spectacularly to themselves.

“Putin’s People” are the ex-spies and the organized crime figures who frequently coordinated their activities with KGB. Then there are the willing policemen, bureaucrats, and politicians who take their cut right down the line.

In this way everybody is compromised and there’s really nobody to tattle to.

The theft didn’t begin with “Putin’s People.” Yeltsin’s extended “family” also made their killings on the loans-for-shares programs, and assorted thugs made off with proceeds from the “food-for-oil” programs in a hungry St. Petersburg.

As the incursion into Ukraine rages we have to ask ourselves to what purpose has Putin engaged in this war if the leadership has already enriched themselves beyond their wildest dreams. If they have more power than they know what to do with and virtually silenced critics with threats of jail, poisoning, or being pushed out of their apartment windows.

Belton and other critics say Putin is driven to rebuild the glory of the Russian people/Slavic race that was squandered by the czars and ultimately inept communists. On the surface of it, I would ask: “Russia bet against the west in the 20th century and lost. What makes them think the shelling of Ukraine is going to end up any differently?”

Much that Putin’s People have done is supposedly to shore up power in the East even as their methods have remained suspect throughout. When are they really working for themselves, and when for the betterment of their people?

It’s pretty hard to say when they are working for the State, especially when those mega-yachts pull up in Antibes.

Putin’s own wealth some people estimate at $200 billion. Not roubles. US dollars.

The great exodus of money from Russia has undoubtedly dirtied the business and political elites of other countries, and nobody after reading this book could say with a straight face that Donald Trump hasn’t cashed in big time.

A lot of that money went into the Brexit campaign, the 2016 US election, and continuing dirty tricks and alliances with ultra right wing groups around the globe. And it unsurprisingly smells like a lot of the money undermining cooperation between the political parties in US government by the Koch family and their ilk.

On one level I as a businessman can empathize with people who want to cut corners to make a living. In this environment it’s very hard to make a consistent living. That’s probably why three-quarters of the economies on the planet are driven by corruption, including Russia, India, China, part of Italy, many African and other Asian states.

The reliance we in the west place on the sanctity of property, the rule of law, the peaceful transfer of power, well, is not really the rule but the exception. Even in big democracies there is big corruption.

So how much are Putin and his “people” really outliers. Aren’t people like them more the rule than the exception?

I think this is what gives Putin the confidence to invade sovereign countries with impunity, because he sees the West as so easily corrupted by wealth that they will simply avert their eyes. This being why Europe has tied its energy security to Russia. This being why the US barely squeaked when Russia invaded Georgia, the Crimea, and the eastern sectors of Ukraine.

And yet the years of massive corruption clearly showed up in the weakness of the Russian war machine. In this case as in so many before it, the authoritarian regime is creaking under its own inertia.

Even if Putin were toppled by this mess, there are others behind him, many others. It probably would take another civil war to clean out the rot.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on about corruption it is that it sucks the vitality out of the artist, the entrepreneur, and the innovator.

Russians and slavs outside of Russia aren’t stupid.

If Putin bred a culture of openness, and accountability, if innovators weren’t afraid that a gang of goons would steal the fruit of their work, slavs and quite frankly everyone else would be clamoring to get in, not run from their bullets.
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MylesKesten | Hi ha 14 ressenyes més | Jan 23, 2024 |
An outstanding piece of investigation that explains a lot about the current state of things.

Belton uses just the right amount of repetition/re-introduction to keep track of names and organisations. This is helpful as the Kremlin's schemes and machinations can get complicated.
This made it easier to read than Dawisha's "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?" (which focuses more on the business side of Putin's people).

Only one thing bugged me in the last chapter, where a protagonist "downloaded" a video to Youtube. You *up*load a video to Youtube. And that's pretty much the only thing I can criticise. So I strongly recommend this read and I'm deeply grateful to Catherine Belton for this corageous book.… (més)
sunforsiberia | Hi ha 14 ressenyes més | Dec 28, 2023 |
"I want to warn Americans. As a people, you are very naive about Russia and its intentions. You believe because the Soviet Union no longer exists, Russia now is your friend. It isn't, and I can show you how the SVR is trying to destroy the US even today and even more than the KGB did during the Cold War." - Sergei Tretyakov, former colonel in Russian Foreign Intelligence, the SVR

Reading this book is frightening and I worry about anyone who may be "beholden" to the Russian KGB. Would those people be at risk for even reviewing this book? Does the author now fear for her life and the lives of her family and friends? That is how significant this book truly is.

I found this book to be well-written and extraordinarily informative -> frightening. Thank goodness for the epilogue.
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Kimberlyhi | Hi ha 14 ressenyes més | Apr 15, 2023 |



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