Victor Shenderovich: IT'S VERY TEMPTING TO BE CHAMBERLAIN
Whether the checks on Russian oligarchs will be a serious blow to Londongrad
It’s difficult for me to judge the level of concern in Londongrad and the degree of internal tension there. However, it's clear that this crackdown on dirty money should deal quite a serious blow to those who are closely linked to Vladimir Putin and the considerable part of Londongrad on the whole.
If we look closely, we will see that almost all this money has been effectively stolen. Over the last twenty years, things went so far that there can be no «clean» money or business interests separate from Putin. When it became known that Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea along with the Argentinian player Juan Veron, I wrote that I apparently paid for Veron’s little finger, because it’s clear that Abramovich’s money spent on a football team, all this luxury and stadiums are effectively my money, too, being from the public purse.
Naturally, given that during the same twenty years a large amount of money siphoned off from the Russian budget subsequently ended up in London, the crackdown on these proceeds of corruption will inevitably hit the English economy. The current situation is a double-edged sword. On a tactical level, it’s convenient for the English to turn a blind eye.
Turning a blind eye is always convenient in the short term, be it in the personal, social or political realm. But real-life examples from the private sphere as well as from historical practice, including the famous conundrum involving Hitler and Chamberlain, show that strategically turning a blind eye is harmful. Because, when the time comes, the blindfold will need to be taken off, and the whole landscape might turn out to be very rough.
London has finally sharpened its focus and started paying attention a bit more energetically than the rest of the West, but it did this with considerable delay. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, better late than never.
Europe's peace-loving and unwillingness to confront Russia
Peace-loving is, of course, a euphemism in this case. It all comes down to the fear of facing reality, to the serious implications for Europe if it decides to finally open its eyes. The problem is that continuing to turn a blind eye might be even worse. The situation is complicated and dramatic. Vladimir Putin is different from Alexander Lukashenko or even Saddam Hussein in the sense that he has significant opportunities to undermine Europe. And, as a rule, the closer a particular country is to Russia, the more cautious its politicians become in their approach.
The only thing that Putin can offer Europe nowadays is the racket. He can only negotiate a payout in exchange for not inflicting any harm. I’m taking your money for not hurting you. I can’t offer you anything of value, but I can prevent you from being in pain and in return, you have to reckon with me, talk to me, and give me something in exchange. It’s a classic racketeering, and everybody understands that. And this racketeer has unprecedented capabilities, including nuclear weapons.
We already witness the damage resulting from war, but Europe has become too accustomed to the peaceful existence and European elites are to a large extent bribed by Putin. Schroederization of European politics is already an established fact. A considerable number of people who define public opinion, politics, «set the stage» and exert influence are in Putin’s pocket. Gerhard Schroeder is the most vivid example of this.
In this situation, it’s very tempting to be Chamberlain. In order to follow in Churchill’s footsteps, it’s necessary to have internal strength and be prepared to pay the price. Appeasements of an aggressor, the desire to make a deal, realpolitik are quite understandable from an emotional and tactical point of view, but this won’t end well.
History teaches us that every concession is seen as a sign of weakness. When you are picked on by a train bully, and he advances on you, you mustn’t take a step back. It won’t help. He’ll take another step forward and invade your personal space anyway. One should put him in his place, bring him to his senses, and let him know that it’ll be worse for him if he doesn’t stop. The West as a whole and Great Britain in particular have the right leverage, but they use it sparingly.
This, of course, is an opinion of a person belonging to the marginal group of Russian liberals. It’s clear that the stakes for English politicians and business are very high – this is a matter of millions, billions of pounds and serious confrontation. It’s tempting to pretend that «peace-loving» tactics are more effective. Britain at least seems to be more willing to act than the rest of Europe.
For the time being, Putin’s racketeering policy appears to be successful. Western sanctions are future-oriented in the sense that they solve the problem of destroying Russia as an economic rival. But even as it shrinks, stagnates and moves to the periphery, it’s strange to expect that Russia will change on its own and the threat it poses will decrease. We probably won’t have good roads or healthcare, but there will be tanks, «Topol-M» and nuclear weapons.
Sanctions against individuals are Russia’s weakest point. It should be highly disadvantageous for Putin and his inner circle to continue this policy. And coming after the thieves and pointing out to them that everything they stole is in Britain or the rest of Europe is the only serious chance to make progress in the dialogue with Russia. Members of Russian elite should not be able to come to European countries; they should be cut off from their overseas accounts and property. This means war, but up until this point, hybrid warfare has been effective precisely because the West has continued to delude itself.