Returning to the blogosphere from the vaunted one-month European vacation, Vilhelm Konnander has an excellent review of the oligarch situation in Russia. His piece explodes the myth that Putin is at war with the oligarchs and/or corruption in Russia. What Putin is at war with is somebody else’s oligarchs. He simply replaced those of the former system with his own, and established an even more abject contempt for property rights than his predecessor. As Konnander states:
Russia during the 1990s has often been compared to the United States during the early 20th century, when Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and other business tycoons succeeded in forming next to total monopolies in various areas of business. However, this argument falls flat as the Putin administration displays such a blatant disregard of basic property rights – the very nucleus of a working market economy. That the oligarchs may have done the same in the early 1990s is no excuse for a state to follow such conduct. Moreover, one may argue that one oligarchy today is replaced by another, while the spoils of state action against the oligarchs partly end up in the hands of Putin’s entourage, thus effectively redistributing assets from private to private hands instead of to government control. Consequently, Putin’s people enrich themselves by forcing parts of Russian business into their own hands. Of course, such behaviour is but a parallel to Putin’s political agenda, gaining control over all relevant areas of society. Seeing similarities between Russia of the 1990s and the US of the 1910s becomes laughable if turning to president Wilson’s credo of “making the world safe for democracy.” It is quite apparent that Putin neither makes Russia safe for democracy nor makes Russia safe for market economy.
First there was Peter I. He destroyed Russia’s problem with isolation but, in so doing, created Russia’s problem of monarchy.
Then there was Lenin. He destroyed Russia’s problem with monarchy, but in so doing he created Russia’s problem of totalitarianism.
After that there was Yeltsin. He destroyed Russia’s problem of totalitarianism, but in so doing he created Russia’s problem of oligarchy.
Now there is Putin. He destroyed Russia’s problem of oligarchy and is busily in the the process of reverting to totalitarianism, but now based less on conventional weapons and more on weaponization of energy.
Perhaps, if Russia exists that long, someone will destroy the problem Putin created, and replace it with one of his (or maybe even her) own.
Will the cycle ever end?