EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky Sells Out

Perhaps soon, it will be Putin's goons who brandish Khodorkovsky's picture?

This man risked his life standing up for justice, but perhaps soon it will be the Putin goons who brandish the Khodorkovsky photo?


Khodorkovsky Sells Out

The Moscow Times has published a correspondence interview with jailed oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  Asked about Russia’s conduct during the Georgia invasion, the oligarch replied: “It’s important to understand that President [Dmitry] Medvedev had no other choice given situations on Aug. 8 and Aug. 26.”  In utterly repugnant fashion, the next day Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin echoed this theme in a speech to the malignant Valdai Discussion Club, albeit in less tactful language. Putin stated: “In this situation were we supposed to just wipe away the bloody snot and hang our heads?”  It was almost as if Khodorkovsky had set the table for Putin, and for all we know maybe he did.

A few weeks ago, we condemned Khodorkovsky for allowing so many people to lobby for his freedom and hope for his leadership, only to collapse like a craven coward at his parole hearing, begging for mercy and promising to be a good boy, a lackey of the Kremlin.  His remarks to the MT, sadly, only confirm how right we were to do so.

Does Khodorkovsky really imagine himself to be fairly and accurately informed about events in Georgia while he cools his heels in a remote Siberian prison cell?  Of course not.  Only a man whose mind has been broken, or who has sold his soul to the neo-Soviet devil, could say such a thing.   His statment is pathetically lacking in a recitation of such facts, and he surely realizes that any attempt to do so would either betray wretched ignorance or even more loathesome collaboration.

His remark about Medvedev is quite Freudian in nature — indeed, Medvedev did have no other choice, because he does not rule Russia, but rather takes his marching orders from Vladimir Putin.  Does Khodorkovsky really believe that the Kremlin had “no choice” but to side with the rebels in Ossetia and “no choice” but to crush the rebels in Chechnya? Of course not. No thinking person could do so.  So either Khodorkovsky is no longer capable of thought, or he has gone over to the Dark Side.  The Stalinists, of course, would argue (and do) that Stalin had “no choice” but to intern and murder over 20 million Russians.

Asked about Russia’s increasing shortfalls in energy production, Khodorkovsky replied:

The fall in oil output is absolutely artificial. Back in 2002, at a meeting on energy policy, I suggested that we should aim at a production level of 10 million barrels per day (for land-based drilling) and stick to this level for 15-20 years. I believed, and still believe, that given Russia’s on-shore reserves and the efficiency of its infrastructure (extracting and transportation), this is the best solution. For the realization of any long-term investment project, however, what is needed most is confidence that there will be stable rules to the game.

More shameless brown-nosing! Instead of telling the truth, and saying that it is the Kremlin’s own misguided greed and malice which has led it to divert Russia’s oil profits towards funding a new cold war with the U.S. rather than developing Russia’s energy future (just the same practice that bankrupted the USSR), Khodorkovsky speaks as if it’s merely an unfortunate accident that oil supplies are down, and implies good times are just around the corner.  He almost seems to be applying for a job in the Kremlin itself, as some sort of energy Tsar, lending his name and reputation (such as it was) to cover the Kremlin’s foul stench.  If he’s indeed seeking such an outcome, we hope he has an unpleasant fall down some prison steps long before it happens.

The Russophiles who have been attacking Khodorkovsky as a vile criminal for so long now have rather a nasty dilemma. If he now agrees with the Kremlin, doesn’t that call into question the Kremlin’s policies? If he joins the Kremlin regime, doesn’t that forever taint it?

But we who have supported him are in a much more odious position.  We allowed Khodorkovsky to string us along, we rallied to he cause, and now we have been betrayed.  It is the same betrayal we received from the Russian people themselves when they embraced rule by a proud KGB spy, and turned their backs as he crushed local government, extinguished the free press and liqudidated opposition politicians.  We should be used to it by now, but we are not. It is a bitter taste even after all these years.

Of course, if Khodorkovsky has been broken by intense mistreatment, one must forgive and pity him. But there is no evidence of that mistreatment, and his phalanx of lawyers has not complained about anything other than his allegedly illegal confinement.  Khodorkovsky chose to allow the world to make him a martyr, and then he abandoned the world without warning, in a brutally cruel manner, like a punch in the stomach from a beloved family member.

And, in a larger sense, Khodorkovsky’s actions are consistent with the major theme expounded on this blog — that there is something deeply wrong with the people of Russia, who routinely disappoint those that hope they will behave in a civilized manner.  Khodorkovsky has perhaps received more outside support than any Russian dissident, and yet he has let the world down, very much the same way that Grigori Yavlinsky and Garry Kasparov have done.  Little wonder, then, that Russians are so cynical about those who purport to lead them towards civilization.  But at the same time, no Russian citizen can say that any of these three men received justice from the people of Russia in terms of genuine support.  Yavlinsky, in particular, was never given any real power by the people, any real trust, any chance to show his mettle.  There never was any widespread grassroots support for Khodorkovsky or for any other victim of Kremlin injustice, and that alone may have been enough to push Khodorkovsky over the edge.  In that sense, the valiant Anna Politikovskaya may have been lucky to be murdered, rather than driven insane in a dank prison cell watching the craven indifference of the countrymen she risked everything to save.

And so with heavy hearts we condemn Khodorkovsky again.  Suddenly, it seems quite fitting that he reposes in a Siberian prison, there to reflect upon the frailty that led him to mislead so many brave people into risking much to support him. It seems that it will be the mustachioed huckster Khodorkovsky who, without question, played fast and loose with the law in the frenzied days of wide-open capitalism after the collapse of the USSR, that the world will be left to remember.  Another Russian tragedy, to be added to those like the collaborating writer Maxim Gorky and the clueless stooge Alexander Kerensky, those who whether by evil or simple weakness helped drive Russia into an early grave.

8 responses to “EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky Sells Out

  1. I hope, Khodorkovsky will be able to understand and expiate his guilt for all his crimes he made.

  2. Kim, your ripping into Khordorkovsky isn’t rational. The man is going to be lucky to ever see freedom and more likely will meet an untimely death in prison. He’s a danger to state power. It diminishes you to keep repeating he is a sellout. I don’t think you want to intentionally act as a Useful Idiot for Putin which is what you are doing.

    And, Sarah, what would you know about Khordorkovsky’s crimes as the only charges where ginned up by the Russian state that expropriated his oil company as their agenda. Your comment is ignorant.


    Khodorkovsky is entitled to do whatever he likes to win his freedom, but we attack all Kremlin collaborators regardless of their motives. We never harm our cause by attacking those who support our enemies in the Kremlin. His statements are propaganda fuel for the Kremlin, and nobody can deny that. If he isn’t discredited, he will be a valuable Kremlin shill. Moreover, Khodorkovsky preyed on the good will of people around the world who believed he was fighting for a just cause. Everyone knows he is in fact guilty of many financial crimes, but they also know he was selectively prosecuted, we thought for political reasons (because that’s what he told us). It’s sad if he’s been mentally broken, but by making overtures to us for support he owed us better. He hasn’t been tortured or mistreated in any really severe way and has no excuse for capitulating to the Kremlin. If he wasn’t strong enough to take the fight to the end, he should not have started it.

  3. I don’t know… may those who didn’t go through Russian prisons not judge those who did. Not everybody can be Scharansky, or Solzhenitsyn, or Pyotr Grigorenko. Steve Centani converted to Islam when kidnapped in Gaza and praised “the Palestinian people” – I would resent any attempts to call him a “sell-out”.
    Let us see Khodorkovsky for what he is – the manifestation of Russia’s mafia-style intervention into private business . *Not* the sellout to the regime for words that he said clearly under duress (to put it mildly).
    I acknowledge what you are saying about absence of complaints on maltreatment – but looking at what they do with Alexanian, I still don’t think that Martha Stewart wished to trade places with Khodorkovsky

  4. Even if he was guilty, he was under duress. Nobody would make a plea bargain to go to siberia. When his scheduled release comes up, sorry we lost your paperwork. The 20-30 million people that were liquidated during the Stalin regime will tell you the same.

    He is a gopher, he’s the guy that Putin holds his head up by his hair and says, we are accountable.
    Most of Russia will fall for it. He could also punish him just by making him a guard.

  5. Felix, can you clarify what exactly you mean by “Russia’s mafia-style intervention into private business.” Khodorovsky was not part of a Russian criminal organization. Based on what I have read, he was a bright and motivated young man: in his early twenties, he opened his first business, a private café and he later began importing goods that were sold in the Soviet Union. If anything, it wasn’t “mafia” connections that helped him, rather it was his government connections. Like many others, he was able to use his position in the Party (or in Khodorovsky’s case the Komsomol) do divert funds from the state to new businesses that were able to buy out state businesses after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is pretty much what Putin & Co. are now doing in Russia. However, at least Khodorovsky was actually working to make his businesses more profitable and more productive. This is more than I can say about the present generation of kleptocrats.

  6. Michel,

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I meant that Russian government, as mafia demanding protection money from businesses, meddles with economy. So, my comment wasn’t addressed at Yukos at all.

    And the main point (which, I assume, didn’t come clear either) – let’s not judge Khodorkovsky too harshly for his statements, because he is in prison, and we are not.

  7. Michel – government, mafia? What’s the difference? Both force you to ‘purchase’ their ‘services’, even if you don’t need/want them.

  8. Ha! Today’s editorial said more succinctly what I was trying to say:

    Russia’s economy is run by proud KGB thugs who act like the mafia.

    And, I might add, Khodorkovsky is exhibit A.

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