There are few other countries in the world that have wielded money and influence as well as the modern Russian state, to the point of purchasing impunity and acquiescence to their status quo. And this is not all simply because of a “master strategy” by Vladimir Putin, but instead a vast and complex system of illicit enrichment, state capture, and global money laundering by his network of siloviki and willing oligarch businessmen.
It is this network and its operative methods that is the focus of a fascinating new book, Putin’s People, by former Financial Times journalist Catherine Belton.
I was exceptionally pleased to have Catherine on the podcast not just because it’s one of the best books on Russia written in recent memory, but also because it was a chance to catch up after many years since I saw her last in Moscow when she was a reporter attending the same trial where I was advising my client. Russia has changed enormously since 2004, but also so many of the problematic core structural elements remain the same, and Catherine is as good a guide as any in understanding the complex web of interests that keep the Russian authoritarian model going.