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How Corruption Can Lead to Better U.S.-Russia Relations

The cover story on this week’s International Edition of Newsweek features Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, with the unflattering headline “Moscow’s Phony Liberal.”  I had already Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova’s take down of the president’s political reform program, but this odd paragraph just caught my eye on a second reading (emphasis mine):

However, there is still another reason top bureaucrats need people like Medvedev, and it is the most cynical of all: to secure all the money they stole during a decade in power. Since Putin came to office in 2000, Russian officials are estimated to have skimmed some $200 billion to $300 billion a year from the economy, according to Transparency International Russia’s Panfilova. To keep these ill-gotten assets safe, Russia’s kleptocrats need to ensure that future generations of leaders never try to bring them to justice and that foreigners don’t pry too deeply. “All the Kremlin’s money is abroad, and [the siloviki] realize they should make friends with the Americans in order to provide themselves and their money some security,” says Panfilova. The best way to avoid scrutiny is to seem to lead, or at least endorse, the cause of reform–or so the thinking goes.

The siloviki should’ve listened to Hugo Chavez and gone 100% Swiss and Caribbean bank accounts…