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Oligarch Loyalty No Longer a Given

From the Lex Column of the Financial Times:

The crisis has highlighted that Russia is hardwired into the global economy. It cannot escape external factors such as dollar or oil price shifts. And a confrontational foreign policy has a cost in terms of battered confidence and capital flight. That may restrain future aggression. Above all, Russia wants a seat at the top table of world affairs – but its claim to one relies on having a big enough economy. There may be another restraint: the oligarchs. Putinism was built on the understanding that if tycoons play by Kremlin rules they will prosper. The recent military adventurism undermined that grand bargain. Lower commodity prices, slowing growth, will make it trickier to sustain the gusher of cash into their pockets. Oligarchs have been hit hard by the market fall; the market rescue package came only after a restive business elite made clear its displeasure to the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s entrenched power makes more vocal opposition highly risky (as Mikhail Khodorkovsky can attest). But after the recent jolt, oligarch loyalty is no longer a given. Unlike Mr Putin, they care more about their yachts and Belgravia mansions than about Georgia joining Nato.