RA in Moscow Times: Clan Politics of Russia, Venezuela, and Iran

image_credit_to_moscowtimes.jpgRobert Amsterdam has an opinion article published in The Moscow Times today:

The recent visits to Moscow and Tehran by Hugo Chavez raise a number of concerns about the deepening relations between Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

The motivation behind the Russia-Iran-Venezuela alliance is often misunderstood. On the one hand, there is the narrative that these governments are pursuing national interests, seeking to deepen their security against ever-present external threats and accrue regional power. Others argue that the alliance is driven by an attempt to build an “alternative architecture” of global relations, one that is conveniently unconcerned with democracy and human rights and bound solely by the common value of anti-Americanism.

Both these assumptions are dangerously misleading. In reality, the foreign policies of these three states are driven by the personal interests of clans that control the highest offices of their governments.

In addition to sharing a national leader-for-life mentality, theleaders of these three countries regularly employ the powers of thestate in support of clan-controlled businesses, especially in theenergy and arms sectors. When Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin travelsto Venezuela (he visits Caracas with extraordinary frequency), there islittle to no separation between his diplomatic duties and personalfinancial interests in inking deals between Rosneft and PDVSA. When theIranians travel to Caracas, they are given a red carpet welcome tojointly operated factories and the assistance of elaboratemoney-laundering networks.

Chavez’s family and close-knit clan of loyal military officers havebecome multibillionaires under his rule. Known as the boligarchs, theybenefit directly from the alliance of Russia and Iran since it lendsmuch-needed credibility and legitimacy to their plunder of the country.In exchange, Chavez last week visited Moscow and announced thatVenezuela would recognize the independence of the Georgian breakawayregions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On the way, he stopped inTurkmenistan to invite the president to join the Russian-inspired gascartel — despite the fact that Venezuela is a net importer of naturalgas from Colombia.

Continue reading the full text of the article at The Moscow Times.