Read: November 2020
Inspiration: Why is Russia in the news so often and how did they get end up in their current position?
Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.
“Putin’s People”, published in 2020 by author and journalist Catherine Belton, examines the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the ways in which they have consolidated power and wealth under his leadership. Belton argues that Putin and his allies, many of whom are former KGB agents, have used their positions of power to enrich themselves and their families through corruption and illicit activities. The book also discusses the role of the Russian state in these activities, and how Putin and his allies have used propaganda and censorship to maintain their grip on power. Through interviews with former insiders and extensive research, Belton provides a detailed and illuminating look at the inner workings of Putin’s regime and the people who run it.
Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.
After USSR collapse Putin lie about distancing self from KGB past around 1992 to gain trust of democratic reformers, Putin act as liason b/w KGB and Stasi (aka East Germany) ahead of reunification, put help Red Army Faction (far leftists in West Germany, terrorists), soviet union sell oil (and other goods) to “friendly firms” across the globe at well below market price (firms run by KGB, pay large fees, siphoned off by communist party to support movement globally without getting caught, hide wealth of party via invisible economy with custodians to manage globally overseen by KGB), Gorbachev allow cooperatives to be privately ran but funnel back to communist party but spiral out of control as owners seek wealth for self (and Yeltsin support grow), Boris Yeltsin coup Gorbachev in Aug 1991 with KGB backing to improve reforms, massive privitization lead to hyperinflation, shortages, and concentration of wealth (reforms move too fast), young bank tycoons allowed loans for shares in largest state enterprises lead to seven bankers control 50% of Russia assets in Moscow, in St Petersburg Putin lead with KGB and organized crime Tambov, Putin quickly rise in Moscow to head of FSB under Yeltsin administration, Swiss announced surprise investigation into Yeltsin circle and Mabatex in 1999–need loyal Putin’s help to save selves instead of Stepashin who was PM to be replaced by Putin to help Yeltsin, Putin turn on Yeltsin to work with Primakov (Putin say in favor of democratic reforms but a facade), Putin close with Yeltsin attempted overthrowers (Turover), Pugachev think give rise to Putin but unaware Putin playing both sides, Chechan bombings in Moscow push Putin to forefront late 1999 to respond harshly (some say Putin orchestrated attacks for own gain)—lead to massive Putin approval (as Yeltsin ailing and step aside), files on bombings hidden as links to FSB emerge (claim sacks in basement of apartments were sugar not bombs), Putin’s regime ruthless—grew up taking over ports and fuel and sharing profits with Tambov crime group and also funnel cash and tech via west networks, launder money/oil for food scheme hallmarks of Putin shady past, Abramovich own Sibneft oil and Rusal aluminum, Putin rule like Pinochet in Chile—econ reforms thru strong state influence, Putin start by raiding Most Media who supported opponents and critique Putin—war by new KGB ran Kremlin on Yeltsin reform and oligarchs, “it’s no use blaming the mirror if you have an ugly face” Putin to oligarchs in trouble for fraudulent wealth, oligarchs enriched via Yeltsin privatization of oil in 1990s and Putin want to reverse bc know key to control, Putin set up parallel government where forced private stakes to give money to him undercover, 2004 to win second term after Putin jail Khodorkovsky and take over YukosSibneft Putin orchestrate fake hostage situation at Moscow theater by fake Chechans with explosives (all go wrong and gas theater to try to save hostages but kill 115 people and only 2 killed by hostages, Putin faill), Putin eventually fill Kremlin with KGB and St Petersburg old gang that ran oil for food scheme, Putin emphasize land, national identity, strength and Church, Putin create Eurasianism to contrast West, Beslan school hostage attack by Chechans where Russian forces fire first and kill hundreds hurt Putin (say West orchestrate) and become more forceful 2004, Putin say need to take back assets from oligarchs or else West will control, US government see as internal affair and not want to hurt relations key for Afghan and Iraq access via Russia, Putin use second term to make his circle new oligarchs through Bank Rossiya run by old St Petersburg ally, siphon Gazprom assets (“Kremlin Inc”), Russian companies list in London bc less regulations for ownership vs NYSE, Abramovich buy Chelsea at order of Putin to increase influence in UK 2003, 2005 Abramovich Sibneft to Gazprom to tie to Kremlin, Panama Papers 2015 show Putin’s offshore network—find since USSR collapse $800bn stored offshore, Russians use Deutsche in Moscow to by Russian stocks in roubles while offshore companies in UK sell same stock through Deutsche London (“mirror trades” to funnel cash out of Russia), first scandal of Russian money in US was Bank of New York 1999 with Mogilevich money but Clinton brush it off with minor fines, Trump Taj Mahal early 90s attract Russians such as Tchigirnsky and Ivankov/Yaponchik—launder crime money and not tracked for Solntsevskaya group, lead to 2013 Miss Univ in Moscow and Trump meet for dirt on Hillary via friend of Tchigirinsky named Agalarov, Trump Tower bankrolled by russians, Russians need to launder cash thru biz not banks and Trump financial problems perfect (and Trump not do diligence for new towers with name), Bayrock run by russian mobster use Trump name for towers and launder, others join in using Trump (give him fees while they do rest—Panama, Miami, SoHo), Felix Sater criminal close to Trump promise Moscow tower 2015 with Putin approval and win election (via Michael Cohen), Putin start to lose support 2018 and econ slow bc so focused on external influence neglect domestic (KGB only good at black cash ops, russians angry as raise pension age too), Putin rule by having compromising info on everyone (all bugged), KGB lay seeds to take back Russia since 1990 collapse of USSR