Why The List Matters

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – January 31, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-transcript-why-the-list-matters/29009462.html)

So by now we’ve all probably heard the initial reaction to the U.S. Treasury Department’s much-anticipated list of the most influential Russian officials and oligarchs who could be subject to future sanctions.

It’s nothing more than a “who’s who” in Russian politics.

It’s a cut-and-paste job from the Kremlin website and the Forbes list of the wealthiest Russians.

It includes billionaires who are close to Vladimir Putin as well as those who are not.

But despite all this, when you step back and think about it, the Kremlin List also sends some important messages.

First, it is a stark reminder that the Russian political and economic system is based on corruption, kleptocracy, and cronyism — and even those who are not part of Putin’s inner circle, but who nevertheless benefit from the system as a whole, are complicit in, and liable for, the regime’s actions.

Second, despite the criticism, the list is sending a chill through the Russian elite as close Putin cronies as well as more peripheral figures are suddenly wondering whether or not they can get a visa or open a Western bank account.

And finally, it is sending a message that the era when the Kremlin elite can have it both ways — accumulating their wealth in a lawless kleptocratic system and stashing it in the West where it is protected by the rule of law — is coming to an end.

The era when you can take advantage of the West’s protections while at the same time seeking to undermine the rules-based international order supported by the West is history.

Access to the West’s safe harbors will now require complying with the West’s rules.

[featured image is file photo from another occasion]