July 26, 2014

FOREIGN POLICY: It’s time to treat Vladimir Putin like the crime boss he is: Go after his money.

Last week, Putin’s wholly owned guerrilla subsidiary in Ukraine blew 298 civilians out of the sky, looted the belongings of the victims, let their cadavers rot for days in the hot summer sun, then violently obstructed OSCE monitors from inspecting the carnage. Talk of a forensic “investigation” at this point is just that — talk. Furthermore, according to U.S. intelligence, the Kremlin was evidently so pleased with this performance that it has dispatched more materiel to the culprits in eastern Ukraine. This new hardware includes rocket launchers, light arms, and tanks — only adding to the sophisticated weapons already sent in to aid the rebel cause. There are “indications,” U.S. officials say, that advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems — such as vehicle-mounted Buk (or SA-11) missile launchers, which defense and aviation analysts agree were responsible for downing MH17 — had been moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia and then back to the Motherland following the immolation of the airliner. The West has lately discovered something about Putin that Marina Litvinenko did eight years ago: his penchant for covering up his worst crimes. . . .

Let’s give Putin a clear choice: Either he can continue subventing and enabling the bloodletting in eastern Ukraine, or we can expose the enormous global network of offshore bank accounts, dummy companies, and real estate holdings that belong to him and his criminal elite. A mafia state should be treated as such. And information should once again be weaponized as it was during the Cold War. Moscow has already gotten a head start, by leaking compromised telephone calls between members of our State Department and between Eurocrats and NATO-allied state officials.

Investigative journalism has already yielded reams of copy on where some of the Putinist wealth is hidden, and how it got there. Much of it is in EU jurisdictions, which are subject to sanctions and/or concerted American diplomatic overtures. The U.S. Treasury Department, the CIA, and the FBI all know more about Putin’s and his cronies’ billions than they say publicly.

True, but I imagine Putin also has friends in high places.

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