REMEMBERING RUSSIAGATE: Never Have So Few Stolen So Much From So Many
by Richard Poe
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
4:28 pm Eastern Time
Now that President Bush has returned from his tour of the former Soviet states, those Americans who still remember how our last president used to deal with Russian affairs are breathing a sigh of relief that grownups have once more taken charge of our foreign policy.
When the Clintons took office, they inherited the awesome, historic task of rebuilding and redefining America’s relationship with the fallen Soviet empire. Instead of rising to the challenge, they presided over the systematic rape of the former Soviet economy. The financial catastrophe they helped foster came to be known as Russiagate.
Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we might say of the Russiagate scandal that never before have so few stolen so much from so many in so short a time.
Soros and the Oligarchs
Under the close supervision of Clinton-appointed U.S. advisors — among whom leftwing billionaire George Soros wielded tremendous influence — a handful of Russian oligarchs hijacked the Russian privatization program, acquiring the crown jewels of the Soviet economy in rigged “auctions,” at firesale prices.
Between 1992 and 1996, fully 57 percent of Russia’s state-owned firms were sold for a mere $3-$5 billion, according to political scientist Peter Reddaway, a leading expert on the post-Soviet system and co-author of The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms: Market Bolshevism Against Democracy.
Some of that property ended up in Mr. Soros’ personal investment portfolio, as he later admitted in Congressional testimony. Much more ended up in the hands of corrupt Russian oligarchs, many with roots in organized crime.
Russiagate: “One of the greatest social robberies in human history”
By 1999, the Clintons’ media allies could no longer conceal the fact that tens of billions of dollars in illicit funds were being laundered out of Russia with the assistance of pliant Western banks such as the Bank of New York.
Following a preliminary investigation, House Banking Committee chairman Jim Leach (R-Iowa) declared on September 1, 1999 that he was “very confident” that at least $100 billion had been laundered out of Russia, an unknown portion of which may have been diverted from the International Monetary Fund and from other foreign aid lenders — which is to say, from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers.
Congressman Leach declared the scandal to be “one of the greatest social robberies in human history.” Nevertheless, it was swept under the carpet.
Washington Post: “The Russian debacle may haunt us for generations.”
Washington Post reporter David Ignatius gave the scandal its name. In an August 25, 1999 article titled, “Who Robbed Russia?“, Ignatius wrote:
“That issue — what the heck, let’s call it `Russiagate’ — has come into sharper focus this month, thanks to some powerful reporting that has highlighted the lawlessness of modern Russia and the acquiescence of the Clinton administration in the process of decline and decay there. […]
[B]y allowing the oligarchs — in the name of the free market — to grab Russia’s resources and siphon anything of value into their own offshore bank accounts, the United States poisoned Russia’s transition from communism. In the minds of ordinary Russians… capitalism became equated with theft. […]
What makes the Russian case so sad is that the Clinton administration may have squandered one of the most precious assets imaginable — which is the idealism and goodwill of the Russian people as they emerged from 70 years of Communist rule. The Russia debacle may haunt us for generations.”
Let us hope that George W. Bush can begin the long process of repair, and restore to U.S.-Russian relations the spirit of trust, respect and high aspiration which ought to have driven them for the last thirteen years.
by Richard Poe
May 11, 2005 04:28 PM ET
Crossposted from MoonbatCentral.com May 11, 2005
1. Peter Reddaway, “Questions About Russia’s `Dream Team'”, Post-Soviet Prospects, vol. 5, no. 5, Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 1997
2. David Lister and James Bone, “`Dirty Money’ Scandal Could Top $100 Billion”, The Times (London), 1 September 1999