Putin on the ritz


The simple ascetic front Vladimir Putin exhibits for public consumption is a sham. His claim that he makes a modest salary of $140,000 a year and subsists frugally in an 800 square foot Moscow apartment and a trailer is also a laughable, provable lie, as brazenly disingenuous as the claim that he’s currently “liberating” Ukraine. Redeemed former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen puts it this way: the real reason Donald Trump admires Putin so much is because of his vast wealth and power.

And it’s not stealth wealth either. Just inches below the surfaces he cynically portrays for the camera lies an ostentatious, $500,000 watch, $100-million-dollar megayacht, 19 house, 700 car, 58 aircraft, $716 million plane, $1.4 Billion Black Sea mansion in-your-capitalist-face super wealth. Simply put, Vladimir Putin may very well be the richest man on the planet. He may even be the richest man who ever lived.

Putin’s secret to real wealth isn’t just in his estimated $200 billion reserve of ready capital, either. Those kinds of sums are for modest billionaires like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. Putin’s real money comes from the almost limitless power he wields. He can summon at will the vast resources of an entire wealthy nation. Putin can do things and have things done for him that Musk and Bezos could only dream about. The trick is that even with his incredible wealth he rarely has to pay for anything. In terms of resources Putin may be the world’s very first trillionaire. Trillionaire is in fact a word so rare that autocorrect doesn’t yet know what to do with it.

In short, no one, not the oligarchs that surround him, not the network of Russian industrialists, foreign investors nor even the Russian people have been hurt more by the international sanctions placed on Russia than Putin himself. It’s hard to say how badly Putin has been economically hobbled, but it wouldn’t be out of line to suggest it’s on the order of 50% or even more. Half of his wealth, half of his power, half of his ability to summon resources are gone in a single stroke.

Of course, half of a vast, unparalleled fortune is still a lot of bucks, and Putin’s injury is relative. But it’s an injury only a megalomaniac can understand. Vladimir Putin is undoubtedly on fire with fury and the people around him — particularly the people in his inner circle — are understandably frozen in fear. So when you see Russian ministers and diplomats shamelessly lying for Putin, remember that they have an invisible gun pointed at their heads. One slip of the tongue could mean instant death.

My contempt and hatred for Vladimir Putin is nothing new. It goes back even to the days before his novichok attack on the little English village where I currently live. I’ve always believed Putin to be a monster since the day he murdered Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-laced tea, also right here in England. Since then it’s been a mystery to me why world leaders would have anything to do with him.

   

Putin’s monstrosity has at last come home to roost in the form of monstrous war crimes. He isn’t just the richest man on earth, he may also be the most evil man on earth. I can think of no other more deadly combination. Given the times we live in, I’m not surprised it’s happening now. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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