It’s been clear all along that if there is any way to get Putin to back down in Ukraine, it’ll be because the Russian oligarchs pressure him to do it. That’s why the world has spent the past several days placing so much financial pressure on those oligarchs, cutting off their bank accounts and even seizing their yachts and mansions around the world.
Now two Russian oligarchs, including notorious bad guy Oleg Deripaska, are publicly calling for “peace” between Russia and Ukraine. It’s important to understand that when these kinds of things are said publicly among allies, it’s always done subtly. But make no mistake: these two oligarchs are telling Putting that he must make this Ukraine debacle go away to the satisfaction of the world, so that their bank accounts can get turned back on. Putin certainly understands that this is what these two oligarchs are saying. The only question is whether there are enough marbles left in his head to care bout surviving this.
There will be a lot of pundit debate about whether this means the oligarchs are “good” or “bad” or whether someone like Deripaska can be “trusted.” But none of those naive concepts are relevant in the political world. It doesn’t matter if the oligarchs are good or bad people. They’ve been in bed with Putin for decades, so draw your own conclusions about their morality.
The oligarchs don’t care about right or wrong. But they do care about money and power, and they can be trusted to do whatever they think will be most beneficial for their money and power. Putin has given them a ton of both over the years, but now his antics are threatening both. The oligarchs have to weigh that equation in their heads, and figure out whether Putin is still worth it. And Putin has to weigh whether he thinks the oligarchs will take him out if he doesn’t clean up his Ukraine mess. Those are the concepts that’ll decide how this plays out from here.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report