By Paul Goble
The decision by the Trump Administration to substitute at the last minute a list compiled from other publicly available enumerations made by others for a specific list that an inter-agency working group had been preparing for months discredits the United States government and is a gift for Vladimir Putin, according to Andrey Illarionov.
In an interview to Elena Poskannaya of the Gordon news agency, the Russian economist who now works in Washington at the Cato Institute, said he was shocked by what has taken place (gordonua.com/publications/illarionov-tramp-ili-ego-sotrudniki-predprinyali-deystviya-v-rezultate-kotoryh-publikaciya-originalnogo-kremlevskogo-doklada-ne-proizoshla-229912.html).
On January 29th, when the US administration was required to release the report on Russians who should be subject to sanctions for their criminal activities and when people in Moscow were worried about who would be on that list and what would happen to them as a result, some strange things happened.
On that day, “the report was not published at 9:00 am or at 12:00 or even at 6:00 in the evening when the working day ends. It was released 12 minutes before the deadline of midnight. And it was not published on the sites of the government agencies which had been involved in its compilation. Instead, it was distributed via news agencies alone.
That in itself is “extremely unusual,” Illarionov says, especially in the case of a document that the Congress by law has required the executive branch to prepare and release. It quickly was established, he continues, that the list released wasn’t the original one but rather had been put together by combining part of Russian government’s telephone list, Forbes’ list of Russian billionaires, and two others.
Moreover, it quickly became obvious that those putting out the substitute list had done so in such a hurry that they hadn’t corrected the other lists or reflected that someone on the Russian government’s telephone list – like Russia’s chief archivist – were hardly the political targets the Congressional action had required to be identified.
Perhaps worst of all, Illarionov continues, the list reflected a certain confusion about the nature of oligarchs. “An oligarch and someone who has money are very different things. In contemporary Russian, the term ‘oligarch’ is applied to a rich man who has influence on the decisions of power.” Not all of the 96 names on the Forbes list fit that category.
“No one expected that the US administration was capable” of this, what to all intents and purposes appears to be “a failed joke.” Many were shocked not by the impact of the list but by what is says about “the low quality of work of the present American administration” on a matter of the greatest importance.
Illarionov says that as for himself, he “couldn’t imagine that this was possible, that the report wasn’t posted on the sites of the government agencies involved,” although that gives the basis for concluding that the staff of these institutions “don’t take it seriously” and want to “preserve their reputation and professional honor.”
As for Putin, he continues, “this was a very valuable present from all points of view,” especially given that the American incompetence allows him to suggest that the Americans aren’t being careful in targeting this or that group of Russians but are acting as “total Russophobes.”
“Basing oneself on the published part of the report, you can’t dispute this argument. Such a report will bring only harm,” Illarionov says.
One of the goals of the law calling for this report and for sanctions was “to separate the sheep from the goats,” to give those within Moscow the chance to “distance themselves from Putin personally and his immediate entourage and from the criminal and corrupt decisions of this regime as far as possible.”
“Instead,” the Cato scholar says, “what has been obtained is exactly the opposite: for people far from the Putin regime, there is no now reason to distance themselves because the American administration has pained them all in one color.”
What has happened since the substitute report was released has made the situation even worse, Illarionov continues. In his State of the Union speech, Trump mentioned Russia only in the context of being a competitor of the US and made no reference to sanctions even though he discussed those in detail in terms of the other countries the US has imposed them on.
Moreover, three leaders of the Russian security services, despite the fact that two of them are under US sanctions, visited Washington, with the US government lifting sanctions “in the interests of national security.” (See hwindowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/02/in-interests-of-national-security-us.html.)
There are too many coincidences to ignore, Illarionov says, and that gives new impetus to the question “Who is Mr. Trump?”