Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, is in jail. Everybody agrees to say that his trial was far from being fair and no one knows if he’ll eventually be freed one day! Nonetheless, Khodorkovsky’s American lawyer (and PR guy) Robert Amsterdam has been building for years a biased image of Khodorkovsky. A biased image Western media widely buy…
Let’s get a few facts straight. Khodorkovsky has never been a democrat or even a “liberal” as he is often portrayed. He was a brutal businessman who built his fortune “stealing” USSR public companies. I don’t particularly blame him, all the so-called oligarchs did so. But Khodorkovsky did not get in trouble because he was a democrat, he got in trouble because he tried to mess with Putin’s authority. Robert Amstedam cheap propaganda may fool some journalists but can not totally erase reality .
The fall of Khodorkovsky
Through out of context quotations, unfaithful translations and other approximations, a certain image of Russia is being presented to western public opinion. Russia, the nasty authoritarian regime; the West, liberal and democratic.
Quite apart from the simplistic Manichaeism, the term “liberal” is not neutral in Russia but has a very pro-western connotation; it is disparaged because it is unpatriotic. At least since 1991, the start of the Yeltsin era, when Russia’s collective unconscious came to equate liberals and reformers with economic pillage, social chaos, the law of the jungle and oligarchic rule. That the most prominent of them all, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, should now be portrayed as a herald of democracy in the purported autocracy of the Putinian system is surprising to say the least!
What is more, this strange analysis is fortunately accompanied by much solicitude, the self-styled whistleblowers again explaining to the Russian people what is good for them. Save proof to the contrary, exporting a model has never worked so far.
Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam, whose network and capacity to finance intensive lobbying activities has brought him a measure of media exposure, is just one example of a professional lecturer. Using the remains of the Yukos empire to mobilise connections and finance think tanks, and turning rhetoric into a (very) lucrative business, is hardly honourable.
Raising public opinion to the status of judge and lecturing official judges is an original (and so far relatively unsuccessful) line of defence.
What would Robert Amsterdam have to say about the Enron affair, or the fate of Madoff and his Texan alter ego (Allen Stanford)? That their downfall was purely political, that the USA is an authoritarian regime? Unless the judges were simply doing their job, and the years those barons of finance will be spending behind bars for fraud were well-deserved.
Similarly, as soon as he came to power, Putin decided to make it clear that the anarchy and the looting of public assets were over. So he spelt out the rules of law to a well-known oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, revoking his licence to steal and bringing him, the wealthiest man in Russia, before the judges in court. The message was clear: Russian businessmen now conduct their business legally, and Russia is eligible to join the WTO (World Trade Organisation).
Why then set Khodorkovsky up as a victim?