Salih Brandt, a former European spokesman for the Chechen government, made some curious remarks on This Week today. Roisin Duffy was even a little shocked. You can listen to him being interviewed here.
But I have gone to the trouble of transcribing the most curious bit:
Salih Brandt: In the background of this you have to look at that Russia is in a situation where the government is becoming increasingly sort of KGB/FSB orientated. And it’s not without reason that Vladimir Putin is fighting a campaign in his country to regain control of the resources of that country. Now there are a list of eight/nine/ten, all of them Jewish, oligarchs, who have ripped the wealth out of the country over the last ten years. Now if Yukos, facing a back tax bill of $4.1 billion, that’s $4.1 billion dollars that Vladimir Putin did not have at his disposal for insuring the security of his population. And that money has come out of the country and is being used to play football in Europe. And this is something people need to look at very closely. I have to sympathise with Vladimir Putin in that sense, he has limited resources to deal with. And the result of that is for the price of 7 dollars, you bribe your way with a bomb past a security guard in Russia.
Roisin Duffy: That’s a horrific allegation Salih Brandt thanks for joining us.
I was just a little shocked by the allegation too. A quick look around the Internet revealed this study by Dr. Betsy Gidwitz at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. It notes:
That Jews control a disproportionately large share of the Russian economy and Russian media certainly has some basis in fact. Between 50 and 80 percent of the Russian economy is said to be in Jewish hands, with the influence of the five Jews among the eight individuals commonly referred to as “oligarchs” particularly conspicuous. (An oligarch is understood to be a member of a small group that exercises control in a government. The five oligarchs of Jewish descent are Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Friedman, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Alexander Smolensky. The other oligarchs are Vagit Alekperov, Vladimir Potanin, and Rem Vyakhirev.)
And the reason for the disproporationate share?
How did the oligarchs achieve their power? Here we must review Soviet history and Soviet antisemitism. All of these individuals were born in the postwar years. Berezovsky, in his mid-50s, is the oldest among them. Antisemitism had closed off positions in government and industry to most Jews during the Soviet period. Typically, energetic Jews found outlets in academic institutions (second-tier if they were bright, first-tier if they were brilliant and lucky); culture (Gusinsky had been a theater director); medicine; engineering; and as tradesmen, such as repairmen and dressmakers.
Because advertising was forbidden in the Soviet Union, skilled trades people turned to unofficial brokers (fartsovshchiky) who could obtain key items, such as tools or spare parts, that were “in deficit,” i.e., in short supply. Other brokers could find gifted surgeons for private patients or arrange stays at elite vacation resorts. Many of these brokers were Jews.
A similar field of work on a larger scale was that of a tolkach, an expediter or fixer in industry. These were the underground wheelers and dealers who performed vital roles in addressing the failures of the centrally planned Soviet economy. They found the raw materials that the behemoth central planning system had lost, they arranged transportation links, they cleared bottlenecks. Most had the protection offered by a conventional job, perhaps as an engineer, but their wheeling and dealing skills became known and every competent factory manager had at least one on the payroll.
When Mikhail Gorbachev permitted the development of cooperatives and private trade as components of his perestroika policy in 1987, the expediters were well-positioned to step forward. Many of them fashioned their contacts together into cooperatives. Within a short time, the cooperatives developed into conglomerates.
The non-Jewish oligarchs, on the other hand, acquired their assets through earlier positions in government agencies that provided insider contacts. The three named individuals all held key posts in the former Soviet economic apparatus – such as the Ministry of Energy and Fuel, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, or in the Soviet State Bank – positions that were closed to Jews. One is the son of a prominent Soviet diplomat. Simply stated, the non-Jews just took personal control of industrial sectors for which they had had prior public supervisory responsibilities.
And if it was Jews who made the money, more power to them. If it was Christians who became the Oligarchs would we hear the same kind of statement? Is Brandt saying that all Jews are tax-dodgers? Why not just say that Jews are the cause of all of Russia’s problems? Brandt is making an outlandish and perhaps racist statement. The fact that some, though not all, of the oligarchs are Jewish really has no bearing. The situation with Yukos is just a little more complex than what Putin or the State-owned media would have us believe to be plain old tax evasion. In fact to think that the Yukos situation is only a tax evasion issue is just plain silly.
And then to blame a lack of Russian resources on Jews not paying their taxes strikes me as, well, crap.