Would Russian oligarchs assassinate Putin? One might.

Commentary

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist
Video Library |

Publicly and privately, world leaders have called for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s removal from office in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Could Russian oligarchs, many of whom are facing sanctions in response to the war, overthrow or even assassinate Putin? Straight Arrow News contributor and geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan reviews the two groups of oligarchs and who’s most likely to take action.

The first are the ones who got their assets by robbing the state blind in the 1990s, in the post-Soviet collapse. This group includes folks like Petr Aven, Mikhail Fridman of Alfa Bank. This includes Mikhail Prokhorov of Norilsk Nickel, which is the world’s largest nickel, platinum, palladium, copper, deposit.

These folks have minimal influence over the Putin government. They can’t demand a meeting. They don’t have access to the guy. Whenever he calls they come running because they cut a deal with Putin back in 2000, right when he became president. Putin said that you can keep your assets. As long as you pay your taxes, start paying your taxes, and you never get involved in politics. And that deal has more or less stuck for the next 22 years.

They’re widely disliked, not just by Putin, but by the entire Russian population.

And if Putin wanted to get a few more points in popularity, executing a couple of these guys would probably do it for them, and they know it. So they are not the kind of group that you can really turn to for any sort of political change. 

The second group of oligarchs are the ones who became rich because of Putin. 

This includes folks like Sergey Chemezov, who is the world’s most sanctioned person. He’s in charge of the military industrial complex of Russia. And whenever you see equipment breaking down on the field, that’s his fault, cuz he is breathlessly corrupt. 

And Alexei Miller of Russia’s Gazprom, which is the world’s largest natural gas concern. 

These guys have access to Putin and some of them, like Chemezov, are actually in the inner circle, but they are blindly loyal. 

Everything they have is because of their position next to Putin. And if he were to fall, they would probably fall too. There’s one exception. There’s a guy by the name of Igor Sechin, who’s in charge of Rosneft, which is the state oil company of Russia. He used to be a gun runner during the Cold War, and he’s got the guts, and he’s got the means, and he’s got the access.

If anyone in the inner circle or anyone of the elite is going to off Putin, it’s gonna be him. But if there’s one thing that the rest of the elite, whether in the inner circle or out agrees upon, it’s that Sechin is kind of a jackass and they would probably pool to their strengths to off him the next day after he got rid of Putin. 

So I don’t see a palace coup being very likely or a coup from within the inner inner circle or the oligarchs in general.

Hi everyone. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from an exciting hotel room near the Des Moines airport. On my way back on the war path here, going out to see some people and speak to groups. I wanted to take today as an opportunity to discuss what’s going on with Russia as regards a possible coup or secession.

There have been a lot of folks, especially in the European Union who are now actively publicly calling for the Russian oligarchs to overthrow the Putin government. And I thought it was worth picking that apart. 

There are two groups of oligarchs. The first are the ones who got their assets by robbing the state blind in the 1990s, in the post-Soviet collapse. This group includes folks like Petr Aven, Mikhail Fridman of Alfa Bank. 

This includes Mikhail Prokhorov of Norilsk Nickel, which is the world’s largest nickel, platinum, palladium, copper, deposit. It’s like 40% of the world’s palladium comes from there. 

These folks have minimal influence over the Putin government. They can’t demand a meeting. They don’t have access to the guy. Whenever he calls they come running because they cut a deal with Putin back in 2000, right, when he became president. Putin said that you can keep your assets. As long as you pay your taxes, start paying your taxes and you never get involved in politics. And that deal has more or less stuck for the next 22 years.

So these folks do have a few assets outside of Russia, and these are largely what the governments of the west have been going around and confiscating and threatened to expropriate. And it’s not that I feel bad for these guys. I mean, they got their stuff by stealing the state blind, but they are not ones who have the influence that would be necessary to make a coup. They’re widely disliked, not just by Putin, but by the entire Russian population.

And if Putin wanted to get a few more points in popularity, executing a couple of these guys would probably do it for them, and they know it. So they are not the kind of group that you can really turn to for any sort of political change. 

The second group of oligarchs are the ones who became rich because of Putin. Putin brought them in. Either they were former KGB members or folks from his inner circle, whatever it happened to be.

This includes folks like Sergey Chemezov, who is the world’s most sanctioned person. He’s in charge of the military industrial complex of Russia. And whenever you see equipment breaking down on the field, that’s his fault, cuz he is breathlessly corrupt. 

And Alexei Miller of Russia’s Gazprom, which is the world’s largest natural gas concern. 

These guys have access to Putin and some of them like Chemezov are actually in the inner circle, but they are blindly loyal. 

Everything they have is because of their position next to Putin. And if he were to fall, they would probably fall too. There’s one exception. There’s a guy by the name of Igor Sechin, who’s in charge of Rosneft, which is the state oil company of Russia. He used to be a gun runner during the Cold War, and he’s got the guts, and he’s got the means, and he’s got the access.

If anyone in the inner circle or anyone of the elite is going to off Putin, it’s gonna be him. But if there’s one thing that the rest of the elite, whether in the inner circle or out agrees upon, it’s that Sechin is kind of a jackass and they would probably pool to their strengths to off him the next day after he got rid of Putin. 

So I don’t see a palace coup being very likely or a coup from within the inner inner circle or the oligarchs in general.

This is just something that’s gonna have to go by the more old fashion method, which is wait for the state to collapse.

In Russia, the czars, the leaders, whoever they happen to be, they’re stable until they’re not. And right now the lights are still on. The trains are still running and the wheat is still coming in. So while there are a lot of Russians who are embarrassed or angry with certain aspects of the war, we are nowhere near the critical mass that is necessary to generate any sort of meaningful revolt. So far, less than one, 100th of 1% of the Russian population has participated in protests. And those are pretty much over already. So if the Russian government’s gonna change, it’s not gonna be via this vector, at least not now.

The Afya foundation, a F Y a foundation.org. They are in the process of equipping some medics to go Ukraine proper and help with the evacuation of civilians. If you can provide them with any assistance, that would be great. Just immediately under this video, there’s a link to their Amazon wishlist where you can pick specific equipment that you want to send with them.

All you have to do is click on something on the list, pick the number of things you want to buy, put it in your cart per normal, and it’ll go right to them. Okay. That’s it from me until next time.

AFYA Foundation: Amazon Wishlist

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