Airing Putin’s Dirty Laundry

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By Nate Sibley

As details of Kremlin interference in the U.S. elections continue to emerge (including suggestions that Vladimir Putin himself directed elements of the operation), an intriguing idea is breaking out in policy circles: That now would be a good moment for the U.S. to release information gathered by its intelligence agencies about the Russian president’s illicit personal wealth.

As Hannah Thoburn and Benjamin Haddad, both Research Fellows at Hudson Institute, wrote in The Hill today:

Hundreds of billions of dollars in illicit money has flowed out of Russia in the past years and has found a comfortable home in New York or Miami real estate and Delaware shell companies. Putin himself is said to be worth over $40 billion dollars, much of it stolen from Russian citizens. The president could release directly or through journalists the U.S. government’s knowledge of where this wealth is hidden and how it was accumulated.

Senior national security journalist Eli Lake also broached the idea in Bloomberg View:

…Obama should shine a spotlight on the Russian president’s money. Since the 2014 stealth invasion of Ukraine, the CIA and the Treasury Department have devoted more resources to learning the details of Putin’s personal wealth. Obama should declassify dossiers of Putin’s and his inner circle’s fortune: their front companies, their homes, their yachts, their secret bank accounts.

As the global economic hegemon, the U.S. holds tremendous financial leverage over regimes built on the spoils of corruption–leverage it has hardly begun to use. Is it time to hit kleptocrats like Putin where it really hurts?