Natasha Bertrand, writing for Politico, says that conspiracy theories promoted by a “former economic policy adviser” to Putin “raise the specter of Russian attempts to sow chaos and doubt in the legitimacy of US elections.”
NEW: The Cato Institute is investigating a blog post published by one of its senior fellows, a former economic policy adviser to Putin, that contains conspiracy theories about the election and defends pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol last week. https://t.co/kUtnFzVSGY
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 12, 2021
Said conspiracy theories refer to a Jan 8, 2021 blog post entitled “Burning of the Reichstag 2021” on his Russian language LiveJournal blog, which is more or less what it says on the tin.
Andrey Illarionov is an emigre Russian libertarian economist who broke up with Putin in 2005 over his opposition to the Yukos case against Khodorkovsky.
At the time, Western journalists were shocked and aghast over his removal as an economic advisor to the President. Kirill Pankratov, writing at the erstwhile eXile, compiled some of the reactions:
- “…the very fact that Mr. Illarionov was driven to such unusual defiance confirmed that dismay over Mr. Putin’s course is not limited to political opponents or foreign critics…It would be a terrible mistake to gag the very people Mr. Putin prized for their candor” (NY Times);
- “…These reformers were pushed out when Mr. Putin secured his second term and started to reveal his true stripes. Mr. Illarionov’s pep talks abroad could no longer disguise the real Vladimir Putin. …showed that rule of law and property rights stand no chance in Mr. Putin’s Russia …should destroy any lingering delusions about Mr. Putin. The Russian leader is no democrat or reformer. It also suggests that some ambitious Russians believe that the time may be ripe to stand up and fight Mr. Putin” (Wall Street Journal);
- “The outspoken silenced… Marginalising one of the few liberals left in the Kremlin… It is time to see Mr. Putin as a challenger, and not a friend” (The Economist);
- “…another ominous sign that Putin, a former KGB officer, will tolerate no further dissent…” (Knight Ridder Newspapers);
- “…Kremlin is becoming a closed box to even the most seasoned Russia watchers, one of the few administration insiders who has openly expressed his views is being punished for doing so.” (Moscow Times)
(As Pankratov points out, there was no similar din and seethe when G.W. Bush dismissed his economic advisor Larry Lindsey for not quite being enthusiastic enough about the Iraq War on account of the $200 billion that he estimated it would cost. An extreme underestimate, as it would turn out. But he was out).
After his ejection from the Russian government in 2005, Illarionov spent the next 15 years criticizing Putin and Russia at the CATO Institute – up to the point of demanding sanctions against Russia and advising the US on how best to implement them on the pages of the NATO/Western arms manufacturer-funded Atlantic Council.
Now I suppose it’s too much to expect a Western hack all these somewhat relevant details when pushing the next Russiagate “drop”. (Russiagate being just a slightly less insane but infinitely more handshakeworthy version of Qanon but for libs).
I don’t work at the Cato Institute anymore.
As the vice-president of the institute told me, the reason is the content of the postscripts attached to my post “Burning of the Reichstag” – 2021 on this blog. When I was invited to work at the Cato Institute, to regularly asked questions about the position of the Institute on this or that issue, the answer was always the same: “The Institute has no other position except for the protection of individual liberty. On any issue there is not the position of the Institute, but there are different positions of the Institute’s employees, for the expression of which they have every right.”
Now this approach has changed.
As I have said more than once, freedom of speech is the foundation, the starting point, of a free society.
I suppose that Illarionov’s “problem” so far as a sustainable career in the US goes is that he is a typical 2000s American right-wing libertarian, characterized by mostly neocon takes on Russia and US foreign policy, support for the Tea Party and opposition to Obamacare and the Kyoto Protocols (a “global Auschwitz” for the world economy), and even open discussion of FBI crime stats in the context of Black racial grievances.
As such, as he was very much out of tune by mid-2000s Russia, when Putin had finished up with market reforms and started re-consolidating state authority over the Yeltsin-era oligarchs and drifting out of the 1990s America cargo cult. But by this same token of ideological inflexibility, Illarionov remained in that 2000s right-wing libertarian time warp while his host country moved on. What used to be perfectly mainstream conservative positions under G.W. Bush started becoming inconvenient and cringe under Obama and outright unhandshakewothy under the late Trump.
Now to be sure, Illarionov remained very useful for the American elites for his promotion of anti-Russia sanctions and championing of the Ukraine against “Russian aggression”. But the rants against Greta Thunberg and BLM were now seen as awkward, though his superiors were able to turn a blind eye to them by dint of most of them being confined to his Russian language blog. But “[fueling] hatred and insurrection”, in the words of Ilya Zaslavskiy – the person who did most to raise attention to Illarionov’s problematic blog posts to CATO’s managers – was evidently a step too far. At this point, he needed to be canceled and shut down.
Ilya Zaslavskiy, a researcher on post-Soviet kleptocracy, called Illarionov’s posts “downright dangerous,” .. they are shared within Russia and among Trump supporters. “Appearing academic and analytical, he fuels further hatred and insurrection,”.https://t.co/hW1GMVOL8H
— Ilya Zaslavskiy (@IZaslavskiy) January 12, 2021
Ilya Zaslavskiy’s bio on Twitter describes him as a Senior Fellow of the Free Russia Foundation, which is sponsored by the anti-Putin emigre oligarch and tax fraudster Khodorkovsky. He runs some grift NGO outfit called the Underminers (I assume it’s a grift based on its having just a couple dozen blog posts and one “research note” on its website over the eight years of its putative existence). Illarionov, at least, was highly “energetic” in his blogging. But there’s limited room at the US State Department & Co. feeding trough.