Putin’s Silovarchs


Since the late 1990s, most of Boris Yeltsin’s oligarchs have left the political stage. In their place, a new business elite has sprung up, most from the network of security service and law enforcement veterans known as the siloviki (roughly, “power agents”) who form the backbone of President Putin’s administration. Indeed, the security forces’ takeover of corporate boardrooms is coming to define Putin’s regime. Silovarchs can deploy intelligence networks, state prosecutors, and armed force to intimidate or expropriate business rivals. Their temptation to use secret service tools and techniques predisposes the regime toward authoritarian politics. Western policy towards Russia will have to recognize these realities. The most promising path toward authentic democracy in Russia involves the cooptation of leading siloviki into the international business world.

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