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Dartmouth Research Takes Aims at Russian Wealth Managers

Instead of tracking down the super yachts, the Italian villas, and the secret off-shore bank accounts owned by Russian oligarchs’ key to Vladimir Putin’s power, western governments should target the money men, according to a new study led by Dartmouth College researchers. 

“Rather than playing whack-a-mole with each individual oligarch, you take out one wealth manager and you effectively take out several oligarchs in one fell swoop,” says co-author Brooke Harrington, a professor of sociology at Dartmouth.

With the United States leading a coalition of western governments aiding Ukraine’s fight for survival against Russian troops, stopping the money that fuels Putin’s regime has taken on heightened importance. The problem is there are many billionaires in Putin’s networks of kleptocrats who help shuffle money.

Using leaked documents that detail the flow of Russian cash through off-shore accounts, the Dartmouth-led study concluded targeting his money managers could cripple Putin’s regime.

The researchers studied connections between more than 1.9 million wealth managers and their clients from Russia, China, the United States, and Hong Kong. The research showed going after a relatively small number of money managers in a network could cripple it to the point of collapse.

Ultra-wealthy people from autocratic countries like Russia tend to use fewer money managers than their counterparts in the free world, according to the research. Most Russian money managers are located in the United Kingdom and Europe, making their financial networks particularly vulnerable if the West chooses to act on the research. 

“Awareness of wealth managers and what they do is still in its infancy in terms of public policy. To end the invasion, there’s an urgent need for sanctions informed by systematic evidence of the asset structure supporting Russia’s campaign—our paper provides that evidence,” Harrington said.

The researchers used the Offshore Leaks Database maintained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which identifies wealth management professionals and ultra-rich individuals revealed through high-profile information leaks such as the 2016 Panama Papers, the 2017 Paradise Papers, and the 2021 Pandora Papers.

Combining sociology and networked science, the researchers mapped the money’s movement and even created a visual map of the various financial networks.

“This allows us to be extremely precise about who and what we can target. We can even estimate the impact of specific sanctions and are developing metrics to identify new targets,” said Dartmouth Professor Feng Fu.

Putin, his government, and his cronies have been subject to punishing sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU since the start of the war more than a year ago. The aim has always been to stop Putin’s ability to wage war against Ukraine, but Putin has continued to send in troops and launch missiles at civilians throughout the war.

A report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace predicted the Russian economy’s development will be in reverse for at least the next three to five years. However, it also acknowledged that “the predicted collapse has been avoided, and the forecasted 8–10 percent fall in GDP for [2022] has been reduced to a 3–4 percent drop.”

One reason has been Putin and his oligarch’s continued ability to access billions overseas in their hidden accounts.

Governments in the West have been sending billions worth of cash and weapons to Ukraine, which has managed to push Russian troops out of the Northern part of the country and is now fighting hard in the strongly held Donbas region.

The west can now use the data in the Dartmouth-led study to put a stop to the money funding Putin’s regime, and hopefully stop his war machine.

“To use a military analogy, we are providing a financial missile-guidance system for the countries trying to stop the war in Ukraine,” Harrington said. “A more targeted use of state-backed sanctions means a shorter war and less loss of life.”

Cold War Hero Walesa Wants U.S. to Once Again Lead the World

Nobel Prize winner and former president of Poland Lech Walesa said the United States can lead the world into a new era of peace and security. 

“Under American leadership, we can really improve this world,” Walesa said through an interpreter.

Walesa spoke to New Hampshire leaders on Thursday during a joint House and Senate session, as part of his speaking tour across the northeast United States. Walesa said the world has unfinished business with Russia. Now is the time for the world to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose rule is simply a continuation of the old Soviet Union, he said.

“Right now is that propitious moment to finish that task which I failed to accomplish,” he said.

Walesa wanted to completely “disintegrate” the Soviet Union in the 1990s, but was stopped at the time by American politicians, he told the Granite State lawmakers. With Putin sending his army into Ukraine to commit atrocities, the world needs to fight back, he said.

There must be a strong leader on the world stage, Walesa insisted.

“There is one condition for it to be successful, the United States really has to (step into) the role of the leader in the world,” he said. “This is the opportune moment for us to win the final victory.”

Walesa noted he led the Solidarity movement in Poland that helped defeat the old Communist order in his country, setting off the chain of events that would see the Soviet Union collapsed, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, and Germany reunited. But the job wasn’t complete and the world has authoritarian holdovers from the Cold War in Russia and China.

Putin must be defeated in Ukraine, and the United States must impose a better political order on Russia, he said. Otherwise, another Putin will emerge in the next five to 10 years.

Walesa’s message included criticism of the current capitalist order in the West and a lack of guiding principles among people.

“Societies used to believe in a God and many societies have rejected God now,” he said. “This is a world where everyone wants to drive, but there are no traffic regulations.”

Walesa sees the future world as a democratic and globalist, with people moving beyond the need for barriers. It is a world with a free market that takes care of the poor and dispossessed. But to get there, the world needs the United States to lead people to freedom.

“Providence has given you such strong potential. If unwilling, share your potential with Poland and we will try to put it to good use,” he said.

Poland has long been caught between world powers seeking to dominate it.

“We’re between Germany and Russia, who enjoy military socializing if you may remember. They would visit and revisit one another,” he said.

Walesa reminded lawmakers that Poland tried to warn the world about Adolf Hitler before World II and about Josef Stalin at the start of the Cold War, only to be ignored. Now, Poland is leading by helping Ukraine and taking in more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees.

Walesa got standing ovations at the start and end of his speech. But some of his criticisms of capitalism were met with silence, as was his call to confront Russia in a final battle. It didn’t stop Granite State politicians from getting their photos taken with the Cold War icon or tweeting about his speech.

State Rep. Laura Telerski (D-Nashua) called his speech inspiring.

“I heard Lech Walesa speak in Gaston Hall before he served as president of Poland. Today he addresses the @NHHouseofReps and Senate in joint convention. He still inspires,” she tweeted.

“Truly an honor to meet former president of Poland Lech Walesa,” state Rep. Kimberly Rice (R-Hudson) tweeted.