Friday, October 7

“Putin is the leader of a criminal organization”

Today, Bill Browder (Princeton, United States, 1964) is one of the main enemies of Vladimir Putin. He promoted the norm that allows the freezing of assets of Russian oligarchs abroad, the Magnitski Law, which, together with his investigations, has made him a benchmark in the fight against the tyranny of the Russian president. He was also a protagonist in the case of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, when Donald Trump considered his extradition to Moscow for alleged blackmail related to videos with sexual content. The plot of ‘Embargo Order’ (Roca Editorial), portrays the Russian state as a criminal organization. All the events that he narrates – no matter how surprising they may seem – are true and have been experienced in the first person by the author. Thus, Browder is one of the people who best knows the functioning of the Putin regime and the crudeness with which power relations are developed on an international scale.

After his fight against Vladimir Putin’s mafia practices, he has become a symbol of resistance against tyranny. How does that make you feel?

I don’t know if I have become a symbol or if I am simply one of the few people willing to oppose Putin. I look around me and see many Russians who take advantage of his criminal regime. They act cowardly. If more people rose up against him, his authority would quickly crumble.

Have you received threats after the publication of your book?

I constantly receive threats. It has been happening to me for more than ten years and, in the end, one ends up getting used to it. Sometimes they are very direct, other times not so much, but I regularly receive threatening emails, messages and tweets.

Regardless, he decided to go ahead with his investigation. Why?

Because Sergei Magnitsky was killed in Russian police custody while working for me. I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if I hadn’t continued to fight for this cause. Even though twelve years have passed, I still feel anger and guilt, which gives me the energy to fight just like the first day.

There are people who argue that the Ukrainian war is an excuse for the West to expand NATO. What do you think about that?

Putin has stolen a trillion dollars from the Russian people over the past decades. His decision to invade Ukraine is a desperate strategy so that the Russians do not rise up against him. It wasn’t NATO troops who raped and murdered hundreds of people in Bucha, it was the Russians. Putin is concerned only with his own survival, and when dictators are afraid of losing power they start wars. I imagine that those who launch these types of messages against NATO must be financed by the Kremlin.

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Where is Putin’s limit? He Is he capable of starting a nuclear war?

Putin’s psychological type is that of a psychopath. He is not concerned about feelings, nor about the lives of other people. If he could save his own life by starting a nuclear war, he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. But, on the other hand, he is a very practical man. He knows perfectly well that, in the event of a nuclear war, he too would die. And since he cares more about himself than anything else, I don’t see how starting a nuclear war could help him accomplish anything other than his own suicide.

Is there any chance that the Russian state will abandon its mafia functioning and become a true democracy?

I think it is difficult for it to happen in the short term. They have dismantled all the institutions that make it possible: justice, the electoral system, the media… It would be like thinking that North Korea can be a democracy. But all countries have this possibility if they have strong enough leadership. Alexei Navalni could occupy this place.

Is the current level of espionage and propaganda comparable to that suffered during World War II or the Cold War?

Yes. And it’s not just about Russia. China is also recruiting people around the world to influence the politics of other countries. We have seen it in the UK, where the Russians and Chinese have academics, journalists and even members of Parliament working for them.

In his book he hints that Russia could have recruited Donald Trump to his cause…

I don’t think Donald Trump is an agent of the Kremlin, I think he is an agent of himself. He is a man without honesty. It is very difficult to understand what his interests are, although I dare to say that these do not coincide with those of the rest of the North Americans.

How do you assess your possible new candidacy for the presidency of the United States?

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I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. The last time he was in power he thought of handing me over to Vladimir Putin. I think traveling to the United States would be very dangerous for me if he were to become president again.

The last time you were in Madrid you were stopped by the Police and you thought you were being kidnapped by the FBS (former KGB). Do you think that the FBS has the capacity to carry out this type of operation in a country like Spain?

I don’t know if they have done something similar in Spain, but in other parts of the world on many occasions. They have committed kidnappings and murders in the United Kingdom, Austria, Qatar, Ukraine… The Russian secret service has no limits, this is one of the reasons why I was so scared in Madrid.

The Magnitski Law has been one of Putin’s main enemies in recent times…

Yes. This law has made it possible to uncover the fortune it has acquired by stealing from the Russian people, which is why it aimed to discredit and revoke it. He has not succeeded because although he has many resources, he is sometimes incompetent and the people who work for him are stupid and very poorly organized. At the end of the game, the truth always prevails.

The story I tell in the book is not very different from what the Russians are trying to do with the Ukraine. They tell their population that it is a special military operation and not a war, that they do not kill Ukrainians… They regularly use propaganda as a tool to change the narrative of things. Many times it doesn’t work, but they don’t care. It is enough for them that disinformation is effective on some specific people, at specific times. In fact, despite the amount of evidence that I provide in my investigations, I still meet people who believe that I am some kind of international spy.

Are the sanctions against Russia effective? Would they have been possible without the Magnitski Law?

They are not as effective as they could have been. Sanctions can work as a deterrent or as a punishment. Having been so permissive with Putin in the past, these no longer work as a deterrent, but they are a good punishment. I can assure you that Putin and the Russian oligarchs are not happy with them and that they would not have been possible without the Magnitski Law.

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Why has the West taken so long to act against the Putin regime?

This is similar to the case of the engineer who tells the aviation company that there is a fault with one of their planes. The bosses think about the cost of the repair and do nothing to fix it, until one day the plane crashes with all its passengers inside. This is what has happened with Russia, nobody has done anything because they thought it would be very costly to confront Putin. If we had assumed that cost then, we would have saved ourselves a lot of the current damage.

It was for money…

It’s always about money. Things happen (or not) depending on economic interests. Everybody was doing business with Russia until very recently and they will try to get it back if things go back to normal.

Has there been complicity on the part of the western financial sector with the laundering of Russian money?

Not only has there been complicity, but they have actively participated in it. The bankers of London, Paris, Madrid… are partially responsible for what is happening now in Ukraine, since the war is a way of distracting public opinion from these economic crimes.

In the book he narrates his clashes with Interpol. Has the organization acted in favor of Putin’s interests?

Putin has constantly used Interpol against me. It is serious, the organization must be reformed. He’s supposed to fight crime, and instead he acts on behalf of criminals, tracking down and arresting whistleblowers and critics of Russian tyranny. This abuse of the institutions is not limited to Interpol, they also carry it out with our judicial systems. They take advantage of the characteristic values ​​of liberal societies to attack them from within.

What effect do you expect the publication of the ‘Embargo Order’ to have?

I hope that everyone who reads my book can understand that Putin is the leader of a criminal organization. The only serious difference is that he also has the powers of a sovereign state. Today, Russia is a criminal state and you cannot come to a different conclusion if you read my book from the beginning to the end.

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