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Putin, Bush and Post-Presidential Riches

December 22, 2007

The similarities between President Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, it would appear, are seemingly endless. On Wednesday. Putin followed in Bush's footsteps as the 2007 recipient of the Time Man of the Year. And now, Putin too has grand plans to reap a financial windfall upon leaving office. As it turns out, though, the scope and scale of Putin's post-presidential avarice puts George W. Bush to shame.
As we learned from Bush biographer Robert Draper back in September, the President is looking forward to cashing in just as soon as he leaves the Oval Office. As the New York Times recounted:

First, Mr. Bush said, "I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers." With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, "I don't know what my dad gets - it's more than 50-75" thousand dollars a speech, and "Clinton's making a lot of money."
Then he said, "We'll have a nice place in Dallas," where he will be running what he called "a fantastic Freedom Institute" promoting democracy around the world. But he added, "I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch."

Last week, departing Mississippi Senator Trent Lott provided more speculative fodder regarding Bush's life after the White House. As the Washington Post detailed on Wednesday:

This week, as Lott was preparing to retire from the Senate, he found himself yukking it up with the president at the White House.
Lott told On the Hill that Bush even joked that he may join the Mississippian in the lobbying sector. Lott is considering going to work with longtime friend John Breaux, the former Democratic senator from Louisiana who bolted from the Patton Boggs lobbying firm to launch his own shop starting next month.

But Bush's plans pale in comparison to the ill-gotten riches awaiting his "good friend" Vladimir Putin at the conclusion of his days in the Kremlin. As the Guardian, the Washington Post and other outlets have reported, Putin has secured a fortune which may approach $40 billion.
With his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev in line to replace him as President, Putin is seeking to reap the rewards of his relationships with Russia's energy oligarchs even as continues to pull the strings behind the scenes. As the Guardian detailed on Friday, Putin is fighting to secure multi-billion assets in Swiss banks and off-shore accounts:

Citing sources inside the president's administration, [Russian political expert Stanislav] Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40bn...The sum would make him Russia's - and Europe's - richest man.
In an interview with the Guardian, Belkovsky repeated his claims that Putin owns vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies, concealed behind a "non-transparent network of offshore trusts".
Putin "effectively" controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company and Russia's third biggest oil producer, worth $20bn, he says. He also owns 4.5% of Gazprom, and "at least 75%" of Gunvor, a mysterious Swiss-based oil trader, founded by Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president's, Belkovsky alleges.

That is what George W. Bush would call replenishing the 'ol coffers. It's no wonder the failed energy executive turned American president said of his Russian counterpart in 2001:

"I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul. I knew that President Putin was a man with whom I could work."

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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