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G-101 Algorithm Inside Putin’s Head

Courtesy of Eileen O’Connor and the New York Times

From an article recently published in the New York Times, we have backtested the facts and applied our subjective probability model within the G-101 matrix to conclude that for Putin power not wealth is why Ukraine was attacked. Before reaching this analytical conclusion here are the primary facts as penned by Eileen O’Connor.

“In 1996, when I was the Moscow bureau chief for CNN, a battle was underway between a faction of corrupt oligarchs and cronies of President Boris Yeltsin’s bodyguard, who was demanding more money from them for political “protection” and threatening to upend planned elections. I asked Anatoly Chubais, who was then the deputy prime minister, the question that seemed at the heart of the fight: What is more important to Russians, power or money? He replied, “If you have to ask, you don’t understand Russia”. The answer was power.

As President Vladimir Putin faces the biggest test of his now-22-year reign, squeezed between a passionate Ukrainian resistance and tightening sanctions on oligarchs, oil and technology transfers, the answer remains the same, as it has throughout Russian history.

Many in the West are hoping for Mr. Putin’s overthrow. They do not understand Russia or the attitudes that people there have toward power. Russian scholars have long noted that the absence of private property rights and impartial legal authority lead to state actors holding the power that determines the lives of Russians in every way. Beyond its borders, Russia has since the 15th century exerted its power through military aggression. In a country where power is nearly everything, sanctions and lost fortunes alone will not change that fundamental dynamic.

Mr. Putin’s speech earlier this month proves the point and illustrates what he and many in Russia see as the objective of the war: to defend Russian territory and sovereignty against Western dominance. To him, the West has ignored Russia for too long, and denied it superpower status.

In Western capitalist democracies, wealth often equates to access and influence. So it’s not surprising that many believe that sanctioning oligarchs can move them to pressure Mr. Putin to change course. That is a miscalculation. These oligarchs may hold wealth that connects them to power and that can be used by Mr. Putin, but in Russia, that does not mean that they wield any power over him or those in the Kremlin.

It all goes back to the 1990s, when I witnessed mostly former Communist Party officials amassing wealth through a privatization of state assets overseen by Mr. Chubais. Those who then vowed fealty and lent money to Mr. Yeltsin’s political campaign became even wealthier, granted ownership of the largest state-owned enterprises in oil, gas and raw materials like nickel and aluminum. Today they remain the richest men in Russia.

But the lack of properly defined property rights and a legal and institutional framework to protect them meant these oligarchs still depended on the Kremlin, occupied since 2000 by Mr. Putin. Court decisions for or against oligarchs could easily be reversed depending on the favor of the Kremlin. In the 2000s, after I had transitioned to working as an attorney representing Western investors in the region, I saw this dynamic myself.

And the source of oligarchs’ wealth is not the only thing Mr. Putin can control. He has made clear the dangers of challenging his hold on power. Take the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once the wealthiest man in Russia. Rising from the ranks of the Communist Youth, Khodorkovsky obtained several formerly state-owned oil fields in Siberia and formed the corporation Yukos. In a televised meeting at the Kremlin in 2003, he dared to criticize the government as corrupt. Mr. Putin responded by stripping Mr. Khodorkovsky of his assets and putting him in prison for 10 years, until he was allowed to leave to live in exile.

Experiences like Mr. Khodorkovsky’s may explain why so few oligarchs are speaking out now. The only ones who have said anything about the war have done so from the comfort of places like London, where Mikhail Fridman, the founder of Alfa-Bank, put out a statement saying that “war can never be the answer” — but not criticizing the president. Even with that, Mr. Putin, in his recent speech, lumped those oligarchs in with his adversary, the West, saying “they can’t get by without oysters or foie gras” and that they do not mentally exist “here, with our people, with Russia”. He vowed to spit them out “like a midge that flew into our mouths”. That might have been why Mr. Chubais — who, in addition to overseeing the privatization push, became an oligarch in his own right, and has remained in Mr. Putin’s good graces — resigned his symbolic position as climate czar and left the country.

The only people who can truly sway Mr. Putin are ideologues who share his views, the so-called siloviki. The word literally means people with force — the power that comes from being in the security forces or military. These insiders have been with Mr. Putin since his days in the K.G.B. or in the St. Petersburg municipal government, and they see themselves as protectors of Russia’s power and prestige. They have kept their money mostly inside Russia and out of reach of sanctions. And like Mr. Putin, they see the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, and believe this fight is for Russia’s “sovereignty and the future of our children”.

To influence them, the West must prioritize the things that they believe give Russia its superpower status: its oil and its military.

Russia’s oil and gas sector provides as much as 40 percent of the country’s federal budget revenues and accounts for 60 percent of the country’s exports. That is why President Biden’s focus on sanctions banning oil imports is important, though somewhat symbolic, given how little the United States imports from Russia. While Germany has halted the development of a major gas pipeline, the European Union has not cut off Russian supplies, which represent around 40 percent of its needs, arguing it will take time to find alternative sources. If European countries were serious about affecting Mr. Putin’s thinking, they would spend less time seizing oligarchs’ yachts and lessening their dependence on Russian energy. Likewise, the West must push for India and China to join these sanctions as well.

Meanwhile, the best way to undermine Russia’s military is by limiting access to technology. As has become clear on the ground in Ukraine, the Russian military lacks the vital hardware and software used by other modern forces to gather real-time field intelligence, along with the communication systems necessary to use that intelligence effectively. And the dayslong stalling of a tank convoy indicates that the Russians lack a sophisticated supply-chain system to bring food and gas to troops.

Sanctions cutting off access to the tools that keep Russia’s military operating — the overt exertion of power — can make a difference to those advisers around Mr. Putin. The United States and Europe imposed sanctions to do just that, but they must encourage India and China to do the same. It may not be easy, but doing so will depend on whether the United States can make the case that the principles of sovereign nations and the world order they rely on are under an existential threat.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Fridman, the London-based oligarch who has since been put under British sanctions, said that if the European Union thought he could tell Mr. Putin “to stop the war and it will work, then I’m afraid we’re all in big trouble”, because that means Western leaders “understand nothing about how Russia works”.

As indicated, backtested the facts and applying our subjective probability model within the G-101 matrix concluded that for Putin power not wealth is the only factor why Ukraine was attacked. Using a primary subgroup within our G-101 Algorithm, the subjective probability that Power for Putin is more important than Wealth with a SP tag of a +91.37 assessment. Therefore, Putin’s mind holds a 91.37% likelihood that he seeks POWER over other circumstances.

Note: On Domestic and International Geopolitical issues the G-101 Algorithm within the primary subset has correctly predicted the following events of the last three years.

  • The United States Ends Its Support for the Syrian Kurds.

  • India Embraces Hindu Nationalism.

  • The Central American Migrant Exodus Grows.

  • The U.S.-China Trade War Continues.

  • Brexit Upends British Politics.

  • North Korea-U.S. Nuclear Talks Stall

  • Stock market crash

  • Kim Jong Un death rumors

  • Biden becomes Democratic presidential nominee

  • Kamala Harris chosen as Democratic VP candidate

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death

  • Trump tests positive for COVID-19

  • Joe Biden becomes president-elect

  • COVID-19 vaccine rollout

  • U.S. Election Fallout

  • U.S. Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • Repression of Political Opposition in Russia

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