Who knew the Brookings Institution had a tinfoil hat division? Clifford Gaddy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution focusing on foreign policy and the relations between the United States and Europe, has put out a conspiracy theory on the Panama Papers leak.
According to Gaddy, the absence of direct evidence against Russian President Vladimir Putin is evidence that Russia is the source for the leak, because if the leaks were genuine they would have directly implicated Putin. Yes, the logic is not strong here.
Under this conspiracy theory, Russia leaked the documents to neutralize criticisms of corruption by showing that Western states are also guilty. Gaddy also claims the reason the Panama Papers leak is so short of American names is that the Russians are holding back information for blackmail purposes: “Some documents would be used for anti-corruption campaigns in a few countries—topple some minor regimes, destroy a few careers and fortunes. By then blackmailing the real targets in the United States and elsewhere (individuals not in the current leak), the Russian puppet masters get ‘kontrol’ and influence.”
Gaddy claims that not only is the Panama Papers a Russian intelligence operation, but that President Putin himself is running the operation “If the Russians are behind the Panama Papers, we know two things and both come back to Putin personally: First, it is an operation run by RFM, which means it’s run by Putin; second, it’s ultimately about blackmail. That means the real story lies in the information being concealed, not revealed. You reveal secrets in order to destroy; conceal in order to control. Putin is not a destroyer. He’s a controller.”
Not surprisingly, the neocon-friendly Washington Post was happy to give the conspiracy theory a platform, even trying to soften the blow to readers expecting some journalistic integrity by calling the piece “not-completely crazy.” The conspiracy-mongering on Russia has been constant at the Washington Post thanks to its editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, being obsessed with Putin after Hiatt’s own misplaced dreams of a more democratic post-Soviet Russia collapsed in the 1990s.
But part of this conspiracy-mongering is almost certainly linked to who was, in fact, directly implicated in the Panama Papers – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. President Poroshenko is reeling from his exposure in the Panama Papers and has now promised to make it impossible for Ukrainian oligarchs such as himself to use offshore companies, but it looks as though it is too little, too late.
On Friday, protesters were burning tires in Kiev–an eerie reminder of the Maidan demonstrations that ended in a US-backed coup. The demonstrators in 2014 demanded President Yanukovych leave office; today the target of their rage is President Poroshenko, whom they blame for a deteriorating civil society and an economy in free-fall.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation. Yatsenyuk had been backed by the US to lead Ukraine after the coup as was revealed in a leaked recording of a phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, in which Nuland said “Yats is the guy.”
Yatsenyuk is just the latest in a string of resignations of so-called reformers. In February, Economic Minister Aivaras Abromavicius resigned citing intractable corruption. Charges and counter-chargers of corruption have led to brawls in the parliament and physical altercations in presidential cabinet meetings.
What happens if Poroshenko is violently driven from office like Yanukovych is anyone’s guess. Though if he were overthrown, it would likely be at the hands of the same people who participated in the 2014 coup: neo-fascists and neo-Nazis militias. They want a racially pure Ukraine and to restart the war with separatists in the east. Some of them have now received US military training.
On April 6, a solid majority (61%) of voters in the Netherlands rejected a deal for a partnership between the European Union and Ukraine. While elites in Brussels and Kiev claimed the election would be of no consequence, it is hard to envision a scenario where the status quo in Ukraine is sustainable much longer.