Monday, February 16, 2015

How Powerful Russian Oligarchs Use Think Tanks

Following are some excerpts from a recent New York Times article entitled "Powerful Russians Commanding Park Views," which is part of a series of articles called "Towers of Secrecy."

First is a mention of the Brookings Institution:
In March 2009, a bookish-looking Russian senator stepped to the podium at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The occasion was the inauguration of a new think tank devoted to United States-Russia cooperation on financial and energy security, and the speaker, Andrey Vavilov, had donated money.
Mr. Vavilov was introduced as a brave individual who had toiled for years under adverse circumstances in Russia, a onetime deputy finance minister and former proprietor of an oil company. His talk, delivered in Russian, focused on the intricacies of the energy markets.
Behind the trappings of Brookings and his professorial demeanor, though, were some more ambiguous elements of Mr. Vavilov’s career.

Here is a summary of that event.

There is also a mention of Mr. Vavilov's involvement in another US-based think tank which was used as an attack platform against an alleged enemy:
Now, tensions had escalated to such a degree that Mr. Vavilov wanted the operative, Rinat Akhmetshin, director of a Washington think tank called the International Eurasian Institute, to help derail Mr. [Ashot] Egiazaryan’s application for asylum in the United States.
“I remember there was money in like $100 bills bags,” Mr. Akhmetshin would later testify, recounting how Mr. Vavilov pulled out $70,000 or $80,000 and handed it over — the first payment in a media campaign to discredit Mr. Egiazaryan.
For help, Mr. Akhmetshin turned to Peter Zalmayev, who runs the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, which describes itself as devoted to promoting democracy and the rule of law in former Soviet states.
Mr. Zalmayev later acknowledged in a deposition that he had been paid $100,000 but had not disclosed that he was working at the behest of Mr. Vavilov when he approached groups including the American Jewish Committee and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Both ultimately signed anti-Egiazaryan letters to the State Department and the Homeland Security secretary.

Mr. Egiazaryan is a financier and former Russian lawmaker.

The article also mentions that in the early 1990s Mr. Vavilov had been doing a fellowship at the Institute for International Economics (IIE), which is now called the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).