These are, to say the least, uncomfortable times to be a Russian oligarch. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, governments are taking aim at the superwealthy with close ties to Vladimir Putin, hitting them with sanctions, cutting off their access to offshore wealth, seizing their luxury yachts and villas and generally making it difficult to be a filthy rich person.
But in the Opinion Video above, Jonathan Pie, the fictional broadcast journalist played by the comedian Tom Walker, argues that even while the United States and the European Union have come down hard on Russian oligarchs, Britain has taken a gentler approach. This response, he argues, is the result of a dark symbiotic relationship that the country has developed with ill-gotten Russian money.
For years, Russian wealth has poured into Britain with few questions asked, helping to finance political campaigns and buoying the luxury property market. Russian oligarchs have been so happy to avail themselves of Britain’s laissez-faire regulatory climate to park their wealth and launder dirty money that the nation’s capital has earned the moniker Londongrad. And that, Pie argues, is why the British government has been reluctant to step up the pressure on the Russian elite. Stronger sanctions, he argues, would risk hurting Britain even more than they would Putin and his cronies. “And this was Putin’s plan all along,” Pie asserts. “For 20 years, he’s been slowly neutralizing us as a threat — by using our own greed against us.”