How much does the love for Russia cost?

Money has been spent in vain, and it seems that huge amounts of money are just about to be spent. Putin and his government spare no expense when bribing politicians, officials and parties around the world in order to acquire and preserve allies (mercenaries) at the top of states and in political life in general. Since 2014 alone, at least 300 million dollars have been spent from the Kremlin’s black fund for corrupting politicians in twenty or so countries. Then, Western sanctions were imposed on Russia because it occupied and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, which was a sign that one of Russia’s two favorite instruments for cross-border influence – corruption – should be strengthened. The second is military occupation, and Russia had resorted to it in February when it attacked Ukraine.

These figures were presented by the US State Department, and the briefing, during which they did not disclose details, amounts and names of corrupt servants of Russian interests, resonated strongly and reached the front pages of the world’s largest media. Americans convincingly proved that even their democracy was a victim of Putin’s criminal actions, at the time when it was necessary to support Donald Trump’s campaign and put a man in the White House who will be a debtor to the Kremlin.

Putin will now spend even more on bribing politicians around the world, simply because his system of governance has been badly shaken by the aggression against Ukraine, the economy he controls is on its knees due to sanctions, and there is no prospect in sight that he could return to the world stage as a desired interlocutor and partner. Emergency funds are being spent; the money of Putin’s oligarchs, robbed for decades from Russia’s huge natural resources and its people and family silver as the last resort. The money goes to bribing influential politicians around the world, who in turn are expected to find a way for their countries to violate sanctions against Russia and thereby provide oxygen for Russia’s isolated economy. If ever there was a need to open a bag to save a decade-old business and fraternity gathered around it, then that moment is now. Three hundred million dollars (the tip of the iceberg) for the last eight years will be a small change in relation to the money that Putin is ready to invest in bribing politicians today, destabilizing and overthrowing governments, and campaigns where his agents will win.

This is exactly what the State Department is saying. They informed their embassies in about a hundred countries to monitor the flows of Kremlin’s black fund and to discover and impose sanctions on all who took that money. How does this mechanism work and who are the politicians who sign the receipt to Putin confirming that they received dollars?

State structures, such as the FSB, as well as companies, think tanks and other organizations under the control of the Russian state, are directly involved in illegal financing of international politicians and parties. Through those lines, money goes directly to politicians, political parties, and state officials. The State Department described only one of those situations, where the Russian ambassador to an Asian country personally gave millions of dollars to a presidential candidate.

However, there were also mentions of specific countries and some names. Montenegro, for example, and the Democratic Front there, which is currently trying to form a government with its partners for the second time. And Milorad Dodik, as the recipient of “fraternal, Russian, help”, most certainly also has a specific task to fulfill. There is also the Albanian Democratic Party of Sali Berisha, you remember them, the “patriots” who demonstrated in Tirana last December in front of the building where Vučić, Rama and Zoran Zaev held one of the Open Balkan meetings.

Several important Russians were mentioned on this occasion, for example, Alexander Babakov, a kind of emissary of the Kremlin for Serbia, since the time of Boris Tadić and Vuk Jeremić. Tomislav Nikolić even awarded him with a high state order in 2013. And now he is mentioned as one of the most important distributors of exactly this kind of money from the Kremlin’s black fund. Among other things, he is in the spotlight because of the unlawful loan of around 12 million euros to Marine Le Pen’s party ahead of her (unsuccessful) presidential campaign. Even at this moment, politicians in Serbia are competing in “who is on better terms with Babakov”.

Foreign money in politics is not allowed in any democratic country in the world. Neither is anyone’s money, if it bypasses visible and legal channels when reaching politicians. The Kremlin and Putin do both things – they directly finance foreign politicians, and they do it secretly and illegally. Every dollar invested in this way is a small coup for the country it goes to. And the one who receives that money is a participant, a mercenary in that coup, because he works against his own, and directly for the interest of a foreign state.

This is the difference between that money and the money that states, institutions, media, non-governmental organizations, and individuals receive from the West. We have to mention that too, because on this occasion, “patriots” will surely come forward to point the finger at the European and American billions that have come to Serbia in recent years. Yes, that happened, but that money flow could be seen by anyone with a computer and the Internet, both in Serbia, where the money comes, and in America or Europe, whose citizens pay for it. Schools, hospitals, historical monuments are being restored, courts and state administration modernized, without reaching politicians. And the other kind of money, from the “brothers” from Moscow, only goes into the pockets of political leaders and their “patriotic” affairs.

America is doing a great service to Serbia by exposing this long-standing dirty business, regardless of the fact that Russian “incentive” for right-wing politicians and organizations in Serbia and Balkans has been an almost public matter for years. This will accelerate the way to breaking another rumor that pro-Russian politicians work out of love for the brotherhood of Serbia and Russia. It shows that they are not volunteers, even less patriots, because they do not work for their own country, but for another country. And of course, they don’t do it for rubles, but for US dollars. And if we ask ourselves what is the difference between such activities and the oldest profession, the answer is simple: in the mentioned cases, money is taken for services, but kissing is also possible.