“The Rape of Russia,” by Anne Williamson
“The historic opportunity given the U.S. to help transform Russia into a free, peaceful, pro-Western country was squandered in the form of a bruising economic rape carried out by corrupt
Russian politicians and businessmen, assisted by Bush and (especially)
Clinton administrations engaged in political payoffs to Wall Street
bankers and others, and by ineptitude and greed on the part of the U.S. Treasury and the Harvard Institute for International Development [which was dissolved in June 2000], assisted by fellow travelers and manipulators at Nordex, the IMF, the World Bank, and the Federal Reserve. The losers were the Russian people and (mainly) U.S. tax-payers.”
Janine R. Wedel in “The Harvard Boys do Russia,“ (The Nation, May 14, 1998) wrote that in 1995 US oligarch George Soros was one of only two entities given exclusive bidding rights by his pal Chubais to ownership of a large Russian steel mill and an oil company. In 1997 Soros bought 24% of a Russian telecommunications giant:
Williamson, a journalist who specializes in Soviet and Russian affairs,
details these and other conflicts of interest between H.I.I.D.’s
advisers and their supposed clients–the Russian people–in her forthcoming book, How America Built the New Russian Oligarchy. For example, in 1995, in Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the Harvard Management Company (H.M.C.), which invests the university’s endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the only foreign entities allowed to participate. H.M.C. and Soros became significant shareholders in Novolipetsk, Russia’s second-largest steel mill, and Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceed those of Mobil. H.M.C. and Soros also invested in Russia’s high-yielding, I.M.F.-subsidized domestic bond market.
Even more dubious, according to Williamson, was Soros’s July 1997 purchase of 24 percent of Sviazinvest, the telecommunications giant, in partnership with Uneximbank’s Vladimir Potanin. It was later learned that shortly before this purchase Soros had tided over Yeltsin’s government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars while the government was awaiting proceeds of a Eurobond issue; the loan now appears to have been used by Uneximbank to purchase Norilsk Nickel in August 1997. According to Williamson, the U.S. assistance program in Russia was rife with such conflicts of interest involving H.I.I.D. advisers and their U.S.A.I.D. [US taxpayer]-funded Chubais allies, H.M.C. managers, favored Russian bankers, Soros and insider expatriates working in Russia’s nascent markets.””…
[HIID, Harvard Institute for International Development, was dissolved in June 2000]
Added: “Only the mixture of American triumphalism and academic arrogance could have produced such a lethal dose of gall,” said former World Bank economist David Ellerman.
Added: From Anne Williamson’s testimony [before the US House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Financial Services, 9/21/1999]:
“In the matter before us – the question of the many billions in capital that fled Russia to Western shores via the Bank of New York and other Western banks – we have had a window thrown open on what the financial affairs of a country without property rights, without banks,
without the certainty of contract, without an accountable government or
a leadership decent enough to be concerned with the national interest
or its own citizens’ well-being looks like. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? But let there be no mistake, in Russia the West has truly been the author of its own misery. And there is no mistake as to who the victims are, i.e. Western, principally U.S., taxpayers and Russian citizens’ whose national legacy was stolen only to be squandered and/or invested in Western real estate and equities markets.
The failure to understand where Communism ended and Russia began insured that the Clinton Administration’s policy towards Russia would be riddled with error and ultimately ineffective. Two mistakes are key to understanding what went wrong and why.
The first mistake was
the West’s perception of the elected Russian president, Boris Yeltsin;
where American triumphalists saw a great democrat determined to destroy
the Communist system for freedom’s sake, Soviet history will record a usurper.
A usurper’s first task is to transform a thin layer of the self-interested rabble into a constituency. Western assistance, IMF lending and the targeted division of national assets are what provided Boris Yeltsin the initial wherewithal to purchase his constituency of ex-Komsomol [Communist Youth League] bank chiefs, who were given the freedom and the mechanisms to plunder their own country in tandem with a resurgent and more economically competent criminal class. The new elite learned everything about the confiscation of wealth, but nothing about its creation. Worse
yet, this new elite thrives in the conditions of chaos and eschews the
very stability for which the United States so fervently hopes knowing
full well, as they do, that stability will severely hamper their ability to obtain outrageous profits. Consequently, Yeltsin’s “reform” government was and is doomed to sustain this parasitic political base composed of the banking oligarchy.
The second mistake lay in a
profound misunderstanding of Russian culture and in the Harvard
Institute of International Development advisers’ disregard for the very
basis for their own country’s success; property rights. It was a very grave error. Private property is not only the most effective instrument of economic organization, it is also the organizational mechanism of an independent civil society.
The protection of property, both of individuals’ and that of a nation,
has justified the existence of and a population’s acceptance of the
modern state and its public levies.
Russian property rights are tricky; property has never been distributed, but only confiscated and awarded on a cyclical basis. For the big players property exists, as it always has, only where there is power.
For the common man, the property right hasn’t advanced much beyond
custom which prevents the taking of any man’s shelter, clothes or tools
so long as continuous usage is demonstrable. An additional, purely
Slavic feature of the Russians’ concept of property is the shared belief
that each has a claim upon some part of the whole.”…
More from “The Harvard Boys do Russia,“ (The Nation, May 14, 1998), including 2 paragraphs at top of post: [HIID, Harvard Institute for International Development, was dissolved in June 2000.]
“After seven years of economic
“reform” financed by billions of dollars in U.S. and other Western aid,
subsidized loans and rescheduled debt, the majority of Russian people find themselves worse off economically. The privatization drive that was supposed to reap the fruits of the free market instead helped to create a system of tycoon capitalism run for the
benefit of a corrupt political oligarchy that has appropriated hundreds
of millions of dollars of Western aid and plundered Russia’s wealth. The architect of privatization was former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, a darling of the U.S. and Western financial establishments. Chubais’s drastic and corrupt stewardship made him extremely unpopular. According to The New York Times, he “may be the most despised man in Russia.”
Essential to the implementation of Chubais‘s policies was the enthusiastic support of the Clinton Administration and its key representative for economic assistance in Moscow, the Harvard Institute for International Development [dissolved in June 2000].
Using the prestige of Harvard’s name and connections in the Administration, H.I.I.D. officials acquired virtual carte blanche over the U.S. economic aid program to Russia, with minimal oversight by the government agencies involved. With this access and their close alliance with Chubais and his circle, they allegedly profited on the side. Yet few Americans are aware of H.I.I.D.’s role in Russian privatization, and its suspected misuse of taxpayers’ funds.
At the recent U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Yuri Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow, made what might have seemed to many an impolite reference to his hosts. After castigating Chubais and his monetarist policies, Luzhkov, according to a report of the event, “singled
out Harvard for the harm inflicted on the Russian economy by its
advisers, who encouraged Chubais’s misguided approach to privatization
and monetarism.” Luzhkov was referring to H.I.I.D. Chubais, who
was delegated vast powers over the economy by Boris Yeltsin, was ousted
in Yeltsin’s March purge, but in May he was given an immensely
lucrative post as head of Unified Energy System, the country’s electricity monopoly.
Some of the main actors with Harvard’s Russia project have yet to face a reckoning,
but this may change if a current investigation by the U.S. government
results in prosecutions. The activities of H.I.I.D. in Russia provide
some cautionary lessons on abuse of trust by supposedly disinterested
on U.S. arrogance and on the entire policy of support for a single
Russian group of so-called reformers. The H.I.I.D. story is a familiar
one in the ongoing saga of U.S. foreign policy disasters created by
those said to be our “best and brightest.” Through the late summer and fall of 1991, as the Soviet state fell apart, Harvard Professor Jeffrey Sachs and
other Western economists participated in meetings at a dacha outside
Moscow where young, pro-Yeltsin reformers planned Russia’s economic and
political future. Sachs teamed up with Yegor Gaidar, Yeltsin’s first architect of economic reform, to promote a plan of “shock therapy” to swiftly eliminate most of the price controls and subsidies that had underpinned life for Soviet citizens for decades. Shock therapy produced more shock–not least, hyperinflation that hit 2,500 percent–than therapy.
One result was the evaporation of much potential investment capital: the substantial savings of Russians. By November 1992, Gaidar was under attack for his failed policies and was soon pushed aside…
H.I.I.D. had supporters high in the Administration. One was
Lawrence Summers, himself a former Harvard economics professor, whom
Clinton named Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs
in 1993. Summers, now Deputy Treasury Secretary, had longstanding ties
to the principals of Harvard’s project in Russia and its later project
in Ukraine. Summers hired a Harvard Ph.D., David Lipton (who had been vice president of Jeffrey D. Sachs
and Associates, a consulting firm), to be Deputy Assistant Treasury
Secretary for Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. After Summers was promoted to Deputy Secretary, Lipton moved into Summers‘s old job, assuming “broad responsibility” for all aspects of international economic policy development. Lipton co-wrote numerous papers with Sachs and served with him on consulting missions in Poland and Russia. “Jeff and David always came [to Russia] together,” said a Russian representative at the International Monetary Fund. “They were like an inseparable couple.” Sachs, who was named director of H.I.I.D. in 1995, lobbied for and received U.S.A.I.D. grants for the [Harvard] institute to work in Ukraine in 1996 and 1997 …
Andrei Shleifer, a Russian-born emigre and already a tenured
professor of economics at Harvard in his early 30s, became director of
H.I.I.D.’s Russia project. Shleifer was also a protege of Summers, with whom he received at least one foundation grant …
Another Harvard player was a former World Bank consultant
named Jonathan Hay, a Rhodes scholar who had attended Moscow’s Pushkin
Institute for Russian Language. In 1991, while still at Harvard Law
School, he had become a senior legal adviser to the G.K.I., the Russian
state’s new privatization committee; the following year he was made
H.I.I.D.’s general director in Moscow. The youthful Hay assumed vast powers over contractors, policies and program specifics; he not only controlled access to the Chubais circle but served as its mouthpiece …
With help from his H.I.I.D. advisers and other Westerners, Chubais
and his cronies set up a network of aid-funded “private” organizations
that enabled them to bypass legitimate government agencies and circumvent the new parliament of the Russian Federation, the Duma.
Through this network, two of Chubais’s associates, Maxim Boycko (who co-wrote Privatizing Russia with Shleifer) and Dmitry Vasiliev, oversaw almost a third of a billion dollars in aid money and millions more in loans from international financial institutions …
The device of setting up private organizations backed by the
power of the Yeltsin government and maintaining close ties to H.I.I.D.
was a way of insuring deniability. Shleifer, Hay and other Harvard principals, all U.S. citizens, were “Russian” when convenient.
Hay, for example, served alternately and sometimes simultaneously as
aid contractor, manager of other contractors and representative of the
Russian government ... Against the backdrop of Russia’s Klondike capitalism, which they were helping create and Chubais and his team were supposedly regulating, the H.I.I.D. advisers exploited their intimate ties with Chubais and the government and were allegedly able to conduct business activities for their own enrichment. According to sources close to the U.S. government’s investigation, Hay used his influence, as well as U.S.A.I.D.-financed resources, to help his girlfriend,
Elizabeth Hebert, set up a mutual fund, Pallada Asset Management, in
Russia … After Pallada was set up, Hebert, Hay, Shleifer and Vasiliev
looked for ways to continue their activities as aid funds dwindled.
Using I.L.B.E. resources and funding, they established a private
consulting firm with taxpayer money. One of the firm’s first clients was
Shleifer‘s wife, Nancy Zimmerman, who operated a Boston-based hedge fund that traded heavily in Russian bonds.
According to Russian registration documents, Zimmerman’s company set up a Russian firm with Sergei Shishkin,
the I.L.B.E. chief, as general director. Corporate documents on file in
Moscow showed that the address and phone number of the company and the
I.L.B.E. were the same. Then there is the First Russian Specialized
Depository, which holds the records and assets of mutual fund investors.
This institution, funded by a World Bank loan, also worked to
the benefit of Hay, Vasiliev, Hebert and another associate, Julia
Zagachin. According to sources close to the U.S. government’s
investigation, Zagachin, an American married to a Russian, was selected
to run the depository even though she lacked the required capital…
Williamson, a journalist who specializes in Soviet and Russian affairs,
details these and other conflicts of interest between H.I.I.D.’s
advisers and their supposed clients–the Russian people–in her forthcoming book, How America Built the New Russian Oligarchy. For example, in 1995, in Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the
Harvard Management Company (H.M.C.), which invests the university’s
endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the only foreign
entities allowed to participate. H.M.C. and Soros became significant
shareholders in Novolipetsk, Russia’s second-largest steel mill, and
Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceed those of Mobil. H.M.C. and Soros also
invested in Russia’s high-yielding, I.M.F.-subsidized domestic bond
Even more dubious, according to Williamson, was Soros’s July 1997 purchase of 24 percent of Sviazinvest, the telecommunications giant, in partnership with Uneximbank’s Vladimir Potanin. It was later learned that shortly before this purchase Soros had tided over Yeltsin’s government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars while the government was awaiting proceeds of a Eurobond issue; the loan now appears to have been used by Uneximbank to purchase Norilsk Nickel in August 1997. According to Williamson, the U.S. assistance program in Russia was rife with such conflicts of interest involving H.I.I.D. advisers and their U.S.A.I.D. [US taxpayer]-funded Chubais allies, H.M.C. managers, favored Russian bankers, Soros and insider expatriates working in Russia’s nascent markets.…
Despite exposure of this corruption in the Russian media
(and, far more hesitantly, in the U.S. media), the H.I.I.D.-Chubais
clique remained until recently the major instrument of U.S. economic aid
policy to Russia. It even used the high-level [Al]
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, which helped orchestrate the cooperation
of U.S.-Russian oil deals and the Mir space station. The commission’s now-defunct Capital Markets Forum was chaired on the Russian side by Chubais and Vasiliev, and on the U.S. side by S.E.C. chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
Andrei Shleifer was named special coordinator to all four of the Capital Markets Forum’s working subgroups. Hebert, Hay’s girlfriend, served on two of the subgroups, as did the C.E.O.s of Salomon Brothers, Merrill Lynch and other powerful Wall Street investment houses. When The Nation contacted the S.E.C. for information about Capital Markets, we were told to call Shleifer for comment. Shleifer, who is under investigation by U.S.A.I.D.’s inspector general for misuse of funds, declined to be interviewed for this article. A
U.S. Treasury spokesman said Shleifer and Hebert were appointed to
Capital Markets by the Chubais group–specifically, according to other
sources, by Dmitry Vasiliev.”
HIID, Harvard Institute for International Development, was dissolved in June 2000.
Archived publications from now defunct Harvard Institute for International Development, HIID.