Washington Babylon — October 24, 2008, 9:53 am

Oleg Deripaska and the Buying of Washington: Controversial oligarch funds local think tanks

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has recently been the subject of a number of unflattering news accounts. An oligarch close to Valdimir Putin, Deripaska is a former metals trader who “survived the gangster wars in the post-Soviet aluminum industry.”

Deripaksa ranked number 9 on this year’s Forbes list of the wealthiest people, with assets of $28 billion. But it appears that the chaos in global financial markets has hit Deripaska hard. “Deripaska, the nuclear physicist turned post-Soviet corporate raider, has ceded more than a billion dollars in assets to jittery creditors as his aluminum-to-automobile empire reels,” the New York Times recently reported.

Deripaska has spread plenty of money around the United States, especially in Washington, D.C., to try to win himself friends and influence. Foremost on his mind, it seems, is reversing a current visa ban that keeps him from entering the United States over concerns that he has ties to organized crime.

So how has Deripaska tried to woo Washington and gain a patina of respectability? Well, as has been previously reported, he used Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign chairman, to set up a meeting with McCain back in 2006. The Wall Street Journal (which has done a series of excellent pieces on Deripaksa) has reported on his ties to GlobalOptions Management, a Washington consulting firm.

Here are a few more details of Deripaska’s PR offensive.

Through his holding company, Basic Element, Deripaska is a major donor to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). According to the Council’s website, Basic Element is a member of the “President’s Circle,” the second-highest corporate donor level.

Basic Element is sponsoring a series at the CFR on, of all things, “corporate governance.” The series “will focus on the burgeoning trend of best-in-class companies originating from emerging market countries, and by virtue of their global reach and often unconventional business models, reinventing the nature of global competition.”

Basic Element has also offered “generous financial support” to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Back in December 2005, Deripaska gave a speech at Carnegie entitled “Restructuring Soviet Enterprises: Challenges and Solutions.” His funding for the think tank soon followed.

The talk started about 90 minutes late because Deripaska’s private plane was delayed in New York, someone who was on hand told me. When he did turn up, Deripaska gave a brief PowerPoint presentation about his truck factory. “People were stunned,” this person said. “There was nothing detailed about finance, foreign business, tariffs, or other subjects you would have expected to hear about.”

Deripaska’s event was hosted by Carnegie’s Anders Aslund, who later offered this comment to the Washington Post about the Russian oligarch: “He’s not the nicest in terms of law abidance. But he is by no means among the worst.”

Deripaska has also bought himself a Harvard pedigree. Thanks to a contribution to the university, he serves as an International Council Member at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Note also that Anders Aslund, incidentally, is now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, where he recently wrote an incredibly flattering profile of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. “Kuchma looks good, much healthier than when he was in office,” Aslund reports. “I asked him to characterize himself. True to his personality, he answered with one word: ‘pragmatist’.” Than came this penetrating follow-up question from Aslund to Kuchma: “What was your greatest deed?”

Peterson’s board of directors includes Victor Pinchuk–Kuchma’s son-in-law. Pinchuk emerged as an oligarch in the Ukraine during the controversial rule of Kuchma.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2014

Stop Hillary!

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

How the Islamic State was Won

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Cage Wars

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Everyday Grace

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"What Hillary will deliver, then, is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us."
Photograph by Joe Raedle
Article
Cage Wars·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"In the 1970s, “Chickens’ Lib” was a handful of women in flower-print dresses holding signs, but in the past decade farm hens have become almost a national preoccupation."
Photograph by Adam Dickerson/Big Dutchman USA, courtesy Vande Bunte Farms
Article
Paradise Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Suffering Sappho! Here we still are, marching right into yet another century with our glass ceilings, unequal pay, unresolved work and child-care balance, and still marrying, forever marrying, men."
Illustration by Anthony Lister
Article
Off the Land·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Nearly half the reservation lives below the poverty line, with unemployment as high as 60 percent, little to no infrastructure, few entitlements, a safety net that never was, no industry to speak of, and a housing crisis that has been dire not for five years but since the reservation’s founding in 1855."
Illustration by Stan Fellows
Post
Introducing the November 2014 Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Doug Henwood on stopping Hillary Clinton, fighters and potential recruits discuss the rise of the Islamic State, the inevitability of factory farming, and more

Cover photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Average number of days an oiled seabird survives in the wild after cleaning and release:

6

Epilepsy drugs can extend the life of worms by 50 percent.

A deaf dog belonging to a deaf owner was shot and killed in Alabama, and an Indiana dog’s skin troubles were found to be caused by an allergy to humans. “It’s just not his fault,” said the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today