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Leonid Bershidsky

The Russia Collusion You Should Care About

Why aren't Western governments doing more to stop Russian money from poisoning their economies?
The real threat.

The real threat.

Photographer: Vladimir Sindeyev/AFP -- Getty Images

Forget Twitter trolls, Facebook ads and multilingual propaganda websites: The biggest Russian threat to Western democracies comes from the massive amounts of cash Russians have exported and parked in the West. That money's corrupting potential is all but limitless, but both the increasingly isolationist Russia and the increasingly anti-Russian West do little to stem the flow.

In a recent paper, Thomas Piketty, Filip Novokmet and Gabriel Zucman estimated the offshore wealth accumulated by Russian companies and businessmen at about $1 trillion, or as much as the entire domestic wealth held by Russian citizens. That's a root cause of Russia's current condition: Had less of the money fled, it could have fed a massive economic boom which probably would have led to political liberalization.