Moscow’s evil geniuses abroad

Posted today at 13:52, updated at 15:43

The monarchist Moscow oligarch attracted to the light and the cat-cautious former Petersburg bandit. Konstantin Malofeev, demonstrative and flamboyant; Evgueni Prigojine, almost invisible and mysterious … These two billionaires may be distinguished in a thousand ways, each, by his career and his ambitions, represents a side of the foreign policy of Putinian Russia, a field where ideology and cold cynicism are mixed.

Allies, Malofeev and Prigojine? Rivals? The two are in any case leading players in the same, fruitful and expanding market, that of private diplomacy, of external action delegated to non-state groups. In other words, “Geopolitical entrepreneurs”, according to the expression of political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya, Moscow’s evil geniuses on the international scene, ready to infiltrate the vacant spaces left by professional diplomats or to replace the State for sensitive or secret operations.

The idea may seem counterintuitive when it comes to a country whose political system is often equated with a perfect “vertical”. However, if the broad guidelines in terms of foreign policy do indeed emanate from the summit, a multitude of actors – and not only state ones – are ready to make their contribution, in response to orders or in the hope of a reward. future.

“Without even talking about foreign policy, there are many ways to serve the state: support for the poor, veterans, funding of a political party linked to power…, details Tatiana Stanovaya. These practices are widespread in the business world. Those concerned can certainly hope for retribution, but it is above all a question of obtaining protections. And on the foreign market, Prigojine and Malofeev are by far the most important players. “

Bald skull and stingy smile

Africa, about which Moscow no longer hides its ambitions, is their last playground. At the end of October 2019, the two men were the stars of the first Russia-Africa summit organized in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea. Each with their own style. Mr. Prigojine has not left behind the scenes – instructs his lieutenants (the anti-Semitic Franco-Beninese activist Kémi Séba, for example) to speak to journalists or to lead round tables on themes such as the sovereignty of African states. facing the West or the defense of “ traditional values ​​”, a medley of concepts revolving around the family, already proven to appeal to conservatives in Europe.

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