PutinCon: A Gathering of the Kremlin's Greatest Enemies

Putin's critics gather in Hell's Kitchen.


Erkan Atay |

Conventions are usually gatherings of fans, but PutinCon—a one-off event today being hosted in Hell's Kitchen by the Human Rights Foundation—is a gathering of Valdimir Putin's loudest enemies. The conference is designed to unite people interested in understanding and defeating the Russian leader's regime.

"We're gathering the world's top experts on the Russian dictator in New York," explains foundation chairman Garry Kasparov, "to discuss how the free world could address the monumental challenge that Putin presents to international peace and security as well as human rights in Russia itself. This is a one-day master class on Putin from prominent public intellectuals, statesmen, biographers, and even some survivors of his brutality."

One speaker is William Browder, the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management. Browder was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in the Russia. Now he's one of Putin's foremost targets. After the Russian government tortured and killed his colleague, tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky, Browder helped craft the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the offshore accounts of Russian officials found guilty of human rights violations and bars them from entering the U.S.

The Magnitsky Act, which was passed in 2015, is a sore spot for the Kremlin. Putin has retaliated against United States and Browder for it in several ways, including barring Browder's visa renewal and halting the American adoption of Russian children. The Magnitsky Act was also a key talking point of the Trump Tower meeting between Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian official.

Browder, who will be speaking about Putin's wealth, collusion, and cronies, believes Putin's net worth to be $200 billion. He tells Reason he thinks the best way to weaken his regime is to go after his assets.

"In order to maintain his kleptocracy, he steals as much money as he can from his people, and he tortures, maims, and kills to do so," Browder says. "But he keeps his money in the West—in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere." Putin feels "rightfully threatened by this act," Browder suggests, because it cuts him off from resources stored around the world. Browder, who believes the U.S. is "effectively involved with a third world war with Russia," touts his act as "our best point of leverage."

Other scheduled speakers include Kasparov, a grandmaster chess player turned democracy advocate. David Satter—the first journalist to be banned from Russia since the Cold War, due to his harsh criticism of the government—will speak on the events leading to Putin's rise to power. Historian Amy Knight, who The New York Times has dubbed "the West's foremost scholar" of the KGB, will talk about the extent of Putin's killings.

PutinCon takes place just two days before the Russian presidential "election," in which Putin has barred his most threatening competition, Alexei Navalny, from running. Between Russia's alleged meddling in America's 2016 election and the recent chemical attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, the conference also comes at critical time in Russia's relationship with the United States and the Europe.

For details on how to attend or to view the livestream, go here.

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  1. Putin is a bad guy. Sorry for the Russians he is in charge. Ultimately, however, I really don’t care about Russia or the Russians. I care about Russia only insofar as Putin causes this country and by extension me problems.

    The problem with expat dissidents of any kind is that they can often end up trying to convince you that the US has some kind of a duty to go and save the home country. Sorry but we don’t.

    1. The idea that America can ignore imperialist expansionism so long as it only targets “small, insignificant” countries is roughly equivalent to the notion that was does not need to make a psychiatric appointment for one’s child until they have progressed from killing insects and small animals to local prostitutes and drifters.

      1. The idea that Russians have to ignore that crazy kid in North America seems to be what you are inferring.

        1. Please list the countries that Russia has militarily intervened in that went on to become prosperous liberal democracies under their geopolitical aegis.

          Because whatever BS you dredge up, I’ll see your BS and raise you a Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy, France, Belgium, Denmark and Norway.

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  2. For years we tolerated Russia because we co-operated in battling ‘terrorism’ in the middle east. But now that threat has diminished and so we’ve started targeting each other. This is the reason that Putin has gotten more aggressive against the west. He has no end game, other than extort us with his nukes. Regime change and advocating ‘democracy’ and Navalny are not the solution. What is? Full freedom of speech, religion and press and yes Russia is ready for that. We need to do a better job of exporting our values instead of arms. If we attack Putin directly with ‘regime change’ schemes then we risk abridging our own freedoms, such as this hysterical neo-McCarthyism that threatens freedom of the press aka ‘fake news’ censorship.

    1. Russia is broke. The only thing that keeps Putin alive is the thought among the Russian people that he has restored the country’s pride after losing the Cold War and made them a great power again. If the time ever comes where people stop believing that, Putin is in a lot of trouble. What makes him so dangerous is that he has to constantly prove how strong he has made Russia. So the choices are either roll over and let him run roughshod over the world until he finally crosses a line that can’t be ignored or stand up to him and humiliate him and run the risk he escalates the situation into World War III because he sees that as the only option to avoid being humiliated and ended up dead. It is a very dangerous situation. Really more dangerous in many ways than it was during the Cold War.

      1. What keeps Putin in power is the tremendously good job he’s done at restoring prosperity and security to Russia. Russia was a living hell in the early 1990’s with no jobs, Baltimore level crime, and Oligarchs running the show. The strides Russia has made under Putin have been nothing short of remarkable. The idea that a country that has known nothing but Absolutism or Communist Dictatorship is going to turn in to some Libertarian nirvana overnight is childish. And the idea that Navlany was Putin’s “greatest threat” is not supported by the evidence. Shocking, the most popular Presidential candidate among Jewish Journalists and Jewish Intellectuals in the United States does not translate to the most popular candidate in Russia. Before he got himself barred, Navalny was trailing Putin by 60 some points and wasn’t even half as popular as either the Communist or Ultra Nationalist candidates according to Independent polling.

        1. Of course it’s Jewish Intellectuals that are the problem. Why’d you even feel the need to say?

          I will give you points for subtlety, though, on flipping the burden of responsibility for Navalny’s ban onto him. Not to mention just flat out leaving out the parts where Putin’s 60 point approval lead might be the result of having full control over state media, and where oligarchy and high crime levels are still very much present and have gone up and down under his administration.

          Altogether, not a bad effort. B+

          1. At least he didn’t get all weaselly and use “might”.

            1. Wow. You totally saw through my cunning attempt at manipulation. Damn- if it weren’t for you, who knows how many commenters I could have hoodwinked with my wily, con-artist ways.

              Unless you were just complaining about the sarcasm, in which case, stop whining.

    2. “Full freedom of speech, religion and press”

      Yeah, like the rest of the world that totally tolerates freedom of speech, religion, and the press. I too understand nothing about the rest of the world, other than to hate the new baddie pimped by the media.

      1. Most of the rest of the world sucks. It always has. To get away from how badly the rest of the world sucks is why people came here in the first place. As shitty governments go, Putin is about in the middle. He is not the best but he is far from the worst. And Russia is a screwed up country. For all of its history and culture, I don’t know that it will ever recover from the damage the Communists did to it. Maybe a two bit thug like Putin is the best Russia can do.

        1. Sorry to break it to you – the Commies kicked out the royalists and their American soldiers and built Russia into a world power that broke the greatest military Europe had ever produced. Putin has shown himself to be a better leader than any US President since FDR.

          1. They built Russia into a collectivized kleptocracy that starved tens of millions of their own people, slaughtered its own officer corps on the eve of war, had to sacrifice 5 million soldiers just to buy time against an invasion by a country with half Russia’s population, lost 2 of its soldiers for every one German, and wouldn’t have had a little baby chipmunk’s chance in the seventh circle of hell of defeating Germany without the combined assistance of the Western Allies blockading it and guaranteeing free passage of Allied shipping with the powerful navy Russia didn’t have, bombing the shit out of it with the 4-engine bomber fleet Russia didn’t have, and giving the Russians supplies and materiel free of charge to make up for the industrial and agricultural capacity shortfall they did have. Not to mention that time the Germans had to deploy a few million troops to deal with that whole “Normandy” thing.

            Oh, and it’s funny how the “best leader since FDR” seems to have all of his political opponents die, disappear or get arrested at just the right moment. Just that Russkie luck, eh tovarisch?

      2. So you’re not really a libertarian? Is that what you’re saying?

        1. What I’m saying is that this whole article is nonsensical war propaganda. And the belief that Putin or Russia are the outliers in the world is hilariously ill-informed. Russia is just as much a tyranny as Venezuela, but less of a tyranny than China and Saudi Arabia.

          1. But, sure, let’s pretend like PutinCon is not being organized by neocons at ‘Defending Democracy’.

          2. Yes, because there are equally bad or worse regimes in the world, no one should criticize Putin or else the neocons will start a nuclear war.

            1. No. He is saying people should stop acting like Putin is worthy of being singled out for criticism.

              1. Of course Putin is going to get criticized more than Venezuela or Saudi Arabia when you’re dictator of Russia, the number one historical geopolitical adversary of the US and the West over the last 70 years. That’s the nature of things. China is about the one direct comparison you could make, and since Mao died that’s been more of a dictatorship by party than one individual (though Xi could be changing this). Additionally, the CCP has been in power for 70 years while Putin’s regime is less than 20 years old and did not start out as a dictatorship. Lastly, while China also does shady shit internationally, they haven’t been as brazenly open or aggressive about it as Russia.

                I just don’t see the relevance of that response in this article. There’s no quote from anyone saying Russia is the worst regime in the world. They’re people with a direct connection or history to Russia/Putin, of course they’ll be focused on him. They’re not invalidated by the existence of worse regimes any more than critics of the Cuban, Chinese, or Venezuelan regimes.

                1. ^ This is so unbelievably dumb. And the sad thing is that he’s for real.

                  “Of course Sadaam Hussein is going to get criticized more than Venezuela or Saudi Arabia when you’re dictator of Iraq, the number one historical geopolitical adversary of the US and the West over the last 20 years.”

                  Neoliberals are not libertarian in any stretch of the imagination

                  1. Russia is not Iraq.

                    Soviet Russia was not Libya.

                    North Korea was not Afghanistan.

                    Imperial Japan was not Syria.

                    Nazi Germany was not Somalia.

                    Retaliatory conventional wars and military buildups in response to geographic expansionism by totalitarian autocracies and their satellites are not unprovoked half-baked “humanitarian interventions” and ensuing quagmire insurgencies.

                    Different wars are different.

                    I hope this was helpful.

          3. and Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela still don’t have as many prisoners as the good old USA.

            USA USA USA!!

            1. It is, admittedly, much easier to keep your prison population down when the people who own the prisons go ahead and monopolize the local criminal activity for themselves.

  3. This is a fantastic idea. Many factors contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016: sexist media coverage, increasing white nationalism, the Comey letter, GamerGate. But Putin’s influence must not be understated, and we now know that Russia hacked the election.

    Drumpf is the greatest threat to the planet, but it’s impossible to discuss Drumpf without mentioning the evil genius who put him in the White House. Indeed, the Russians continue to dictate major aspects of US policy, which we just saw when they demanded, and received, Tillerson’s ouster.

    So the more people know the truth about Putin, the better.

    1. PS: Don’t any of you conservative phony libertarians bother to bring up Obama’s debate zinger against Romney about how “the 1980s called” or whatever. The situation was totally different in 2012.

    2. D-

      You just try to hard. To do a proper spoof you have to make it look like you are not trying. You have to be effortlessly stupid and ridiculous. It has to be over the top but not so over the top that it looks like you are trying.

      You would be better if you would dial it back and just use a few of your devices in a single post rather than all of them. For example, if you are going to blabber on about Trump being the greatest threat to the universe, call him Trump. Calling him Drumpf just lays it on too thick. Use Drumpf when you are making a lighter point or a joke not when you are trying to be angry and engage in hyperbole and spread the latest moonbat conspiracy theory talking points.

      You need to be more thoughtful and balanced.

      1. the latest moonbat conspiracy theory talking points

        You make it sound like the idea that Russia picked Drumpf’s cabinet is something I pulled from a Twitter account with 5 followers. In fact, one of this country’s leading legal scholars, Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe, has made exactly this point. Is he a “spoof” or a “troll”? Or maybe somebody’s “sockpuppet”?

        It’s not my problem if this comment section is so overrun with fake libertarian, de facto Republicans that a bold left-libertarian voice like my own makes people uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I persist. I will continue to talk about #TrumpRussia as long as Putin’s Puppet is in the White House.

        1. That is a little better. You really do a good job of capturing the kind of angry retard zeitgeist that leftists exude. You just need to learn how to control it and you could be a first class troll.

      2. I disagree; that was one of his better efforts.

        A wayward Lefty who happened to drop in to these comments would think OBL had spoken the truth to all these retrograde libertarians.

        1. Probably so. As hard as we can be on the trolls, trolling as a leftist is really difficult. They have become so stupid and so irrational that it is damn near impossible to even exceed their stupidity and irrationality much less do so and have it not be so over the top that it is obvious trolling.

        2. I don’t know. Considering that more column space has been spent here advocating trade embargoes against Russia and pimping Russia conspiracies than articles opposing the US arming Ukraine, I think that people first visiting Reason would think this is a neoliberal publication just billing itself as ‘libertarian’. And they would probably be right. OBL is not really that far off from the stuff written here.

          1. I am about as pro US as you can be. It even amazes me how people can advocate this country being total assholes. What if Russia were sending arms to Mexico? Would we put up with that? No way. But it is somehow okay to send arms to Ukraine and they are supposed to put up with it? Just because Putin is an asshole and a tyrant doesn’t give us the right to go into his back yard and fuck with him any more than he has the right to do the same to him.

            This country seems to be only capable of zero or eleven. We either pull a full Obama and totally roll over and give our adversaries everything they want and then some in exchange for nothing or we demand complete humiliation from them and then wonder why we can’t ever get them to agree to anything. If we want Putin to stop fucking with us, how about we give him a reason to do so by offering to stop fucking with him? What a thought. Maybe he might do a few things we would like him to if we would give him a reason to do it rathe than telling him fuck you that is why.

            1. This pretty much sums up a good portion of the reasoning behind Russia dicking with their neighbors in recent times. Imagine if Russia or China were installing anti-missile systems around our borders with the explicit intent of shooting down nukes and relegating our arsenal useless. We would freak out. And rightly so.

            2. Except for the part where Ukraine isn’t his backyard, but rather the backyard of his neighbor that he invaded and annexed unprovoked, yes.

              Aside from that, your analogy makes perfect sense.

    3. “”but it’s impossible to discuss Drumpf without mentioning the evil genius who put him in the White House””

      Hillary Clinton?

    4. The evil genius that put Trump in the White House was . . . . . . . . Hillary Clinton.

  4. I’m just glad that Putin is the last remaining tyrant in the world. Why can’t Putin be like the refined Chinese, tolerant Saudis, or progressive Venezuelans?

    1. Whataboutery: not just for defending Trump!

      1. Yup, opposing neoconservative efforts to label the next baddie on spurious grounds is totes not ‘libertarian’. Hey, let’s have a rally supporting the US arming Ukraine! Neoliberal moment!

        1. Yeah! Everyone knows that the little green men that visited Crimea were just tourists from Pluto.

  5. “I have no problem with killing Putin; the man was a pig. But it’s a decision we all should have made together.”

  6. Not long ago I finished reading Browder’s book, “Red Notice.” It’s a pretty good read and a compelling tale of being on the receiving end of kleptocratic malfeasance. In the book he tells of associates and acquaintances being killed in public in London near where Browder lives and works and I admit scanning news reports of similar incidents for his name to turn up.

    I did get a chuckle from the chapters describing the fight to pass the Magnitsky Act through Congress that it was Sen. Kerry stonewalling a Senate vote at the insistence of Obama as Kerry was angling for sHillary’s job at State.

  7. I think John makes some good points about Russia & Putin upthread, but I have a little different view of the 2. Putin is pretty straightforward, or he seems so to me. He wants to maintain the balance of power–M.A.D. and to make sure that Russia has options and breathing room for the future.

    He’s also not attempting to restore the glory lost at the defeat of the Soviet Union, IMO. He’s restoring lost glory, tradition, and culture from decades of Soviet terror. This is why you will see–if you care to look–that he has openly embraced the Orthodox faith, and is actively encouraging that Russians celebrate Orthodox Catholicism as an inherent part of their cultural identity.

    I actually have a lot of respect for the guy, and I think our leadership should too. That doesn’t mean kowtowing to him.

    1. You know who else openly embraced and actively encouraged the Orthodox faith…?

      1. Netanyahoo

        1. Arguably not really contradicting my implication, there.

  8. Hearing from David Satter alone would be worth price of admission. Putin’s state through its many levers is a real danger to our rules based society. Satter, a former correspondent for the Financial Times & the WSJ, has been covering the Soviet Union & Russia for decades. Satter is a fair and principled man and enough of a threat to Putin to be banned and later have his email account hacked.

    1. “our rules based society”

      That one is always good for a laugh, thanks.

  9. I cannot believe the Russian hate on this website. It is not even neo-liberal it is neo con.
    Putin is not a dictator. There is an election this weekend. In fact, Russia has two elections, one for partys and one for officeholders.
    The Russian economy is growing, not in disrepair. Their credit rating has risen. Moscow has been rated the best city in Eastern Europe to visit.
    Russian alcoholism is way down. The ease of doing business is way up. Russia has low taxes, and is virtually debt free. Putin advocates privatization of business.
    Putin himself is no more corrupt, even less corrupt, than most heads of state. In fact he has a reputation in his country for not taking bribes. The idea he has 200 billion dollars is laughable. Browder is the son of the former head of Communist Party USA and he is the thief, not Putin. His accountant was not tortured, just did not receive great medical care in prison. No proof of torture. Russia has all of three journalists in prison.
    Russia and Putin is the best thing to happen to the world since 2000. He has stopped the NEW WORLD ORDER IN ITS TRACKS

    1. Yes, the global progression of the “new order” of liberal democracy has, indeed, been locally halted and reversed under his administration.

      1. The global progression of neo-liberalism was locally halted and reversed – just as the rejection of another Clinton White House has done it in the US.

        1. In the sense that a less oligarchic, more socially tolerant version of Russia could be termed “neo-liberal”, I suppose that is another way of phrasing it.

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