Being an autocrat can pay dividends. When you think of relationships and deals between the leaders of countries, you usually think of treaties, trade agreements, and defense alliances. But when it comes to autocrats, what really links them is a shared, narcissistic desire to hold power and mafia-like financial arrangements to make sure they get and stay wealthy. “Unlike military or political alliances from other times and places, the members of this group don’t operate like a bloc, but rather like a loose agglomeration of companies. Call it Autocracy, Inc. Their links are cemented not by ideals but by deals—deals designed to replace Western sanctions or take the edge off Western economic boycotts, or to make them personally rich—which is why they can operate across geographical and historical lines.” Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: America Needs a Better Plan to Fight Autocracy. “We cannot merely slap sanctions on foreign oligarchs following some violation of international law, or our own laws: We must alter our financial system so that we stop kleptocratic elites from abusing it in the first place.” One of the difficulties is that our financial system is often quite distinct from their financial system. There’s an underworld economy that stretches across the globe. For some interesting background on this, you might want to check out the book, Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters. From drug cartels, to terror groups, to kleptocrats, there’s a whole economy most of us don’t know anything about.

+ This is not to say there’s no overlap between the economies. There’s a lot. Example: Inside London’s ‘Red Square,’ the elite address where some of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs have bought multimillion-dollar homes.

+ Some just like to dabble: Koch Industries continues doing business in Russia.

+ One thing I’ve been saying about corrupt leaders, both abroad and at home, is that they don’t stop their behavior until they get stopped. And so far, Putin has only been enabled. “As the world takes in the grim realities of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — the once-vibrant neighborhoods bombed out, the civilians killed by shells while trying to flee, the speculation about whether Russia will use chemical weapons — many Syrians have watched with a horrifying sense of déjà vu and a deep foreboding about what lies ahead.” NYT (Gift Article): Impunity for War Crimes in Syria Casts a Grim Shadow Over Ukraine.

+ Putin puts international justice on trial – betting that the age of impunity will continue.

+ Speaking of the age of impunity, Josh Hawley has been told to stop using January 6 fist salute photo. He doesn’t own the rights to the photo which he features on a mug he sells on his site. Oh, and the photo is a visual representation of him betraying America’s democracy, an act that hasn’t cost him a thing.