Putin Richer Than Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk? Here's Why Sanctions Won't Hit Him

Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains immense wealth besides the official count as experts have claimed his massive wealth is scattered and even distributed in his inner circle. After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine despite the sanctions announced by a number of countries, a fresh round of sanctions are in the pipeline, targeting the personal wealth of Putin.

However, some claim that the US might not impose sanctions against Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as it still wants to keep the diplomatic channel open. While imposing such sanctions could further escalate the situation, leading to severing diplomatic ties and more undesirable consequences.

It is also not clear how successful are such sanctions in changing the behavior of an individual or freezing their assets.

Putin's wealth

Sanctions Marginally Effective

Atlantic Council's Edward Fishman and Tufts University's Chris Miller, in an op-ed for Politico, said targeted sanctions may "only be marginally effective when these individuals treat Russia's resources as their own personal piggy bank".

Vladimir Putin is far wealthier than the Kremlin reveals. Even his inner circle maintains massive wealth.

Panama and Pandora Papers leaks have revealed that Russian individuals who maintain close ties with Putin have amassed fortunes stretching into hundreds of millions of dollars, reported Fortune.

Among World's Richest People

Some political and financial analysts have made estimations that with his current wealth, the former KGB head is among the world's richest people.

Russian President Vladimir had a net worth of $70 billion in 2012, estimated Stanislav Belkovsky, a Russian political analyst and Putin critic, for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Putin's official income

Belkovsky's claims were based on the fact that Putin maintains stakes in the Russian oil and gas companies.

Meanwhile, a Swedish economist gave a higher estimation of Putin's wealth saying the Russian President holds a wealth of hundreds of billions.

Putin has somewhere between $100 billion and $150 billion in assets, said Anders Aslund author of Russia's Crony Capitalism: The Path From Market Economy to Kleptocracy. Aslund calculated his estimation of the wealth of Putin's confidants. The Swedish economist estimates Vladimir's friends hold between $500 million and $2 billion each on behalf of the Russian president.

Putin Richer Than Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk

Besides these two estimations, an extreme calculation came from financier Bill Browder. The financer was the main proponent of the Magnitsky Act and testified in the US Senate in 2017 stressing that he believed that the Russian President to be "one of the wealthiest men in the world". Browder also conveyed that he believed Putin's assets total up to nearly $200 billion, the massive amount which makes the Russian President wealthier than Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates.

russia president vladimir putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin Reuters

Browder based his calculation on his belief that in 2003, Vladimir Putin had ordered Russia's richest oligarchs to offer him half of their wealth following the 2003 arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of oil company Yukos and once Russia's wealthiest person, who was jailed for fraud.

Opaque Nature of Wealth, Challenging to Effectively Impose Sanctions

However, others have argued that calculating Putin's assets is a meaningless exercise as everything which belongs to the country, Russian President considers to be his.

Sergei Pugachev, an exiled Russian billionaire, argued in 2015 in an article for the Guardian that everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considered being his and any attempt to calculate [his net worth] won't succeed.

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden Twitter

The estimations show that the Russian President maintains massive wealth but nearly those all lie in opaque nature, a major hurdle for successfully executing sanctions against Putin if imposed any.

Similarly, if the US imposes any sanctions against Putin, it will be challenging for bodies to clearly identify the Russian President's assets and freeze them.

Scope for De-escalation

With regard to the sanctions, the US officials have also laid out certain reasons that would help to ease tensions.

Currently, Biden's deputy national security adviser for international economics Daleep Singh, who is also believed to be behind the current sanctions program, in a 2018 Senate hearing had said that sanctions "against a large, complex, and integrated market economy such as Russia should be staged to preserve scope for escalation or de-escalation."

What is his Official Income?

Putin earns an income of $140,000, according to official disclosure from Kremlin. It also conveyed that Putin owns three cars, a trailer, and an 800-square-foot apartment and uses a 1,600-square-foot apartment in Moscow. With regard to the sanctions against Putin, Kremlin spokesperson Peskov had said that state officials in Russia are barred from holding foreign bank accounts.

In connection to the possible sanctions against Putin, such possibilities could have been smelled by Moscow in changing scenarios as on February 7 a superyacht reportedly owned by the Russian President Graceful quickly sailed out of Hamburg without completing scheduled repairs.

However, if imposed, Putin will not be the first world leader to face sanctions as Myanmar's commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam have been subject to US sanctions.