Bill Browder · 380 pages
Rating: (21.6K votes)
“Seventy years of communism had destroyed the work ethic of an entire nation. Millions of Russians had been sent to the gulags for showing the slightest hint of personal initiative. The Soviets severely penalized independent thinkers, so the natural self-preservation reaction was to do as little as possible and hope that nobody would notice you.”
“The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night.”
“If I’m killed, you will know who did it. When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know.”
“There’s a famous Russian proverb about this type of behavior. One day, a poor villager happens upon a magic talking fish that is ready to grant him a single wish. Overjoyed, the villager weighs his options: “Maybe a castle? Or even better—a thousand bars of gold? Why not a ship to sail the world?” As the villager is about to make his decision, the fish interrupts him to say that there is one important caveat: whatever the villager gets, his neighbor will receive two of the same. Without skipping a beat, the villager says, “In that case, please poke one of my eyes out.”
“I arrived in the late afternoon at Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. I stared out of my window as the plane taxied to the terminal and was astonished to see the burned-out carcass of an Aeroflot passenger plane lying on the side of the runway. I had no idea how it had gotten there. Apparently it was too much of a bother for the airport authorities to have it moved. Welcome to Russia.”
“While these tactics were aggressive and crude, they confirmed that our legislation had touched a nerve. I wasn’t the only one who recognized this. Many other victims of human rights abuses in Russia saw the same thing. After the bill was introduced they came to Washington or wrote letters to the Magnitsky Act’s cosponsors with the same basic message: “You have found the Achilles’ heel of the Putin regime.” Then, one by one, they would ask, “Can you add the people who killed my brother to the Magnitsky Act?” “Can you add the people who tortured my mother?” “How about the people who kidnapped my husband?” And on and on. The senators quickly realized that they’d stumbled onto something much bigger than one horrific case. They had inadvertently discovered a new method for fighting human rights abuses in authoritarian regimes in the twenty-first century: targeted visa sanctions and asset freezes. After a dozen or so of these visits and letters, Senator Cardin and his cosponsors conferred and decided to expand the law, adding sixty-five words to the Magnitsky Act. Those new words said that in addition to sanctioning Sergei’s tormentors, the Magnitsky Act would sanction all other gross human rights abusers in Russia. With those extra sixty-five words, my personal fight for justice had become everyone’s fight. The revised bill was officially introduced on May 19, 2011, less than a month after we posted the Olga Stepanova YouTube video. Following its introduction, a small army of Russian activists descended on Capitol Hill, pushing for the bill’s passage. They pressed every senator who would talk to them to sign on. There was Garry Kasparov, the famous chess grand master and human rights activist; there was Alexei Navalny, the most popular Russian opposition leader; and there was Evgenia Chirikova, a well-known Russian environmental activist. I didn’t have to recruit any of these people. They just showed up by themselves. This uncoordinated initiative worked beautifully. The number of Senate cosponsors grew quickly, with three or four new senators signing on every month. It was an easy sell. There wasn’t a pro-Russian-torture-and-murder lobby in Washington to oppose it. No senator, whether the most liberal Democrat or the most conservative Republican, would lose a single vote for banning Russian torturers and murderers from coming to America. The Magnitsky Act was gathering so much momentum that it appeared it might be unstoppable. From the day that Kyle Scott at the State Department stonewalled me, I knew that the administration was dead set against this, but now they were in a tough spot. If they openly opposed the law, it would look as if they were siding with the Russians. However, if they publicly supported it, it would threaten Obama’s “reset” with Russia. They needed to come up with some other solution. On July 20, 2011, the State Department showed its cards. They sent a memo to the Senate entitled “Administration Comments on S.1039 Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law.” Though not meant to be made public, within a day it was leaked.”
“After Khodorkovsky was found guilty, most of Russia’s oligarchs went one by one to Putin and said, ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich, what can I do to make sure I won’t end up sitting in a cage?’ I wasn’t there, so I’m only speculating, but I imagine Putin’s response was something like this: ‘Fifty per cent.”
“My heart sank. It’s hard to describe how small $50,000 is to an investment banker. Linda Evangelista, a supermodel from the 1980s and 1990s, once famously declared, “I don’t get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day.” For an investment banker, that number is more like $1 million. But here I was having earned nothing for Salomon, and $50,000 was that much more than zero, so I agreed.”
“For the previous few years, Putin had sat comfortably in the Kremlin, knowing that whatever happened in the US Congress, President Obama opposed the Magnitsky Act. In Putin’s totalitarian mind, this was an ironclad guarantee that it would never become law. But what Putin overlooked was that the United States was not Russia.”
“The imagination is a horrible thing when it’s preoccupied with exactly how someone might try to kill you.”
“if you didn’t get involved in anything controversial—politics, human rights, or anything to do with Chechnya—then you could get on with life and enjoy the fruits of the authoritarian regime. The”
“While Putin expected a bad reaction from the United States, he had no idea what kind of hornet’s nest he’d stirred up in his own country. One can criticize Russians for many things, but their love of children isn’t one of them. Russia is one of the only countries in the world where you can take a screaming child into a fancy restaurant and no one will give you a second look. Russians simply adore children.”
“Early in this book, I said that the feeling I got from buying a Polish stock that went up ten times was the best thing to ever happen to me in my career. But the feeling I had on that balcony in Brussels with Sergei’s widow and son, as we watched the largest lawmaking body in Europe recognize and condemn the injustices suffered by Sergei and his family, felt orders of magnitude better than any financial success I’ve ever had. If finding a ten bagger in the stock market was a highlight of my life before, there is no feeling as satisfying as getting some measure of justice in a highly unjust world.”
“In recent years Russia had restricted most American adoptions to sick children—those with HIV, Down syndrome, and spina bifida, among many other disorders. Some of these children wouldn’t survive without the medical care they would receive from their new American families.”
“Russian stories never have happy endings.”
“British government had already recognized the process as”
“Sergei’s situation, but he turned out to be extremely guarded. He was certain his phone was being tapped”
“gravel path toward the street. I was so overcome with the thought of her leaving me that I decided, What the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound, and chased after her. I swung around in front of her, blocking her way. “Sabrina, I don’t want to lose you, either. Let’s get married, move to Moscow, and start a life together.” Tears welled in her eyes. She let go of her suitcases, fell into my arms, and kissed me. “Yes, Bill. I want to go everywhere and do everything with”
“This was not what they wanted to hear because ever since Barack Obama had become president in 2009, the main policy of the US government toward Russia had been one of appeasement.”
“Have you guys ever thought of doing a YouTube video?” I barely knew what YouTube was in 2009, so she brought in her laptop and showed us how it worked. Given our lack of success elsewhere, it seemed worth a try.”
“I wasn’t optimistic. Interpol has a reputation for cooperating with authoritarian regimes to chase down political enemies. In many cases Interpol had done the wrong thing. The most egregious example of this was in the lead-up to World War II, when Interpol helped the Nazis pursue prominent Jews who’d fled the Reich. There have been many shocking examples since.”
“This whole exercise was teaching me that Russian business culture is closer to that of a prison yard than anything else. In prison, all you have is your reputation. Your position is hard-earned and it is not relinquished easily. When someone is crossing the yard coming for you, you cannot stand idly by. You have to kill him before he kills you. If you don’t, and if you manage to survive the attack, you’ll be deemed weak and before you know it, you will have lost your respect and become someone’s bitch. This is the calculus that every oligarch and every Russian politician goes through every day.”
“Everything I needed was in my car, even the chickens”
“Then he looked at her.
That connection again. It seemed to be drawing them together-an almost physical feeling of attraction. It was exciting, but scary.
Eric got up very slowly and crossed the room. He sat by Thea. Neither of them looked away.
And then things just seemed to happen by themselves. Their fingers were intertwined. Thea was looking up and he was looking down. They were so close that their breath mingled. Thea shivered with the electricity.
Everything seemed wrapped in a golden haze.”
“You can go to hell!"
"Just because I'm going to hell doesn't mean you'll ever deserve her.”
“Things to do today:
1) Breathe in.
2) Breathe out.”
“But will I always love her? Does my love for her reside in my head or my heart? The scientist in her believed that emotion resulted from complex limbic brain circuitry that was for her, at this very moment, trapped in the trenches of a battle in which there would be no survivors. The mother in her believed that the love she hadd for her daughter was safe from the mayhem in her mind, because it lived in her heart.”
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