AND the Academy Award for best fascist dictator goes to Adolph Hitler! Woody Allen cracked the joke at the ex- pense of the US habit of making awards out of self-congratulation of the least worthy type. Were anyone to dare in the same spirit, they might award the new US nominee to head the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, the title of worst American to hold such a global post.
But wait a minute. Wolfowitz is hardly American at all, having spent much of his time as a career Washington warmonger under investigation by US counterintelligence and security agencies as an agent for a foreign power — for whose benefit he is suspected of supplying intelligence, cash, weapons and other favours.
In US law books, these may be crimes against the state, possibly espionage, even treason. But not the crimes against humanity which he has encouraged his favourite small state to commit, nor those which he encouraged his addled — if not yet treasonous — president to commit in the first of the great Middle Eeastem wars, which US forces will lose.
For Russia, against whom he has been waging war since he got out of short pants, his nomination as World Bank president presents something of a dilemma — and opportunity. During the first post-Sclviet decade, the bank under James Wolfensohn was one of many tools the US, as the bank’s dominant shareholder, used to destroy the economic: foundations of its rival superpower.
It paid stipends to Russian quislings; obliged the Russian government to incur sizeable debts for the privilege of being advised to dismantle its systems of command and control; and transferred the nation’s most valuable resources into the hands of a dozen individuals eager to betray their country for personal profit.
Not without reason was Wolfensohn’s favourite Russian counterpart Victor Chernomyrdin, the prime minister who enriched him self through creating Russia’s largest company, Gazprom.
Wolfensohn waged war by other means — Chernomyrdin was his collaborator; and the Russian treasury paid in full for its defeat
This arrangement could not last, and when the revival of the feeble Russian state began to challenge the value and terms of the bank’s operations in Russia, Wolfensohn decided to commission an assessment of the effectiveness of the programmes he had promoted in Russia.
He could have engaged Joseph Stiglitz, for four of the preceding years the bank’s chief economist, Nobel Prize winner and former chairman of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
But by the time Russia had grown sceptical of Wolfensohn, and called a halt to new borrowings from him, Stiglitz had become a ferocious critic of everything Wolfensohn had done, or tried to do.
Wolfensohn preferred to hand the assessment job to a minor academic who had enriched himself selling Russians the very adviot Wolfensohn asked him to evaluate. The hungry fox invited to call the roll in the henhouse was US-employed Swede Anders Aslund.
“We don’t necessarily take his advice,” commented Julian Schweitzer, the bank’s Moscow representative at the time, on the appointment
Aslund’s defence of everything Wolfensohn had done in Russia did not , encourage the Kremlin to resume borrowing. Instead, it resolved to pay Wolfensohn off, a task the Russian treasury completed just a few months ago.
From Wolfensohn’s point of view, the evaluation may have helped salve the wounds Stiglitz had inflicted on him and the institution
More practically, it encouraged him to try to evade the Kremlin’s veto on borrowing, and recruit thin Chernomyrdins in the Russian provinces.
These were governors, local warlords and corporate magnates as keen to leverage themselves with the bank as fat Chernomyrdin — and President Boris Yeltsin — had been 10 years before.
With tactics like these, Wolfensohn has hung on for another four years after the Aslund report, but in Moscow he has remained a has-been, the banker no one serious wants to borrow from.
Wolfowitz’s nomination ought to remove any possibility that Russia — now a greater oil power than Wolfensohn or Wolfowitz thought possible — would borrow itself, or recommend that anyone else should
The dilemma posed by the Wolfowitz nomination turns out to be an opportunity for President Vladimir Putin to conclude that, from Russian experience, the bank does more damage than good, and should be isolated and ignored by those countries and economies mos: in need of development financing.
This should not be interpreted as anti-Americanism.
If the Federal Bureau of Investigation were permitted to disdose all it knows, Wotfоwitz may not be the American he claims to be. And with a record like his, it may be a violation of the American statutes to borrow from Wotfowitz.
In US jurisprudence, it is not just immoral to make covenants with war criminals, it is criminal.