When Panamanian authorities on Tuesday raided the headquarters of Mossack Fonseca — the firm at the center of a maelstrom involving data breaches, offshore bank accounts and nervous pols worldwide — at least one corner of the world was quick to respond with a collective shrug.
In Russia, where Vladimir Putin reigns as the strongman to beat all strongmen, citizens have barely noticed the so-called “Panama Papers,” for they were long ago disabused of the notion that any politician should be deemed incorruptible.
Despite a trail that rather convincingly leads directly to the Russian president, his constituents’ reactions range from indifferent to indulgent. As The Economist noted, “With the help of friendly media, the Kremlin has . . . used the leak to reinforce a familiar story of Western meddling.”
The fact is that many Russian citizens, resigned to what they see as the inevitability of it all, are declining to give even that possibility much thought. One housewife told The Guardian, “Of course, all politicians are corrupt. We’ll never be able to do anything about it.”
Putin, having declared himself innocent of any wrongdoing, insists that the scandal was engineered by “Western opponents” looking to destabilize Russia. In contrast, a theory that has quickly gained popularity holds that, in a move that would make Machiavelli proud, Putin himself is behind the leak, figuring that several of his foes would be highly embarrassed by the revelations and expecting that his jaded constituency would give him a pass.
After all, to many a Russian, their leader prominently included, corruption is simply business – and politics – as usual.