I've just published Freezing Order, A true Story of Russian Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Putin's Wrath. I've spent the last decade in a brutal fight with Vladimir Putin and have some insights into his criminal mind. You can learn more about me from Twitter:https://twitter.com/Billbrowder

and https://www.billbrowder.com/


Comments: 355 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

keysandtreesforme180 karma

I learned so much from your recent interview with Preet Bharara. Thanks for all the work you’ve done and the danger you’ve put yourself in to keep such a scary leader and regime in (some kind of) check.

Will Putin look for or accept any kind of off-ramp for this conflict? Or will it only escalate? What do you think is the minimum he will accept to claim a ‘victory’ and call it done?

BrowderBill203 karma

I don't think there is anything we can offer Putin to get him to stop. He has only one gear: forward. He has never shown any ability to compromise, negotiate or back down. He only escalates. In his mind, anything less is a sign of weakness and for him weakness is equal to death because he thinks he will be overthrown and killed if he is seen to be weak.

keysandtreesforme43 karma

Thanks so much for your response! So should we step up military aid/force? Or will he only get worse? Is that possible?

Looking forward to reading both of your books! Should I start with the first, or can they be read out of order?

BrowderBill128 karma

We should give the Ukrainians everything they ask for. It will only get worse if Russia starts winning in Ukraine and wants to go further.

Read Red Notice first, then Freezing Order.

GoggleShit149 karma

How do you think this war will end, based off Putins previous acts? You’d do a better job at predicting this than I could ever do, haha.

BrowderBill294 karma

Sadly, I think there is a very high probability that this war doesn't end. Now that Putin has started it, he can't back down. And there's no way that Zelensky is going to give up his territory to Russia. Since there is no clear military victor, I dread to say that this may go on for years and years

cam_man_can108 karma

I agree with your reasoning that Putin won’t back down, but I don’t see how the war could go on that long given the insane levels of attrition in Russia’s military (good Economist article). What do you think Putin would do if his military crumbles?

BrowderBill210 karma

He would use tactical nuclear weapons. That doesn't require competent troops or conventional warfare. I think he will do whatever it takes to regain the narrative that he's a truly scary dictator. He's kind of lost that with all this military incompetence.

must_have_sleep106 karma

What are your thoughts on how the oligarchs will react to the situation in Ukraine? Do you think there a point where sanctions will cause them to turn on Putin?

BrowderBill263 karma

Oligarchs are in dire straits right now. They can't access their cash, nobody wants to do business with them and they are radioactive. Unfortunately, no matter how angry they are, they have no power or ability to rise up against Putin. If he gets even the smallest inkling of betrayal, he will imprison them or even kill them. They are so scared of him, they will just lick their wounds and curse him under their breath in private.

RedditAtWorkIsBad102 karma

Wow, thanks for doing this AMA! I very much, well, "enjoyed" (maybe a terrible word for it) Red Notice, and have been following you on various podcasts. I always look forward to your insight.

I have to ask the same question I'm sure you repeatedly get: What is Putin's motivation and goal. The "conventional wisdom" in both the mainstream media and in the reddit echo chambers is that he's trying to reassemble the Soviet Union, although not under communism so much as his totalitarian regime. Can you explain your reasoning why you may think that this isn't his primary goal?

Stay safe Bill. I am not alone in being concerned for the well being of you and your family.

BrowderBill218 karma

I don't buy the "Putin is trying to recreate the Soviet Union" argument. In my opinion, he's just a tired old kleptocrat who has stolen so much money in the last 22 years that he's afraid of the Russian people rising up against him in some unexpected moment of discontent and taking him out. He's just doing what any dictator does when he's worried about being overthrown: he starts a war.

RedditAtWorkIsBad43 karma

Something about this bothers me as inadequate but I have hard time pinning it down. I mean, Putin already has total control over the media. He is spreading blatant falsehoods and it is working on the Russian population. If he has this kind of power already, it seems to me that he could have maintained enough public approval through propaganda alone and not have to actually attempt a full scale invasion of the largest European country. Couldn't he have achieved the same goal by through propaganda alone, or through a much more toned down invasion, for instance, of Donbass only?

BrowderBill110 karma

In theory, yes, he could have maintained his hold on Russian people without starting a war. But he was also terrified of an unexpected scenario like what happened in Kazakhstan. There, a dictator who had been in power for far longer lost his hold on power in one week after the whole country rose up following an increase in gas prices. Putin didn't want to take that chance.

President_Camacho84 karma

Given your experience with Interpol, do you have any reason to believe that Putin has compromised some law enforcement agencies like he has compromised politicians?

BrowderBill161 karma

Yes. With a 100% certainty I've seen him corrupt lots of Western law enforcement agencies. He is a specialist in finding everyone's weak spots.

Engin3er84 karma

Mr. Browder -- Just wanted to say that I have a lot of respect for you in continuing to voice the crimes committed by the Russian government.

How long do you think it will take for Russians to learn the truth about this war, and will the Russian people feel like victims and continue to isolate even after they learn the truth?

if Russia chooses to make amends and seeks to become a part of the global community again, what steps can it take to do so? (other than a full on regime change)

BrowderBill130 karma

At the moment, the Russian people have been worked up into such a nationalistic frenzy by Putin that they only believe what they're being told on state media. Hopefully as time goes on they will realize they're being lied to, but Putin is doing everything possible to try to prevent that. He's cut off large parts of social media, evicted foreign press, and shut down independent news organizations. It's hard to picture a scenario where the majority of the Russian people understand what Putin has done to them (and of course the Ukrainians).

BuggersMuddle74 karma

Hi Bill, I don't think I've read a book quicker than I did Red Notice - an incredible story and superbly written too.

Has there been any thoughts given to adapting this to television?

BrowderBill143 karma

Working on a miniseries right now. Doug Liman, the director of the Bourne Identity, Mr & Mrs Smith and various others will direct it.

DashKalinowski60 karma

Sorry for the loss you have experienced as a result of your work. Do you ever see any signs or symptoms of oligarchy in the United States?

BrowderBill170 karma

in Russia, 1000 people have stolen all the natural resources from the country. With a very few exceptions, none of them created anything. Yes, in the US there is income inequality and rich people who throw their weight around, but it's nothing even remotely comparable to Russia.

cam_man_can58 karma

What are your thoughts on Mikhail Khodorkovsky? In particular, how would you compare him to the other oligarchs in the 90’s? Was he a cynical opportunist just like the others, or did he acquire his wealth in a more respectable way?

BrowderBill142 karma

He paid for whatever sins he committed as an oligarch by spending ten years in jail (for trumped up and politically motivated charges) and has now devoted his life to fighting Putin and helping restore democracy in Russia. I give him high marks

Diet_Coke54 karma

Hi Bill, thanks for doing this AMA! I remember first hearing about you lobbying for the Global Magnitsky Act, which was passed by the US, Canada, European Union, and the UK. It's pretty remarkable for an individual to be able to influence so many global governments. Have you ever considered using your powers to lobby for action to reduce the impact of global climate change?

BrowderBill103 karma

Thanks for your kind words. I have only so much bandwidth and I'm devoting all of it to fighting dictators and defending victims of human rights abuse.

CivilizedGuy12350 karma

If Russia is even partially successful in Ukraine, what’s next? Moldova? Hungary? Romania? Will NATO matter to Putin? I am beginning to think Putin is “all in” and will fight to the death, Russia’s and his own.

BrowderBill66 karma

All of the above. In Putin's best case scenario, he'd be ruling over the Russian empire from the Czech Republic to Vladivostok.

misclurking49 karma

If Russia were to experience a regime change, do you think it will fall into a similar trap again, decades down the road? If not, why?

How much will people tolerate in your opinion? What’s the breaking point for the military and others?

BrowderBill84 karma

Depends how regime change takes place. If its a popular uprising and the new president were Alexei Navlanly it would be a much different scenario than today. If it was a palace coup and a new FSB man came in to replace Putin it would be more of the same

Constantlearner0146 karma

Thank you for your courage Mr. Browder. I’ve been intrigued by your story since hearing it on Thom Hartmann’s radio show. I keep coming back to the idea that if you had fled to America Trump would’ve handed you over to Putin once he was in office. Your thoughts?

BrowderBill113 karma

He agreed to hand me over to Putin at the Helsinki Summit in 2018 when Putin asked him. If he had been reelected `I wouldn't have felt safe coming to America.

alfonzodibonzo28 karma

That's chilling. How do you know this? Is there much info on what was discussed that meeting and if so how was that info obtained?

BrowderBill80 karma

It was openly discussed at the press conference after the meeting between the two presidents

banksy_h8r40 karma

Question for your business background: how can Russia ever recover from their current situation economically? It seems that the invasion of Ukraine has only accelerated the sun-setting of fossil fuels among their most dependable customers, and it seems hard to believe that anyone will risk capital investing in Russia for new technologies even if Vladimir Putin is removed from power. How can they start over? What will they have to do to rejoin the world economy?

BrowderBill85 karma

The main prerequisite for Russia recovering from this mess is a wholesale regime change. As long as Putin is in power, sanctions and isolation will remain.

ellingtond33 karma

Hey Bill, I had the honor to meet you when you spoke for the ACFE. (Everyone got copies of your book for Christmas that year.) I don't have a question I just want to tell you that your story was inspiring as well as the things that you did to look out for your people and make sure they were safe.

Thank you for fighting the good fight! I look forward to reading your new stuff!

As required, my question is, who do you think the biggest internal threat to Putin is? Is there a specific person or group?

BrowderBill66 karma

Thanks for your kind words.

The biggest internal threat to Putin is Alexei Navalny. That's why Putin tried to kill Navalny (thankfully unsuccessfully) and that's why Putin then threw him in prison.

myops_rock32 karma

Do you find it ironic that you’ve amassed a huge personal fortune given that you’re the grandson of the leader of the Communist Party USA? What would your grandfather think?

BrowderBill118 karma

He probably wouldn't have been too happy with me being a capitalist. In fact, that's why I became a capitalist: to rebel against my left leaning family. But I think he would be happy now that I'm devoting my time, energy and resources to fighting dictators and kleptocrats. As time has gone on, many of our core values have merged.

greyworm1432 karma

What are the Russian people currently going through? What will happen to them? What has happened to the brave activists?

Thanks for this. I loved reading Red Notice!

BrowderBill68 karma

Russia has gone from authoritarian to totalitarian in a matter of two months. Anyone brave enough to stand up is immediately thrown in jail. There's no space for dissent whatsoever.

thesecretbarn29 karma

In your recent interview with Preet Bharara, you seemed pretty convinced that Putin's various invasions and wars are just a distraction for the Russian people whenever he thinks his popularity or ability to keep stealing public money through his oligarch proxies is slipping or endangered.

How much do you think he believes his own rhetoric of Russian imperialism? Is it really all just cynical distraction from his looting?

BrowderBill68 karma

I don't think anyone who was genuine about Russian imperialism would have been comfortable stealing $ 1 trillion from his country (which is what Putin and his cronies stole over 22 years). All this talk about recreating the Russian empire is purely for nationalistic public comsumption. I don't believe Putin has a patriotic bone in his body.

harbinger2128 karma

As righteous as your cause is, how stressful has it been for you and your family to embark on this crusade?

BrowderBill58 karma

Very. Lots of terrifying moments. But also satisfying ones when we get some justice

MassiveResponse425628 karma

How different is Putin's thought process than that of an average person?

BrowderBill95 karma

Completely. Think Hannibal Lecter, but without the cannibalism. Putin is a person who has no ability to experience empathy, no concern for what other people think of him, his heartbeat doesn’t rise when someone is being killed in front of him. The only thing he really cares about is his own survival. These are classic symptoms of a psychopath.

CinCity0627 karma

Have you met Putin? I hear he has cancer and this is and end of life campaign… any truth to this?

BrowderBill76 karma

I've never met him, but I've heard these health rumors for over ten years and they never seem to be borne out. I wouldn't pin my hopes on his health problems being the end of this nightmare.

Kramereng27 karma

Hi, Bill. Do you believe that frozen assets of the oligarchs and/or the foreign reserves of Russia will be released back to the oligarchs and/or Russia once the war is over? Or do you believe that they will or should be seized in order to finance Ukraine's rebuilding?

BrowderBill60 karma

My main assumption is that this war is going to go on for a very long time (unfortunately) and while it is going on, the oligarchs assets will stay frozen.

As far as what happens when the war is over, I can imagine that some of the money will be used as reparations, but that will be a very tricky legal issue and may take years to resolve.

rehabforcandy26 karma

As an editor I once got to work with an interview of you that was shot for a feature film, the doc was never released but I really enjoyed the few days i got to spend researching you and Mr. Magnitsky.

The question is, how much support do you think there really is for a popular uprising among average citizens? The Russian population receives a very manipulated reality through their media and I think we receive a very manipulated image of them. do you think more than half would truly rise up with Nevalny as their leader? Less than a third? Are the sanctions fomenting animosity in the average citizen?

BrowderBill46 karma

I think the only scenario where there will be popular uprising is if Putin were to lose this war. The Russian people are attracted to strong men, and if Putin is shown to be weak, he will be swiftly kicked out.

In the meantime, he controls the narrative and very little will sway the Russian people.

The-Potato-Lord25 karma

People often refer to Magnitsky as a lawyer but I’ve seen other sources refer to him as an accountant. Which of these is correct?

BrowderBill62 karma

Sergei Magnitsky was a licensed auditor, which gave him the right to litigate disputes in the tax courts of Russia. He represented me and many others in court as our tax lawyer.

h4ck3r3000d1no20 karma

what is your favorite cheese?

BrowderBill42 karma


Zombie_John_Strachan20 karma

How much of Putin’s stolen wealth do you estimate is tied up in bitcoin and other crypto?

Enjoyed your Ask Preet interview btw!

BrowderBill36 karma

Good question. I think Crypto is one of the big loopholes for Putin to avoid sanctions. He loves wild west, no regulation types of places.

aobtree12317 karma

Do you carry your own tea bags with you wherever you go ?

BrowderBill45 karma

Just bottled water...no tea...and no meals with strange Russians

miciy515 karma

Is the Russian public even slightly inclined towards democracy?

For instance, the attitude of the public towards Ukraine ("little Russians"), for instance, makes me doubt regime change would really matter in the grand scheme. It would still be an opresive country

BrowderBill39 karma

I think the everyone would prefer democracy over dictatorship. The Russians have had very little chance to enjoy true democracy in the past, but I definitely don’t believe that they have some kind of in built aversion to it.

taleofbenji15 karma

Where did things really turn south for Russia on this path from communism to having an authoritarian dictator?

BrowderBill63 karma

The main failure of Russia was to never set up the 'plumbing' of a capitalist system: no rule of law, no independent courts, no property rights. It ended up with the law of the jungle and that led to people yearning for a strong man to restore order. Unfortunately for the Russians, that strong man became the biggest beast in the jungle.

KileefWoodray14 karma

Is Putin seriously attempting conquest of the wider region?

BrowderBill49 karma

Yup. He's going to push and push until he encounters steel. The only way to stop him is to show him that "steel" early.

The_Magic_Sky_Fairy14 karma

Hi Bill,

Loved your book.

Do you think the short term deterrent effects of targeted sanctions will be enough to stop Russia from malicious actions in the future or is the lack of military force backing the sanctions allowing Russia to become more isolated / closer to China and allowing them time rebuild their own industries and reduce the impact of future sanctions?

BrowderBill54 karma

At this point sanctions are only part of the picture. In order for this war to end, we need to impose a total economic embargo on Russia. Putin needs to be starved of the financial ability to fight this war. Sanctions have frozen his assets, but the Europeans still send $1 billion a day to Russia for oil and gas. If the war is costing him $1 billion a day and he receives $1 billion a day from the Germans, and other Europeans, he can afford this for a long long time.

John___Stamos14 karma

Bill, loved Red Notice. Recently re-read it and feel like it's written in such a way that you're able to tell a good story that involves politics without catering to one parties usual ideology.

My question is, with his self granted ability to control the narrative, what do you think it will take for the Russian public to view Putin's actions in Ukraine as objectively bad/criminal like the rest of the global community?

BrowderBill43 karma

Losing the war in Ukraine. If he loses the war, he loses power. Very simple.

That's why we need to do everything possible in the West to make sure the Ukrainians win.

Zombie_John_Strachan10 karma

When Putin dies, will he be replaced by someone as bad or worse? Or will democracy have a chance?

BrowderBill33 karma

Depends on how he dies. If he dies of old age, the elite will find another crook to replace him who will maintain the status quo. If he goes by violent revolt, anything is possible.