What doesn't surprise us can often be revealing.
And what doesn't shock us can sometimes be dangerous.
Earlier this week, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta released a new report revealing that Vladimir Putin's closest friends, cronies, and relatives are worth an estimated $24 billion.
According to the report, these include a very wealthy former butcher with a net worth of $550 million; a rank-and-file employee at a shipping company employee who somehow amassed $573 million; and a cellist who controls offshore firms that handle $2 billion.
Nobody was shocked. Nobody was surprised.
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Of course Putin's cronies are corrupt.
And, of course, they use offshore accounts and often lax enforcement of Western banking regulations to launder billions of dollars.
But looking at this as just run-of-the-mill corruption and personal enrichment, and framing it as a hunt for Putin's hidden billions misses a very important point.
This isn't just theft, but theft with a geopolitical goal.
Because the Putin regime isn't just a banal run-of-the-mill kleptocracy.
It's an ideological kleptocracy in which corruption, black cash, and money laundering are important instruments of imperial expansion, important tools to dominate Russia's neighbors, and targeted weapons to undermine Western institutions.
Just a fraction of all that untraceable Russian cash sloshing around the West can stealthily disrupt a lot of elections, quietly pay for a lot of fake news and disinformation, and secretly buy a lot of networks of influence.
Corruption and black cash are among the Putin regime's most important exports -- and most deadly weapons.
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