As reported by The Wall Street Journal, 35 percent of Russia’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 110 people—out of a population of 143 million. Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large for The Atlantic, joined HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin to discuss Russia’s soaring wealth inequality.
Credit Suisse’s 2013 Global Wealth Report notes that Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, other than a few small Caribbean nations.
When asked why wealth inequality was particularly dramatic in Russia, Clemons responded with two answers. “Russia had a miserable form of communism… and now they have a miserable form of capitalism, “ he said.
“A more honest answer…” Clemons added, “is that you’ve got Russia essentially in a period of time that’s a lot like early 20th century America… If you looked at the disparities of wealth between the real giants and the robber barons in America at that time versus the rest of society, it approximates what Russia has today.”
While 94 percent of Russia’s adult population has less than $10,000 in wealth, Russia’s top 20 billionaires alone have a net worth of more than $227 billion.
Clemons pointed to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, noting that the games often take on a symbolic importance, highlighting the income gap in the host country and raising concerns about wealth inequality.
“I think it’s legitimate to wonder: Is there a holistic picture going on behind the [construction]?” he said, “I think that frequently there [is] not particularly where you have semi-totalitarian situations, which I think Russia is slipping into.”
Watch the full interview above to hear more from Steve Clemons.