Outlaws Inc.: Under the Radar and on the Black Market with the World's Most Dangerous Smugglersby Matt Potter
This riveting account reveals the secret corners of our supposedly flat world: black markets where governments are never seen but still spend outrageous amounts of money. Journalist Matt Potter tells the story of Yuri and his crew, a gang of Russian military men who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union found themselves without work or prospects. So they… See more details below
This riveting account reveals the secret corners of our supposedly flat world: black markets where governments are never seen but still spend outrageous amounts of money. Journalist Matt Potter tells the story of Yuri and his crew, a gang of Russian military men who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union found themselves without work or prospects. So they bought a decommissioned Soviet plane-at liquidation prices, straight from the Russian government-and started a shipping business. It wasn't long before Yuri, and many pilots like him, found themselves an unlikely (and ethically dubious) hub of global trading. Men like these are paid by the U.S., the Taliban, and blue-chip multinational companies to bring supplies- some legal, some not-across dangerous borders.
In a feat of daring reportage, Potter gets onto the flight deck with these outlaws and tells the story of their fearless missions. Dodging gunfire, Potter is taken from place to place by men trafficking everything from illicit weapons to emergency aid, making enemies everywhere but no reliable friends. As the world changes, we see the options for the crew first explode, then slowly diminish, until, in a desperate maneuver, they move their operations to the most lawless corners of Africa, where they operate to this day.
The story of these outlaws is a microcosm of the world since the end of the cold war: secret contracts, guerrilla foreign policy, and conflicts too thorny to be handled in public. Potter uses the story of these men to articulate an underground history of the globalized world. At once thrilling, provocative, and morally circumspect, this book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in espionage, or in how the world works today.
Engrossing examination of the role of ex-Soviet air crews in post–Cold War smuggling and global instability.
London-based BBC Radio reporter Potter deftly summarizes the impact of the Soviet military's sudden dissolution, which left a stockpile of useful military equipment at the disposal of black markets. One of the most significant was the Il76, "one of the biggest planes on the planet." Ever since, these aging yet rugged planes, and the men trained to fly them, have been instrumental in facilitating both globalization of capital and brutal discord, particularly via their unique capacity for smuggling. His intermittent travels with "Mickey" and crew, veterans of the Soviets' Afghan war, form the book's overall structure. In Potter's opinion, these hapless and evasive yet stoic and skilled aviators provide a ready metaphor for what happened to the world geopolitically after the USSR's dissolution—as Mickey puts it, "we flew [an Il-76] down to Kazakhstan and, you might say, rebranded." When faced with sudden privation, these ex–military men began transporting goods ranging from disaster aid and soldiers to drugs, weapons and blood diamonds all over the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. Potter is fascinated by Mickey's shadowy existence, which is both dangerous—there have been numerous suspicious crashes of Russian aircraft—and a key component of the so-called "grey market," in which legitimate entrepreneurs and aid organizations interact with the transnational criminal syndicates that grew with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Potter shadows Mickey's crew through Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Central America, the Congo and Uganda, at once entertained by the exploits and keyed in to their relevance to profound crises. The book reads more like a novel than straight journalism. The personalized narrative is taut and funny; Potter's prose strains, often successfully, to be ornate and haunting in portraying the doomed, absurdist lot of the airmen—though he tends to repeat these tropes.
An exciting yet disturbing look at a dark corner of current geopolitics.
- Bloomsbury USA
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- 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Meet the Author
Matt Potter is a journalist, editor and broadcaster. He has reported for BBC Radio from Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia, and co-presented Radio 1's award-winning global travel shows. As a journalist, his nose for the unusual has seen his writing appear in places as diverse as the Daily Telegraph, Golf Monthly, Esquire, Sunday Telegraph, Jack, Maxim, the Irish Examiner and Q, and his stories on cocaine trafficking in Latin America have been published in Russian, Spanish and English. As a journalist in Belgrade, he broke the story of the NATO 'spy' giving away secrets to Serb forces on the web. He speaks a handful of languages but attempts to speak at least twenty more. Matt is 39 and lives in London.
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