I am sitting twenty feet away from Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense under Bush and Obama. He is speaking at the Plaza Hotel at a conference hosted by Blackstone, describing Putin as a product of the Soviet Union. He says Putin wants influence on all the former Soviet states but doesn't want a return to the USSR. Gates says that Putin has a deal with the oligarchs. "You got everything you have by stealing it. You can keep what you have as long as you don't cross me politically. " For the reason, sanctions on the oligarchs is pointless in terms of reaching Putin.