How Corruption Compromises World Peace and Stability? – 1

By Robert I. Rotberg

Corruption is a human condition and an ancient phenomenon. From Mesopotamian times, if not before, public notables have abused their offices for personal gain; both well-born and common citizens have sought advantage by corrupting those holding power or controlling access to perquisites. The exercise of discretion, especially forms of discretion that facilitate or bar entry to opportunity, is a magnetic impulse that invariably attracts potential abusers. Moreover, since nearly all tangible opportunities are potentially zero-sum in their impact on individuals or classes of individuals, it is almost inevitable that claimants will seek favors from authorities and that authorities, in turn, appreciating the strength of their positions, will welcome inducements.

Until avarice and ambition cease to be human traits, corruption will continue to flourish. Self-interest dictates the using and granting of favors. Merit will determine outcomes and advancement only in a minority of nations, and the riptide of corruption-even in the most abstemious nations and societies-always exists as an undertow to be resisted. Indeed, in many nations, obtaining even rightful entitlements in a timely fashion, or at all, is characteristically subject to inducement. Almost everywhere, and from time immemorial, there is a presumption that most desirable outcomes are secured through illicitly pressed influence or hard-bought gains.

United States Senate seats are, in one case, almost exchanged for cash. Nigerian governmentally awarded construction contracts are procured for no less than a hefty percentage of the total project value. The outcomes of Thai elections are determined almost entirely by the purchase of votes and voters. So too were U. S. elections in the early days of the republic; Americans, who readily understood the importance of influence and access from their founding days, always feared the power of corrupt politicians. French politicians and political parties have long depended on corruptly illegal flows of funds from wealthy corporations or individuals, or foreign polities, a continuing scandal that was investigated and exposed in the 1990s.1

Dickens and Eliot were as fully aware in the British nineteenth century of the power of corrupt practice as were much earlier authors and commentators. Eliot’s Felix Holt, The Radical, for example, bemoans parliamentarians being unashamed “to make public questions which concern the welfare of millions a mere screen for their own petty private ends.” She also writes that “corruption is not felt to be a damming disgrace,” using the word itself explicitly. Felix Holt’s and Eliot’s own remedies for corrupt practice seem to be the force of an aroused public opinion, certainly a form of accountability.2

This book takes as givens that corruption is common everywhere in the early twenty-first century, that almost no nations and no collections of leadership are immune to the temptations of corruption, that we know more than ever before about the mechanisms and impacts of corruption, that corrupt practices are more egregious and more obscenely excessive in the world’s newer nations, and that what is truly novel in this century is that corruption is much more a threat to world order than ever in the past.

Corruption is no longer largely confined to the political sphere, where wily politicians and their officials siphon money from the state, fiddle bids, or demand emoluments for giving citizens what is rightfully theirs. There is a new critical security dimension to corruption, compromising world peace and stability. Now areas of the globe are positively at risk because of corrupt practices within states and the impact of such practices across transnational borders.

This volume shows how the peace of the world is systematically compromised by corruption that facilitates the possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; that assists the spread of terror and terroristic practices; and that strengthens the malefactors who traffic illicitly in humans, guns, and drugs, and who launder money. Corrupt practices undercut noble international efforts to improve the health, educational attainments, welfare, prosperity, and human rights of the inhabitants of the troubled planet. No arena of human endeavor is now immune from the destructive result of corruption. Indeed, as Robert Legvold’s chapter demonstrates forcibly, numerous areas of the globe, especially within the post-Soviet sphere, are now controlled by criminals and criminalized states whose entire focus is the promotion of corruption. In Africa there are such states, too, Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea offering the foremost examples.

This book hence argues that hoary forms of corruption persist alongside and facilitate the spread of the newer, more potentially destructive modes of corruption. It also indicates that as great as are the wages of sin within national borders and national governments-and almost nothing has diminished those rewards-they are just as large if not much greater across borders. There has been a quantum leap in all forms of trafficking, particularly the trafficking of humans (mostly women and children, and some male slaves) and in drugs, with new beachheads for South American-derived cocaine and marijuana in Africa and Afghan heroin in Asia and the ex-Soviet hinterland. Light weapons and small arms are smuggled along some of the same routes, and nuclear and other WMD smugglers often co-exist with human and drug traffickers-all varieties encouraged by open or corrupt borders and officials at all levels. Some of the criminalized states specialize in such activities. Other nation-states, such as North Korea, depend on the open sores of corruption to accrue foreign exchange. Kelly Greenhill’s chapter explores many of these trafficking issues, Legvold deals with the post-Soviet space, and Matthew Bunn’s chapter follows the devious, pernicious, WMD trails.

Because the newer forms of corruption depend on the old and, indeed, could not exist without the old methods and practices, this book explores the theory and practice of traditional corruption (Laura Underkuffler); it shows how extreme forms of traditional corruption persist and operate (Rotimi Suberu, and Sarah Dix and Emmanuel Pok), or flourish following internal wars (Susan Rose-Ackerman); estimates levels of corruption (Nathaniel Heller); and explores its rationale (Jomo K. S.).
Lucy Koechlin and Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona’s chapter examines the various ways in which corruption deprives citizens of fundamental human rights, employing experiences in Malawi as an instructive case. Jessica Teets and Erica Chenoweth assess the plausibly tight connection between corruption and the spread of terror. Daniel Jordan Smith’s chapter on Nigerians’ participation in corruption shows how the mass of citizens, in one large, corrupted country, react to and collaborate intimately with the corrupt endeavors of their leaders.

The remaining chapters in the volume are about ongoing efforts and strategies to reduce and contain, hardly ever to eliminate, corruption. They are optimistic, but not conclusive, essays. Peter Eigen, the founder of Transparency International (TI), writes about TI’s current work and newer endeavors such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Johann Graf Lambsdorff, the originator of the Corruption Perceptions Index, evaluates a number of accountability mechanisms and urges attention to bottom-up reforms. I write about the importance of leadership action in dampening the enthusiasm for and the continued practice of corruption. Ben W. Heineman, Jr. provides a blueprint for good corporate practice so as to prevent, or at least limit, corporate conniving with corrupt practices within nations. Charles Griffin shows how the leakage and wastage of official funds in the crucial health and educational sectors, especially in the developing world, can be reduced.

All of the contributors to this volume define corruption according to the standard formulae employed either by the World Bank, TI, or Global Integrity. Those formulae are variants of “the abuse of public office for private gain” theme, and many cite the well-accepted, more elaborate, and refined definition offered decades ago by Nye.3 Because there are no meaningful taxonomic differences between the various theoretical definitions, whether simple or complex, there has been no attempt in this volume to impose a single form of words to describe the acts and behaviors that collectively are labeled as corruption. More controversially, there is a consensus among the contributors that persons who are not officials, per se, can still act corruptly if they take advantage of their quasi-governmental roles to defraud a public and enrich themselves. Many of the individual cases in Bunn’s chapter, for example, behaved corruptly despite their want in many cases of elected or appointed national office.

Somewhat less controversially, in terms of theory, the contributors to this book largely reject any moral distinction between venal corruption-the large-scale stealing of state revenues or resources, often through contract and construction fraud-and lubricating or petty corruption. Scott once suggested that lubricating corruption, especially “speed money,” gave political influence to ethnic and interest groups that were effectively disfranchised or otherwise marginalized, and therefore served as an important political safety valve.4 Certainly, petty corruption of certain kinds can be said to be more annoying than developmentally destructive; underpaid policemen and functionaries are by this measure arguably extracting “taxes” from citizens who are otherwise not contributing significantly to the national tax base. Each consumer may pay relatively minor amounts to obtain permits, licenses, and passports that should by right be procured freely. But the overall cost to society as a whole in cash and in time may still be significant and damaging to GDP growth. Moreover, the moral fabric of any society is rent as much, if not more, by the perpetuation of lubricating than by venal corruption. The sheer scale of the collective extraction is immense. Where there have been country and household studies, the toll taken by bribes on household incomes can be severe, as in Kenya.5 Leaders cannot uplift their nations and ensure stability and prosperity without eliminating both varieties of corruption. The Singapore example makes that case, as does the analogical case of the battle against petty crime in cities like New York.6

Corruption Calibrated

Underkuffler dissects the older and the new definitional paradigms of corruption. Corrupt practices are illegal. Ostensibly, corruption involves violations of law. But not all violations are equally corrupt, and petty bribes are not on par with charging massive rents on resources or construction contracts. Nor are certain kinds of corrupt acts-nepotism and various forms of patronage-necessarily illegal. More salient, corruption involves breaches of duty, “owed to the public of an intentional and serious nature,” that result in private gain.7 Someone who embezzles public funds obviously breaches his or her duty and also acts illegally. But what about a public official who merely exaggerates the extent of a disability? For Underkuffler, calling corruption a breach, even a betrayal, of duty does not fully capture the “loathsomeness” that corruption entails.8 Making such actions treacherous or stealthy may help, but it is the act, not how it is performed, that is corrupt.

A more promising definition of corruption begins with the notion of the subverted public interest. Or perhaps corruption is merely an indication of market failure and the failure of appropriate allocative mechanisms? Thus, rent-seeking and corruption are harmful and inefficient on rational, not moral, grounds. But are they always? Sometimes corrupt acts improve efficiency.

Underkuffler critiques all of the available definitions. She prefers a moral definition that explicitly condemns corruption as evil, citing theorists from ancient and early modern times, as well as contemporaries. For her, corruption’s moral core needs to be recognized. In popular terms, she writes, it is “the transgression of some deeply held and asserted universal norm.”9 Moreover, it shows an individual’s disregard for shared societal bonds. Where and when amorality (corruption) prevails, society and individuals suffer. Thus combating corruption becomes a moral obligation. The fabric of society is irreparably sundered so long as corruption is condoned, or permitted to prevail.

How much of the world is corrupt? Or in how many countries do corrupt practices prevail? Given that we can find corruption in almost every nation, and that TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index annually ranks 180 countries according to their perceived levels of corruption, both of those questions may be unhelpful. Indeed, of the 180 countries ranked, a good 120 exhibit worrying levels of corruption. But hard numbers-actual numbers of corrupt payoffs within a given country, actual numbers of corrupt “incidents,” however defined, and so on-are impossible to quantify. The World Bank estimates that globally $1 trillion is paid each year in bribes, but that is a ballpark figure.10 The numbers of corrupt persons brought to trial is not particularly helpful, except possibly in Singapore. We know that various venal developing-world leaders have salted away billions in Swiss and other secret bank accounts. We know that obscene heads of state have constructed many mansions in their own countries or purchased properties abroad, in Europe, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. But, aside from local “bribe paying” surveys in a few countries, we cannot know the full financial cost, nationally or globally, of corruption. Nor can we begin realistically to estimate such huge numbers, or their regional or national quantities. All anyone can report is that in some particularly wide-open nation-states the amounts skimmed from the public by politicians and their ilk are very large, dwarfing in some cases legitimate sources of GDP. Unfortunately, too, in Africa, if not in Asia, much of the capital that is purloined leaves Africa and therefore has little multiplier effect. In Suharto’s Indonesia, at least, some illicit gains were deployed internally, and were “productive” at home.

Because good answers and good numbers are scarce, and the directions and contours of corruption are unspecified, Nathaniel Heller’s chapter attempts to indicate what is now known, and how existing knowledge can be extended and deepened. Part of the problem of aggregating corruption is that the most sophisticated, existing measurement tools depend on indirect calibrations- on third-party surveys that are subject to selection bias. Moreover, as refined as TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index has become, it is impossible to be certain that each survey retains the same definition of corruption, or that those persons being surveyed are reacting to complementary definitions.

Second-generation methods of estimating corruption are also indirect, for they measure anti-corruption effectiveness, accountability mechanisms, budget transparency, and so on. Sometimes experts give opinions, with varying degrees of authority. Household surveys have often been employed, too. But few of these second-generation efforts have covered as many countries as the well-established first-generation proxies.

Locally generated assessments of corruption might be helpful, as Heller suggests, but they would inevitably be subject to claims of bias and intimidation. He also asserts that qualitative descriptions may be as useful as quantitative measurements even though the comparability across countries of national qualitative studies would be questionable. He urges more attention to leadership and political will as integral components of the to-be-developed third-generation methods of assessing corruption’s impact.

Rose-Ackerman, among others, has refused to accept the heuristic utility of the Scott distinction between types of corruption and their societal consequences. In her books and essays, especially her chapter on corruption in post-conflict societies in this volume, she suggests that “corruption is a symptom that state and society relations are dysfunctional.”11 In developing countries, especially those emerging from civil warfare, all of the conditions that are typically conducive to the proliferation of corruption in developing and other countries are magnified by parlous and porous controls, weakened accountability mechanisms, and heightened greed. Emergency and developmental assistance provide incentives for public officials, local or international contractors, or technically astute outsiders to profit from their positions or their knowledge. Organized crime (as in Guatemala) also thrives in post-conflict situations, especially where arms and other trafficking has become customary. Indeed, depending on how peaceful outcomes are achieved, criminals may well capture and plunder the new states.

Rose-Ackerman’s chapter compares the post-conflict cases of Angola, Burundi, Guatemala, Kosovo, and Mozambique. Corruption propensities varied in those cases, according to the kinds of governments that were in power during war-time and whether they were truly representative or not, the character of the peace bargain (who were the victors?), underlying economic (whether there were resource rents) and social situations-including income inequalities, the extent of war-related physical destruction and population displacement, and the impact on each country of outsiders-neighboring nations, international lending institutions, criminals, and so on. Rose-Ackerman suggests that it matters if international organizations in such cases are or are not interested in creating democratic and accountable public institutions; in several past situations they preferred stability over integrity, and permitted corruption to thrive.

Her conclusion is that successful, sustainable anti-corruption efforts depend on addressing the underlying conditions that create corrupt incentives. Neither the empty rhetoric of moralizing nor witch hunts against opponents will accomplish lasting reform. New states should not permit corruption to fester, and must avoid allowing narrow elites to monopolize economic and political opportunities. Otherwise these groups may use their power to monopolize rent-seeking opportunities and undermine growth. A free market, operating within legal boundaries, can limit corrupt opportunities, but in a post-conflict situation, with a weak state, “an open-ended free market solution . .. can lead to widespread competitive corruption” as individuals and firms operate outside the law.12

Rose-Ackerman recommends that post-conflict peace agreements explicitly incorporate anti-corruption accountability measures. She thinks that during any period when they might be in charge, international peacekeepers might be able to institute effective anti-corruption reforms, if their presence is acceptable to the local population, and if international donors can manage reconstruction trust funds to facilitate peace-building and prevent local officials from appropriating or channeling them illicitly. The imposition of effective international controls on money laundering and on the export of corrupt rents is also valuable.

Crime, Nuclear Weapons, and Terrorism

Corrupt practices facilitate all kinds of illicit transactions, especially-as Rose-Ackerman explains-in the post-conflict space. Greenhill strengthens and extends that analysis by exploring, in her chapter, the intimate connection between corruption and corrupt political actors and all forms of transnational trafficking-humans, drugs, guns, organs, and so on. Global criminals and global criminality flourish in the twenty-first century at levels and across continents to a degree that is dramatic in their reach and power. None of this furtive industry is possible without corrupt assistance, at borders and deep within nation-states that are both strong and weak. Greenhill calls this symbiotic relationship “kleptocratic interdependence.” Little of this activity is new, but what is new, along with its size and growth trajectory, is the global security threat that criminalized kleptocractic interdependence poses for world order.

Transnational criminal organizations are violent, control markets, and infiltrate the legitimate economy. They smuggle humans, especially immigrants, women, and children; they run guns; traffic drugs and organs; launder large profits; and evade taxes. In order to exist efficiently, they routinely pay off enabling politicians and officials, including the most lowly border guard. “Corruption,” writes Greenhill, “offers criminal groups the means to penetrate markets with relatively low transaction costs and then to exploit those markets largely unregulated….”13

Corrupted officials look the other way, facilitate illicit activities of all kinds, forestall prosecutions or dismiss offences, prevent legislation and regulation, and prevent competition. Moreover, in some nation-states, officials have participated intimately in criminalized export operations, such as cocaine and heroin movements, and have altered regulatory environments to ease such trafficking. Corruption, in this dimension, shapes state policies. In some countries, such kleptocratic interdependence amounts to state capture, or what Legvold terms criminal and criminalized states. The examples of this licit and illicit fusion multiply in the post-Soviet space, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Greenhill epitomizes kleptocratic interdependence as the division of state responsibilities between non-state actors and officials, the privileging of private gain over public good, rampant greed at all levels inside and outside government, the privatization of national coffers, and the total absence of accountability. Politicians and their bureaucratic allies are purchased openly by non-state actors, warlords, and criminal entrepreneurs. Elections and other democratic mechanisms are financed and “owned” by the syndicates. In these contexts, Greenhill quotes a Mexican politician as remarking that “‘a politician who is poor, is a poor politician.’”14 Yet, controlling power may also shift in some instances from the criminals to the criminalized politicians-the Milosevics, Fujimoris, and Mugabes of different eras. Overall, however, symbiosis-effective partnership-works best for both parties, as in post-World War II Japan and Taiwan. Lee Kuan Yew understood the need to break decisively with criminals to create an effective, stable Singapore.

Contrary to what one might infer, these transnational criminal organizations prefer to base themselves in well-functioning countries, mostly in democracies. They may profit from control of weak states, but they tend to headquarter themselves, like most successful international corporations, in nations that rank relatively non-corrupt on TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria excepted.

The durable ties between corrupt regimes and transnational crime and transnational trafficking pose major global security problems because of the ability of criminal organizations to subvert stability and growth in poor countries, by their skill at sapping such impoverished places of revenue and legitimate modernization, by their undermining of the moral fabric of weak and fragile societies, and by their negative reinforcement of the least favorable kinds of leadership in developing countries. But these unholy partnerships also exacerbate already high levels of crime and predation, through human and drug trafficking and money laundering; seriously contribute to the perpetuation of regime venality; and by facilitating the spread of small arms and light weapons make civil wars possible and lethal. Additionally, the networks that are controlled by criminals and facilitated by corrupt politicians can enable the spread of weapons of mass destruction (as Bunn’s chapter shows) and fund and supply terroristic actors and insurgent movements. Only with the diminution of corruption can the reach of the tentacles of criminal enterprise be rebuffed and reduced.

Bunn makes an even stronger point, relevant to every effort that will be made in the Obama period, to contain the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile material: Corruption was a central enabling factor in every case of nuclear proliferation, and will be directly relevant now and into the future. Nuclear theft can hardly exist without corrupt partners, corrupt officials and border guards, and corrupt trafficking routes. Bunn discusses the known cases of pilfering and smuggling, and their links to other kinds of transnational crime. Essential to his examination of such issues is a conscious extension of the usual definition of corruption that applies to non-public office-holders as well as to office-holders who abuse their positions for private gain. Many of the offenders whom he discusses used their privileged access to key information or materiel to supply state secrets or proprietary and unlicensed technology to rogue nation-states for personal benefit.

Pakistan was the center of one of the central networks of corruption and proliferation, as Bunn describes. It became a premier export enterprise, supplying centrifuge and other key forms of technology to Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea, at least. More than twenty countries were involved, with abundant illicit transfers of cash, payoffs at many levels, and different kinds and levels of corruption. Designs and equipment, and maraging steel, found their way illicitly to those who had nuclear aspirations. The result of this web of intrigue, chicanery, and money laundering was nuclear weaponization and its spread, fueled by various degrees of corrupt practice and payment.

At another level, terrorist groups may not have sought highly enriched uranium, suitable for a bomb, but they have sought and may in future seek highly enriched uranium or plutonium sufficient to construct a crude nuclear device. They could only obtain such supplies corruptly, or through direct theft. Al Qaeda apparently has made repeated efforts to purchase stolen nuclear material and ex-Russian warheads. Guards at nuclear sites are particularly open to corrupt inducements. Jobs in such establishments are sometimes for sale. And smugglers, whether inside or outside criminal syndicates, will smuggle anything for profit.

Bunn’s chapter advocates a series of reforms that are capable of capping or at least reducing the kinds of corrupt practices that facilitate the spread of WMD. He wants governments to retrain and educate individuals who have access to nuclear materials and facilities, compel corporations to promote tough security cultures within their own domains, improve controls in and at sensitive installations, and adhere to the spirit and letter of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which obligates member states to establish domestic controls to prevent proliferation of weapons and their means of delivery. Additionally, Bunn calls for the codification of international standards to defeat criminals and terrorists and to safeguard stockpiles and other places where nuclear supplies are stored. He suggests upgrading detection methods and technical systems. Rigorous accounting systems will be necessary to ensure the rapid detection of theft. Tighter border security will also be essential. So will improved legislation and universal jurisdiction, with stiffer penalties.

Like Bunn, Teets and Chenoweth show how corruption and corrupt actors facilitate the spread of critical new global insecurities. The authors evaluate two hypotheses regarding the relationship between corruption and terrorism. First, that terrorists may be motivated directly by the presence of corrupt regimes; they can mobilize followers to take up arms to extirpate corrupt and thus illegitimate governments. Second, in states where rule of law is weak and criminalization flourishes, terrorists can accumulate funds, weapons, forged documents, and so on. Terrorist organizations can take advantage of existing criminal organizations to traffic in guns, drugs, and humans (as Greenhill describes), or can create their own networks of criminality to move cocaine, opium, heroin, or marijuana; purchase and trade in small arms and light weapons; or transport women and children across borders. Teets and Chenoweth posit that terrorist attacks will come from inside highly corrupt nation-states but will not necessarily target those same states.

They tested those conclusions quantitatively, using models to investigate the true relationship between corruption rankings, drug trafficking, arms imports, money laundering, and terrorist incidents. The results indicate that higher levels of corruption in a country increase the number of terroristic attacks that originate in that county. Moreover, nation-states that facilitate illicit trafficking of all kinds produce heightened numbers of terrorist attacks. Major arms-importing countries that are corrupt also produce terrorist attacks. Yet, whereas money laundering is associated with increased numbers of terrorist organizations, drug trafficking is linked to reduced numbers of terrorist groupings. This latter finding means that drug trafficking and terrorism do not go together, despite contrary evidence from the Taliban in Afghanistan and the FARC in Colombia (a case which they investigate).

Corruption enables terrorists (in Colombia and Afghanistan, for example) to purchase arms and materiel, but also to transport illicit goods both in and out of their homelands to, say, Russia, and receive large numbers of weapons in return. Corrupted Russian military officials and corrupted customs inspectors at both ends of the connection, and in Jordan-as a refueling stop-were critical to the FARC’s success. Indeed, the FARC could not have prospered in Colombia without a concatenation of corrupt connections internally. Likewise, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot mobilize and gain weapons and territory without the connivance of corrupt Afghan and Pakistani army officers and personnel.15 There is a reasonable suspicion that corrupt militaries in Sri Lanka and Uganda-two more examples-permitted the insurgencies in both countries to grow stronger than they otherwise might have. The case of the FARC demonstrates that corruption facilitates, more than it motivates, terrorism. It also makes evident that terrorism cannot flourish without a global supply chain; effective action against terrorism can be focused on corrupt facilitators as well as the terrorist organizations themselves. To attack terrorism, world order should combat corruption, especially among customs and other border officials.

Russia and the Near Abroad

The intertwining of criminality and corruption is readily seen in the post-Soviet space in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as in Mother Russia itself. As Legvold’s chapter reminds us, eight of twelve post-Soviet states cluster toward the bottom of TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index. But this condition is of concern not only for the welfare of citizens in Russia and its former dependent states. Legvold asserts that the levels of massive corruption that envelope Russia and its periphery directly threaten international welfare and international security in profound ways. Corruption in Russia and its near beyond is implicated in regional conflict, global terrorism, and the potential proliferation of WMD. It threatens health outcomes beyond the Russian sphere and fuels illicit trafficking of humans, arms, and all things criminal.

Among the post-Soviet nations are several places that are criminal states, i.e. where the core activity of the state is criminal and the state itself depends “overwhelmingly on the returns from illicit trade” to exist and pay its way.16 Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transdniestr, and Nagorno-Karabakh are prominent examples.

Others are criminalized states, places where corruption is extensive-where the highest levels of the state and the entire apparatus of the state are “suffused” with corrupt practice. Legvold suggests that the distinction between criminal and criminalized is that in the latter the nation-state’s core may not be corrupt, but the “process” by which the state acts is indeed corrupt. These states are also “captured,” as Greenhill and Legvold explain, and as indicated earlier, the business of the state is “privatized.” Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan are criminalized examples.

The remaining post-Soviet places are corrupt, even Georgia and Mongolia, excepting the Baltic nations.

In the criminal and criminalized states, there is systemic corruption (as in the Soviet Union itself), usually with the apex of the state at the controlling center of a widespread network of corruption. Decentralized examples also exist, but the prevailing pattern in Russia, its near abroad, and in Africa and Asia is centralized systemic corruption that captures and controls the state for the benefit of a relatively few principal agents. Legvold’s chapter offers rich empirical detail on who got and gets what, who controlled which industry, who embezzled how much from state coffers, and on and on. Legislation, entrance to university, evasion of the military draft, securing land titles, arranging medical treatment, and the overall cost of “doing business” each had its defined price in Russia and beyond. In the first four years of this century, the average bribe increased from the equivalent of $10,000 to $136,000.17

In Russia, as in the globe’s systemically corrupt states, local officials routinely collaborate with predatory business interests, are “indifferent to the law and property rights,” and are ready, even determined, to share illicit spoils. Extortion is normal compensation for sanctioning someone else’s corporate endeavor. So is theft by functionaries. The main preoccupation of bureaucrats is rent-seeking, particularly through the interpretation of regulations. Moreover, there is no accountability or transparency. The courts are weak and the press is often brave but outgunned.

In Russia and its neighbors, as almost everywhere, these corrupt practices and lack of accountability limit economic growth and reform, lead to market distortions and inefficiencies, and diminish political stability by discrediting government and breaking the social contract between ruler and ruled. Sometimes, as in the color revolutions earlier in this century, citizens actually took to the barricades and brought down ex-Soviet regimes primarily because they were perceived as being corrupt.

Corruption in these criminalized states, especially where they harbor spent nuclear fuel or missiles and the components of missiles, threatens world order directly. Both Bunn and Legvold report instances of smuggled weapons-grade fuel and other analogous cases. Russia has also harbored perpetrators and itself has directly engaged in weapons smuggling, thus helping to fuel civil wars in many parts of Africa and Latin America. So has Ukraine. Its Transdniestr neighbor indeed specializes in this kind of trade. Russia (and China) also traffic in counterfeit manufactured goods and pharmaceuticals, in copyrighted items and other contraband, and in humans. About 1 million women may have been spirited out of Russia to the West between 1995 and 2005, a proportionally greater number from Ukraine in a comparable time period, and fully 10 percent of Moldova during the 1990s. Russia also smuggles wildlife and animal parts supplied by poachers and corrupt security officials and has decimated the sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea. Afghan heroin also moves across and into Russia and the Ukraine, harming those countries and Europe. Nothing moves without corrupt gains at every transit point. In some of the smaller post-Soviet states those rents help to sustain the highest reaches of the nation. Legvold’s sober chapter is inherently pessimistic. As far as reforms, he concludes that “little will change” until new leaders come to power who attempt to end the criminalized or the criminal states.18 Change must come from within despite the palpable rewards of business as usual through rampant systemic corruption.

Republished by Kajian Internasional Strategis


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