Home Enterprise bank Russia’s attack on Ukraine tragically reminds us that kleptocracy kills

Russia’s attack on Ukraine tragically reminds us that kleptocracy kills


In 2015, a fire at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest killed 27 people. In the months following the accident, 37 more people died of infections caused by the use of diluted medical disinfectant in the Romanian hospitals where they were treated. Like the Oscar-nominated documentary “Collectivechronicles, the company producing the substandard solution bribed government officials and hospital managers to get their products into medical facilities across the country. In the days following the tragedy, with the public still unaware of the details and conditions of what happened in emergency rooms, thousands of citizens took to the streets of Romania carrying banners saying: “Corruption kills”.

The Colectiv fire shone international spotlight on the negative – even deadly – ​​consequences of corruption far beyond the familiar economic, social and political damage. The tragedy in Romania illustrates how corruption can cause loss of life. Today, the devastation wrought by the Russian offensive in Ukraine is proof that grand systemic corruption, or kleptocracy, can kill on a massive scale.

The Russian Federation under Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich Putin Biden says he was not calling for regime change in Russia Seizing Russian yachts is US goal. But it’s not easy that Ukraine can defeat Russia – but the West must help MORE has become a living example of the classic definition of kleptocracy, a system where corruption is used to achieve political goals with the help of a transnational network of enablers. Since coming to power, Putin has consolidated domestic power and projected his influence abroad by weaponizing corruption to secure the support of economic elites at home and co-opting the political systems of countries around the world.

Putin achieved his goals by deploying the kleptocrat playbook: In addition to arbitrarily disposing of state assets to favor cronies, silence dissent and imprison opponents, under his leadership the Kremlin has also used other tactics, including vexatious lawsuits against journalists and pitchers foreign whistleblowing, bribery of foreign public officials and large-scale actions. reputation laundering campaigns. Very odious, his regime is suspected of having ordered the assassination of multiple detractors wishing to denounce the corruption of the State.

Yet it would be reductive to suggest that the kleptocratic nature of the Russian state is the reason why more than 3 million people were expelled from Ukraine and thousands were killed. None of the classic kleptocratic plays employed by Putin and his cronies sufficiently explain Russia’s murderous war. Just as corruption doesn’t always lead to death, most kleptocracies don’t engage in wars – at least in the traditional sense. That said, violence is an inherent tool of kleptocratic governance.

Kleptocracy permits aggression in three main ways. First, by entrenching a kleptocratic class invested in maintaining its economic access, kleptocracy limits the ability of elites to control government. Even in authoritarian contexts, there is a degree of accountability. In most dictatorships, groups that may include a powerful army, clergy, or an independent oligarchy limit the sphere of what the leader of a country can do. In kleptocratic systems, the intertwined nature of political and economic power and the ability to store and access wealth abroad – through bank secrecy laws, beneficial ownership agreements and “golden visas” – increase the autonomy of the kleptocratic class vis-à-vis their fellow citizens. indoor market.

This, in turn, reduces the incentives for those close to power to risk their status by confronting a decision from the top, since ultimately their economic situation is somewhat disconnected from the economic performance of the country. As a result, when a decision to go to war is made in a kleptocracy, few are willing and able to push back.

At the same time, kleptocracy is a zero-sum game in which there is little room to make the pie bigger without empowering new players who could jeopardize the position of insiders. This is especially true in the face of real or perceived threats to the status quo, which could cause second-tier elites to support the initiation of dangerous projects that could be seen as offering the prospect of pecuniary gain. In the case of Putin’s Russia, the offensive in Ukraine would have been less about increasing access and more about preventing Ukrainians from breaking away from the Russian kleptocracy and its tentacles in Kyiv.

Finally, kleptocracy can make war even more devastating by forcing military decisions that ultimately can prolong the duration of war or its lethality. There were reports of poorly maintained equipment, outdated or insufficient food, and shortages of fuel and other basic inputs. Instead of investing in defense systems and equipment, longstanding corruption weakened material capacity of the Russian army to overwhelm a less equipped army. Ultimately, the escalation of lethal tactics that use weapons more indiscriminately against civilians may be the result of blocked battalions and roving tankers.

The invasion of Ukraine is a tragic reminder that kleptocracy, the supercharged version of corruption, exacerbates the corrosive effects of state abuse, turning the absence of accountability into a criminal enterprise. Under certain conditions, the violent nature of kleptocracy can turn into war. Ukrainians live this escalation in the flesh.

It is time to recognize the enormous human cost of kleptocracy and demand sustained transnational coordination to seize the ill-gotten gains of kleptocrats around the world. the unprecedented penalties imposed on Russia must be accompanied structural reforms systems that allow the money inside in the first place.

Eguiar Lizundia is Senior Advisor for Governance and Anti-Corruption at International Republican Institute.