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194 Scarcely anyone doubts that Russia and the majority of post-Soviet states are among the most corrupt in the world. Only a scattering of African and Latin American states can claim as much, and even then not with the same across-the-board regional sweep.1 In Transparency International’s (TI) 2008 rankings, 8 out of the 12 post-Soviet states were clustered in the bottom 35 of the 180 states rated.2 A host of additional studies, surveys, and anecdotal evidence come to roughly the same conclusion. Since Russia, with its eleven time zones, nearly a third of the world’s gas, and close to half of the world’s nuclear weapons, and the other eleven countries that occupy the vast space and house the immense resources of the former Soviet Union, are not Antarctica or a set of small, remote, hopelessly weak states, but the critical hinterland of Europe, Asia, and a turbulent Islamic south, presumably this unpromising claim ought to be of significance for the rest of us. But why? Obviously corruption on this scale creates large distortions in normal economic and political activity and makes life difficult for a lot of Russians, Kazakhs , and Ukrainians. But need this be of real concern to outsiders? In other contexts, corruption is thought to impede economic development (although some argue that the relationship is the other way around, and, in fact, that international aid agencies’ preoccupation with fighting corruption actually thwarts development).3 The parallel in the case of the post-Soviet states is the pernicious link between corruption and economic reform, and, therefore, sustainable economic growth. If wide-spread corruption prevents a large and potentially prosperous country such as Russia or Ukraine from taking the steps that will ultimately free it from the dead weight of the past, it can rightly be argued that the economies of many other countries will lose as well. Or, if it is thought that corruption-inhibited political reform will leave these countries 8 Corruption, the Criminalized State, and Post-Soviet Transitions robert legvold 08 0328-0 ch8.qxd 7/15/09 3:49 PM Page 194 more authoritarian than democratic, again, the effects, particularly, on neighboring states, are likely to be unhappy. In this chapter, however, the argument is bolder and more direct. It is that corruption at the level enveloping most of the post-Soviet states, in particular Russia, poses a direct threat to the world outside—a threat not merely to international welfare, but to international security. There is a corollary: If corruption in and among the post-Soviet states poses this kind of threat, then it no longer deserves to be treated as a secondary issue and given passing attention by all but those who have a special professional interest in the subject . It should be front and center when thinking about the core security challenges facing the international community, and a key concern for major powers when designing their foreign policies toward Russia and the region. Corruption in Russia and surrounding states influences, for the worse, most of the crucial facets of the international security agenda: issues of war and peace, including regional conflict; global terrorism; and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No less important, corruption is a burden when facing issues of global welfare: the risk of failed or failing states; the abuse of human and minority rights; threats to health; the flow of “contaminants ,” such as drugs, trafficked humans, and illegal arms; and the damage done to national economies by illicit trade, money laundering, and transnational crime. Concepts and Causal Arrows As is evident throughout the essays in this volume, conceptual problems begin with the word itself. Not that perfectly serviceable definitions do not exist. The standard dictionary definition is “the inducement of a political official by means of improper considerations to commit a violation of duty.” Fair enough, but what then are “improper considerations” and what constitutes a “violation of duty?”Social scientists have tried to remove this ambiguity with ever more elaborate formulations. Some would define corruption as “behavior which deviates from the formal duties of a public role because of privateregarding (personal, close family, private clique) pecuniary or status gains; or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of private-regarding influences .”4 In all cases, however, the meanings that analysts attach to the word fail to capture the meanings that different peoples in different societies at different times attach to actual behavior. One person’s corrupt action...


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