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The Daily Vertical: Russia's Corrupt Statecraft (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Well, Russia didn't really fare so well in Transparency International's annual corruption index.

I know. I know. It's shocking. But it's true.

Russia dropped four places and now ranks 131st out of 176 countries.

And Transparency provided a list of helpful suggestions aimed at helping the Kremlin fight corruption.

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

You know, the normal stuff like protection for whistle-blowers, stricter laws on lobbying, greater judicial independence, the strengthening of civil society, and reduced restrictions on the press and NGOs.

But I don't think I need to tell you that none of those things will happen.

In fact, for Vladimir Putin's regime, these ideas are like something out of a science-fiction movie.

And the reason they are not going to happen is that -- rhetoric aside -- corruption isn't really considered a problem in Russia.

On the contrary, it's a vital tool of statecraft.

At home, it's a carrot and a stick to control the Russian elite.

The loyal get impunity and the disloyal become the unwilling stars of television dramas featuring staged masked police raids, stacks of cash, and safes full of jewels.

And abroad, corruption is a weapon to corrupt foreign elites and establish networks of influence.

A shady gas deal here and some strategic laundering of black cash there and a pro-Moscow lobby magically appears ready to repeat Kremlin talking points in Western capitals.

Corruption is not a bug in Russia's system. And it's not just a feature. It's the software.

And Vladimir Putin's regime cannot survive without it.

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