Russian `Kleptocracy' Risks Spread of Nuclear Weapons: Organized Crime Gains Power in Collapsing Military

Article excerpt

Russia is on the way to becoming a criminal-dominated state, with its nuclear-armed military subject to criminal influence and control, says a Washington study released yesterday.

The 92-page report, "Russian Organized Crime," was the result of two years of study by a task force of the Center for Strategic and International Studies headed by William Webster, former director of the CIA and FBI, and directed by Arnaud de Borchgrave, former editor in chief and current editor at large of The Washington Times.

The United States will face "the prospect of strategic, nuclear-armed missile systems in the hands of a disintegrating military subject to criminal control. The implications of such a development are chillingly obvious," the report says.

"Even the Russian government is unsure [of] the reliability of people charged with safeguarding nuclear devices," Mr. Webster told reporters yesterday.

"Unless more is done," the report warns, the sale of a nuclear weapon or a significant quantity of weapons-grade material "will no longer be a matter of speculation."

Instead of becoming a stable democracy, Russia is on the way to becoming a "criminal-syndicalist state" with gangsters controlling the largest banks and dominating the political process, the report says.

"The mafia already is becoming a very influential political force in Russia," it says. "This criminal situation has already destabilized the Russian state."

More than 8,000 organized crime groups are active in Russia, including 200 with ties to criminal counterparts in 50 countries, the report says.

"The Russian Interior Ministry estimates that 40 percent of private businesses, 60 percent of state-owned enterprises and between 50 and 85 percent of banks are controlled by [organized crime]," it says.

The majority of legitimately owned private enterprises and commercial banks "must pay 10 to 30 percent of their profits" to the criminal groups, the report says. …