Ignoring Russia's Crisis of Crime
De Borchgrave, Arnaud, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
At the G-8 (G-7 plus Russia) summit in Denver last month, President Clinton said that if Russia continues on its present course "we will see more good things ahead." Did the president inadvertently give Russia's organized crime syndicates a green light? Knowledgeable Russian voices are saying that the United States, by not facing facts about today's Russia, is creating the climate for the further criminalization of the state.
Even Yuri Luzkhov, the powerful mayor of Moscow and a candidate to succeed President Boris Yeltsin in 2000, who is not exactly a paragon of probity, said in a recent interview that Russia now faces "unlimited criminalization of the economy and of the government itself." But the Clinton foreign policy team has adopted the ungainly posture of the proverbial ostrich and cannot see that Russia is now controlled by a semi-criminal oligarchy, a small circle of financiers and those in government who do their bidding.
Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal reform party Yabloko, recently decried U.S. misrepresentations. "The path which Russia is traveling cannot be hidden forever," he wrote in the New York Times Magazine. "And the longer it is concealed, the higher the price will be - for everyone."
Addressing the United States, Mr. Yavlinsky said: "You are expanding NATO because 100,000 people were killed in Chechnya, because we have an unpredictable leadership, because we have corruption, because there are enormous failures in economic reform. You should say so openly. I know that an enormous investment of time and money has been spent by the U.S. government, by the private sector, by foundations and universities in promoting the myth that Russia has achieved democracy. It would take great courage to admit that the taxpayers' money was wasted. But it is always better to be honest."
This "false political picture of what is going on in Russia is creating the climate for business failure," Mr. Yavlinsky wrote. He and his close friend Boris Nemtsov, the first deputy prime minister in charge of reform, know that the greatest single threat to a nascent democracy is institutionalized corruption and organized crime, and the political and economic distortions they have already generated.
In March, Mr. Yeltsin launched his sixth campaign in as many years against organized crime and its high-ranking protectors. He ordered all his ministers and senior officials to submit a list of all their personal assets. Country dachas and modest local bank accounts were harmless enough to disclose, but foreign bank accounts invariably were concealed. Russia's Central Bank recently authorized the transfer abroad of $800 million to pay the country's most pressing bills. Within two weeks, Swiss banks alone had received $8.5 billion from Russia, according to the head of a large Swiss financial institution. …