In newspapers The guardian, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Le Monde Alexey’s article was published, dated to the day of his poisoning a year ago.
We publish the original of this article in Russian:
Exactly a year ago, I did not die from chemical weapons poisoning, and it seems that corruption played a significant role in my salvation. Having corrupted the state system, it also corrupted the secret services. When the management is engaged in business protection and extortion, the quality of covert operations will inevitably suffer. A group of FSB officers inflicted a nervous agent on my underwear just as wrongly as wrongly, in violation of all instructions, followed me for three and a half years, which allowed civil investigative activists to fully expose her.
On the other hand, a regime based on corruption performs the simpler tasks perfectly. The judiciary – and this is the first thing that autocrats who want to rob their people take under control – works ideally in a quid pro quo format. That is why, after returning to Russia after treatment, I went straight from the plane to prison. There is little pleasant here, but now I have enough time to read the memoirs of world leaders.
World leaders describe terribly interesting how they solved the main problems of mankind: war, poverty, migration, climate change, weapons of mass destruction. These are issues of the so-called “big agenda”. But the fight against corruption is not very often mentioned by world leaders in the list of what they consider to be their legacy. Not surprisingly, this is a “secondary agenda” issue.
But – a startling fact – corruption is almost always mentioned where world leaders describe failures. Their own and (more often) their predecessors.
“We have spent years, hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of human lives in Iraq / Afghanistan / Mali / you name it, but the corrupt government of al-Maliki / Karzai / Keita / you name it has turned the people away from itself, opening the way to victory for the radicals, armed with slogans of fair, fair government and RPGs.
And then an obvious question arises: well, since corruption prevents us from seeking solutions to the problems of the “big agenda,” then maybe the time has come to place it on one of the first places on this agenda?
In general, it is clear why this has not happened so far. Corruption is a very uncomfortable issue for discussion at world summits. You are discussing, for example, with Putin, Syria and cyberattacks. Everyone is happy, everyone is interested. At the follow-up briefing, everyone has something to say.
Now imagine a meeting with Putin on the issue of corruption. Its very fact is a transition to personalities. Everything from start to finish is an uncomfortable situation. The richest man in the world who has robbed his country is invited to discuss how to deal with him himself. Very uncomfortable and awkward.
Now turn on the news: the fact that the West “did not notice” the total corruption in the governments of Karzai and Ashraf Ghani, did not want to talk about this topic personally unpleasant for them, became the most important factor in the victory of the Taliban with the full support of the population. We did not want to discuss theft from the budget – we will discuss stoning and executions by beheading.
After the collapse of the USSR and the end of the global ideological confrontation, it was corruption in its classical definition – the use of an official position for personal gain – that became a universal non-ideological basis for prosperity in the world of an authoritarian international. From Russia to Eritrea, from Myanmar to Venezuela. And corruption has long ceased to be an internal problem of these countries. It almost always becomes one of the main causes of global challenges facing the West. A new real war in Europe with the use of aircraft and artillery? It is Putin who is taking revenge on Ukraine for the anti-corruption revolution that threw his protege Yanukovych from the throne. Religious extremists of all kinds find it easier to carry on propaganda when their opponents drive Rolls-Royces through the streets of their impoverished countries. Migration crises are caused by poverty, which is almost always caused by corruption.
“It’s good that climate change is not related to corruption,” you say ironically. I invite you to say this in the face of the millions of hectares of Siberian forests that are burned down every year because of the barbaric clear-cutting that violates the fire regulations for forest use. I don’t want to guess with this forecast, but I’m afraid that the next big terrorist attack will not be something like another bomb from religious fanatics, but, say, a chemical weapon in a water supply system of a large city or a devastating attack on the IT infrastructure of an entire country, and the customers of this terrorist attack there will be one or another owner of the golden palaces. And this will be done in order to divert the world’s attention from these palaces, switching it to global security issues.
So it is not for us that it should be inconvenient for us to ask the authoritarian corrupt officials tough questions with the transition to personalities, but on the contrary, they should know that their shady affairs will always be the main topic of discussion at world summits. This will be a critical step towards addressing the root causes of many issues.
Well, what should we do? After all, people in Washington and Berlin cannot effectively fight the corruption of officials in Minsk or Caracas?
This is true, but it is also true that an important feature of corruption in authoritarian countries is the use of Western financial infrastructure. And in 90% of cases, the stolen goods are stored in the West. Someone who, but an official working for an autocrat, knows exactly how important it is to keep capital away from his colleagues and boss.
All it takes to get started is the determination and political will of Western leaders. At the first stage, corruption must be transformed from a source of tremendous opportunity into a heavy burden for at least some of the elites surrounding autocrats. Thus, the elites will be split, and the camp of those who advocate modernization, progress and reduction of corruption will expand, strengthen and receive new arguments in national intra-elite discussions.
These few steps are perfectly realistic, easy to follow, and can be a very effective start in the fight against global corruption.
1. The West should identify and recognize a special category – “countries that encourage corruption”, which will allow taking uniform measures against groups of countries, and not imposing sanctions against specific states.
2. The main sanction and, if you will, a tax on corruption for this group of countries should be “enforcement of transparency”. All documentation for contracts concluded between Western companies and their counterparties from countries of corruption risks should be published if these contracts are in the slightest degree connected with the state, officials and their relatives. Are you an employee of a state-owned company in a country with a high risk of corruption and want to buy a villa on the French Riviera? Buy, but all information on the deal will be publicly available. Do you want to deal with the official Minsk or the aunt of the Russian governor? No problem, but you will have to publish all the documents along the chain of the transaction, and the bribe that you pay through a “regional representative” or “local partner” cannot be hidden.
3. Fighting corruption without fighting corruption – hypocrisy that undermines voters’ confidence in any action in this area. Until individual sanctions are introduced against the oligarchs, primarily those from the circle of Putin – the moral leader of all corrupt officials in the world – any anti-corruption rhetoric of the West will be perceived as a game and idle talk.
There is nothing more frustrating than reading the next “sanctions list” filled with unknown colonels and generals of the special services, but thoroughly cleared of those in whose interests these colonels act. The West must emerge from its semantic captivity, where the “businessman” label is an indulgence that makes it very difficult to get on the sanctions list. Putin’s oligarchs, both the heads of state-owned companies and formally private ones, but whose well-being is associated with Putin’s group, are not businessmen, but the leaders of organized criminal groups. However, now, alas, the Western establishment is Pavlov’s collective dog. You show the colonel of the special services – they shout: “Under his sanctions!” You show the oligarch, containing the colonel, they shout: “Invite him to Davos!”
4. The USA, UK and Germany already have excellent tools for fighting foreign corruption, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Bribery Act and others. Guess how many cases were started according to the statements of our organization, now recognized as extremist by the Putin government? That’s right, zero. The bitter truth is that even Western law enforcement agencies provide foreign corrupt officials with favored treatment. A little political will from the government (and public pressure) and the situation will improve.
5. Discouraging the export of political corruption clearly deserves the creation of an international body or commission. See what’s happening now. Having invested relatively little money, the same Putin buys up in batches of extreme right and extreme left movements throughout Europe, turning their politicians into his oligarchs and agents. Legalized bribery through “membership in the boards of directors of state-owned companies” and the like is flourishing. The former German Chancellor, the Italian Prime Minister, the Austrian Foreign Minister act on the dancers of the dictator, normalizing and covering up corrupt practices. Any contracts linking former and current Western politicians with counterparties from corrupt authoritarian countries should also be subject to publication.
These are the first steps, but they will also have a significant effect, creating elite groups within authoritarian countries, for whom the struggle to reduce the level of corruption will become a rational choice.
No money, no soldiers, no reorganization of industry and world politics are needed in order to take action. Only political will. Unfortunately, this is often a scarce resource. Public opinion and the desire of voters are the final ingredients that can push the situation off the ground. And someday world leaders will write in their memoirs that they have solved many important problems of the “big agenda”, simply by eliminating the root cause of their occurrence. Without troops, billions and wasted decades.
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