‘Hardest blow to corruption could and should be delivered by ordinary people’ – political analyst
Take it from Einstein: all things in our universe are relative. Contrary to the accepted Western view about the poor state of freedom, democracy and human rights in Russia, I'd argue that huge progress has been made on all these fronts compared with the way things were in the USSR.
Serdyukov case resembles a show trial
Based on what I have seen in the military, which is supposedly the most corrupt (involving the greatest amount of money), the handling of the Serdyukov case resembles a show trial.
“Scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours” Good Old Corruption type still exists in Russia - expert
As one tries to make head or tail of the current anti-corruption campaign and the debate around it, one tends to feel that the debate's conceptual frame of reference itself is wrong or badly askew.
Russia's anti-corruption drive needs a new focus
Russia's anti-corruption program is a bold step, and one that is needed. Unfortunately, it seems to be only a half-way measure. The focus is on the transgressions of individuals. But it is doing little to alter a pervasive culture of corruption. Toughening laws and prosecuting bad behavior can go only so far. If the culture of corruption isn't changed, the enforcement and legalistic approach will never achieve much success.
Voice of Russia Weekly Experts’ Panel-13

Is Russia’s anti-corruption drive the real thing?

After overthrowing Communism, most countries of the former Soviet bloc were immediately plunged into an environment of unbridled corruption. This was hardly surprising: weak democracy, official unaccountability and enormous inequality were the most obvious factors at work here. Given Russia’s huge natural-resources wealth and the ingrained culture of impunity among Russian officialdom, it was only logical that Russia would be one of the worst-afflicted countries. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, when launching his anti-corruption drive some five years ago at the very outset of his Presidency, bemoaned his country’s “legal nihilism”. A trained lawyer, Medvedev fully understands that corruption must be brought under control if Russia is to modernize and catch up economically with the West.

Questions to the Voice of Russia Weekly Experts’ Panel:

1) Sometimes likened to cancer, corruption has numerous causes and appears in many different forms, and hence it can be treated only by a comprehensive “regimen” over a prolonged period. Is it conceivable that Russia is currently witnessing the onset of such an approach?

2) Like crime, poverty or war, corruption can never be completely eradicated – indeed, there is ample evidence from Western democracies supporting such a view. However, a threshold can realistically be reached at which corruption becomes the exception rather than the rule. Can such an environment ever be created in Russia?

All the signs are that President Vladimir Putin shares that view and is determined to tackle the problem with greater vigour. Some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that this is the main reason why Putin decided to return to the Presidency: according to that argument, the mission of the architect of modern Russia would be incomplete if corruption were not reduced to what might be considered acceptable levels.

Leading Russia analyst Patrick Armstrong, who is a member of this Panel (see his contribution immediately below), has consistently – and persuasively – argued that the clearest evidence of the seriousness of the fight against corruption would be the fall of someone from within Putin’s inner circle. Such a fall came in November 2012 with the sacking of Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov amid allegations of widespread corruption among ministry officials. While no charges have yet been brought against Serdyukov, he remains under investigation for the suspected condoning of fraudulent practices at the ministry-controlled holding company Oboronservis. Combined with other recent high-profile investigations, such as those related to the GLONASS affair, the Ministry of Defence probe appears to constitute a serious-minded official campaign to root out corruption from at least part of the top bureaucracy.

Sceptics, on the other hand, argue that the current anti-corruption campaign is little more than an escalated inter-clan conflict within the highest echelons of the bureaucracy. The general view from this quarter is that Putin’s Russia cannot be freed from corruption because the very regime itself – including its head, Vladimir Putin – is deeply corrupt. Corruption is the natural and, indeed, only way of life in Putin’s “autocracy”, according to that viewpoint.

While healthy scepticism is always warranted, perhaps this time round it cannot be ruled out that something more than an inter-clan struggle is afoot. The fall of a top official, the sheer scale of the investigations and the publicity accorded to them in the state-controlled media, and ongoing measures to curb the scope for official graft – such as the recent ban on state officials and politicians holding foreign accounts and assets – suggest that the anti-corruption drive is acquiring a comprehensive, systemic character. If that is the case, then we just might be witnessing the start of an all-out, sustained official campaign to tackle this most intractable of problems.

The topic for the Discussion Panel is provided by Vlad Sobell,Editor, Expert Discussion Panel, Professor, New York University, Prague, Editor, Consensus East-West Europe.

 

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

‘If Russia were “mafia state” it is frequently painted as by the West, why would its anti-corruption laws and transparency indicators be steadily improving?’
There are many opinions on this topic and I see no reason to add more to that morass. I do however think it will be useful to ground the scale and trajectory of Russian corruption in quantifiable facts and statistics.
Corruption in Russia: ‘Effort is indeed being made’
Vlad Sobell mentioned two theories in the Voice of Russia Weekly Experts’ Panel: Putin might be seriously attacking corruption or it’s only inter-clan fighting.
Open government initiatives and increasing civil servants salaries will help fight corruption in Russia - expert
Russia’s problem with corruption is inseparable from its problem with the perception of corruption. The latter has so metastasized that it is no longer clear which is greater, the actual level of corruption or the perception of it.
Russia’s middle class demands result in greater publicity of corruption
Eight years ago I wrote a series of papers about markets and democracy in Russia. I argued that the state should take the lead in setting the national economic goals, based on the argument that the private sector in Russia is asocial and cannot become the engine of national growth.
 
Archive:

12. Will Obama and Kerry seize an historic opportunity? ‘West needs to accept the limits not only of its economic and military might but also of its soft power’

11. Can the West, China and Russia find a common approach to the Arab Spring?

10. Is Washington about to opt for pragmatism in its relations with Russia?

9. Ukraine: Between Russia and the West

8. Ringing out the old year on a lighter note

7. Will US-Russia Relations Begin a New Chapter in 2013?

6. Agenda for Obama’s upcoming visit to Russia

5. Making Sense of Russia and China’s Stance on the Middle East

4. The Magnitsky Bill: The Sources of America's Obsession with Russia

3. The Challenges of a Rising China: How Will the US and Russia Respond?

2. Which US presidential candidate is better able to meet the challenges ahead?

1. Post-US elections 2012: Toward A New World Order?