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As I write this, the tragic unjustified conflict in Ukraine drags on, with anguishing reports of civilian casualties and needless destruction mixed with encouraging news of the valor of the Ukrainian armed forces and the resolve of the Ukrainian people and their leaders. I won’t pretend to have any idea what will happen. I’m just hoping that outnumbered the Ukrainian resistance can hold out long enough for the political and economic pressure to have some effect—if not in changing the Russian leadership’s policy, then at least in undermining its capacity to wage war or maintain a long-term occupation.
In trying to slow the Russian army’s advance and deny Russia control of major cities and other strategic targets, the Ukrainian military may have the help of an unexpected ally: corruption. The corruption, that is, of the Russian military and defense sector. Without taking anything away from the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian armed forces, many analysts have noted that the invading Russian force appears to have been hampered by cheap and poorly maintained equipment, shortages of fuel, rations, and other supplies, and deficiencies in training and coordination. And some of these analysts have suggested that while no one factor can explain Russia’s poor showing in the field (so far), pervasive corruption in the Russian defense sector may be an important contributing cause (see, for example, here, here, and here). Continue reading
On my previous visits to Kyiv, I have had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with several of the outstanding scholars and researchers affiliated with the Anti-Corruption Research and Education Centre (ACREC). This morning, ACREC a message to a list of people in the worldwide anticorruption research community, describing the situation in Ukraine and appealing for more international support. With ACREC’s permission, I am reproducing the message below:
Anti-Corruption Research and Education Centre (ACREC) addresses you on the ninth day of the invasion of the russian federation.
All these days we have been trying our best to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine – to transfer funds, organize aid and necessary purchases. We also helped people in need and those who were forced to leave their homes.
Some of us still remain in the hottest spots of today’s war – Kyiv and Kharkiv.
You can see how russian troops are bombing Kyiv and its suburbs, Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Enerhodar and it’s nuclear power plant. We are sure that many of you have been to these cities and remember them only for the best. Help us save these cities, their people and Ukraine. Call on your governments to close the skies over Ukraine in order to prevent further casualties and to help neutralize military aggression. This is a war not only against Ukraine, but also against the whole civilized world. Putin’s terror will not stop exclusively on the territory of Ukraine, after some time it may be repeated with other neighboring countries of russia. Ukraine is only the first outpost on the path to a peaceful Europe. Ukraine will fall – Europe will fall.
We, as a think tank at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, appeal to you to call on your governments to support Ukraine in every possible way and to prevent further losses among the military and civilian population of our country by:
- closing the skies over Ukraine as it was done during the 2008 Russian-Georgian war;
- further implementation and strengthening of sanctions against russia, its leadership and its satellite countries, family members of the russian leadership;
- sanctions against those associated with the leadership of the aggressor country should be sought separately: https://putinwallets.org/
- depriving Russia of the status of a member of the world’s leading organizations, such as the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.
If you have friends and / or colleagues from russia, please spread the truth about their military aggression against Ukraine by their state.
We also sending you the links on:
- website for fundraising for the needs of the Ukrainian army: https://savelife.in.ua/. In addition, we encourage you to join the volunteer initiatives in your countries to help Ukrainian citizens in need;
- website with news in English about the course of military aggression in Ukraine: https://edition.cnn.com/; https://www.bbc.com/russian;
- website for the search for prisoners of war and victims of military aggression: https://gdemoysyn.com/.
If you have any questions, you can contact us – we will help with any kind of information.
Today’s guest post is from Matthew Murray, currently Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, who previously served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
When President Putin began Russia’s expanded military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the imprisoned Russian anticorruption activist and political opposition leader Alexey Navalny was on trial once again over fabricated charges of embezzlement. Though Mr. Navalny faces another 15 years in a penal colony, he seized the opportunity during his February 24 hearing to publicly state his opposition to Russia’s war on Ukraine. “This war between Russia and Ukraine was unleashed to cover up the theft from Russian citizens and divert their attention from problems that exist inside the country,” he said.
Mr. Navalny’s statement reflects a deep understanding of the causes of war. Throughout history rulers have started wars to divert and distract attention of their citizens from growing domestic problems and restiveness. And this pattern fits the Russian situation well. In recent years, Putin’s popularity has declined due to failure to modernize Russia’s economy, his flawed management of the Covid-19 pandemic, and—not least—the corruption of his regime and his inner circle. Indeed, last February, when Russian courts initially sentenced Navalny to over two years in prison, tens of thousands of Russian citizens from 109 cities across the country went to the streets to demonstrate against Putin’s rule. In ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin may well have been seeking to divert attention from failures at home, including his autocratic control of the political economy for the benefit of himself and the Russian oligarchy.
But it’s more than that: Putin’s aggression may also be aimed at legitimizing his rule at home by installing a new state-sponsored oligarchy in Ukraine. He may be seeking to kill the idea, which took hold in Ukraine during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity at the Maidan. The Maidan Revolution started when Ukrainians took to the streets of the Maidan in central Kyiv to protest then-President Victor Yanukovych’s sudden decision to reverse the nation’s course to join the European Union and engage in free trade with the world’s largest economic bloc. But the Maidan Revolution was not just about one decision or one administration. The Maidan uprising was a revolution against the system of corrupt rule of Yanukovych and the oligarch class that was choking the nation’s potential—and it was also about the idea: the idea that every individual should have the freedom, the right, and the path to fulfill their human potential. This idea fundamentally threatens Putin’s personal authority and autocratic rule. As Ukraine’s reformers have begun to take concrete steps to embed this idea in independent institutions, they set an example for Russian citizens, who may be inspired by Ukraine’s example to demand that their government suppress official corruption and respect for human rights. Continue reading
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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (or, more accurately, the dramatic escalation and expansion of the invasion that Russia already started eight years ago) is horrifying. As I type this, Russian forces are moving against Kyiv, and Ukrainian defense forces and reservists are preparing to defend their capital city against overwhelming odds, while the Ukrainian army elsewhere in the country is doing its best to resist Russian advances from all directions. I have nothing useful to say about this terrible situation. I am not a military analyst, an expert in geopolitics, or even terribly knowledgeable about aspects of this crisis closer to my own areas of expertise (such as questions regarding the efficacy of sanctions the West is imposing, or could impose). I’m just a professor, not terribly well known outside my fairly narrow areas of academic specialization, who runs a blog about anticorruption. But this morning, I can’t really think of anything else to write about.
Maybe at some point I’ll be able to collect and organize my thoughts and say something coherent about how this war relates to the global fight against corruption. There most certainly is a connection–probably several connections–even though corruption/anticorruption is only one part of the story. For now, let me just share scattered thoughts and reactions: Continue reading
The war in Afghanistan is already the longest conflict in United States history. Over the past fifteen years, the U.S. government has poured over $100 billion into the reconstruction effort—more than the Marshall Plan. In spite of this massive public investment, Afghanistan’s government is weak, its economy is moribund, and the Taliban remains an active threat in the region. Contributing to all of those problems is persistent, systemic corruption. This problem was highlighted recently by a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which served as a harsh reminder not only that corruption in Afghanistan remains is daunting problem despite years of the reconstruction effort, but also that the U.S. has failed to address the problem, and has sometimes made it even worse. According to the SIGAR report, the U.S. failed to grasp the importance of combating corruption as part of a broader effort to improve security and stability, with policymakers and military leaders instead viewing anticorruption as a competing goal that had to be traded off against the seemingly more pressing security goals.
The SIGAR report is valuable in many ways, and its emphasis on viewing anticorruption and security as complementary rather than competing goals is welcome. (This corruption-insecurity link, and its relative neglect, have been emphasized by many other outside critics as well, most recently and prominently Sarah Chayes, who has argued that when government breaks down under the weight of corruption, people in those countries are pushed towards radicalization.) But the SIGAR report’s suggestion that the U.S. failed to adequately confront corruption in Afghanistan because leaders failed (until recently) to grasp this complementarity is not quite right. Continue reading