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Russia Ranked Alongside Swaziland in Level of Corruption

If anyone had any doubts about whether the Yukos case was a one-off in Russia, they ought to read this new report by the World Bank. The September 2006 report, entitled, “Governance Matters” ranked Russia 151st among 208 countries in terms of political stability, democratic voice and accountability, effectiveness of government, quality of regulatory bodies, rule of law and control over corruption. Overall that placed Russia in the league of Swaziland and Zambia, and just ahead of East Timor. Russia’s political stability – defined as the perceived likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means – was comparable to that of the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan. On the credibility of the state’s commitment to policy formation and implementation, Russia was in a group with Pakistan and Tanzania. For regulatory quality, Russia was ranked alongside Madagascar and Senegal. Rule of law in Russia was as effective as in Ecuador, Indonesia and Bangladesh. With company like that, one would hope that greater caution would be exercised as the EU and Russia continue their negotiations for a partnership treaty – yet the message still doesn’t get through. This World Bank report, as well as the latest news from the Sakhalin project, underscore what I have been arguing for some time: that corrupt elements in the Russian leadership have not only abused the law and seized private property as it suits them, but have also parlayed the resulting oil and gas wealth into political and economic influence on the world stage, bullying their neighbors and enriching themselves in the process. Make no mistake, Russia has imperial ambitions, and in order to curb them and turn Russia into an equal partner, the West has got to stop showing such weak-kneed deference to the energy weapon.