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The Role of Corruption in the Power Vertical

Although Michael Bohm’s latest article in the Moscow Times is more about the missed opportunity during the firing of Yuri Luzhkov, he makes a very lucid point here about the role that corruption plays in the current power structure, and why it is so naturally resistant to reform:

Corruption by no means started on Putin’s watch, but it has increased sixfold — from roughly $50 billion a year at its peak in the 1990s to more than $300 billion a year in 2009, according to Indem. One reason for this is that the number of state employees sharply increased under Putin — from 485,566 in 1999 to 846,307 in 2008, according to the State Statistics Service. The link is clear and direct: The more bureaucrats, the more corruption. (…)

Putin’s system of loyalty is highly dependent on the ability of his army of bureaucrats to embezzle and take bribes. Those who became wealthy under Putin obviously want to keep the current system in place for as long as possible. This is one reason why they are happy to lobby voters to support United Russia and “Putin’s Plan.” (…)

The Kremlin’s so-called battle against corruption is a farce. Putin’s system in which corruption is tolerated — and thus encouraged — needs to be fundamentally changed, starting at the very top.

It’s a simple concept, obvious enough to anybody who follows Russia, and yet for all this awareness, it’s just breathtaking how little is done about it.