This fascinating article in the July/August edition of Foreign Affairs discusses the transformation of corruption into an instrument of national strategy. It argues that, in recent years, a number of countries — China and Russia, in particular — have found ways to take the kind of corruption that was previously a mere feature of their own political systems and transform it into a weapon on the global stage. Countries have done this before, but never on the scale seen today. What had previously been side payments have become core instruments of national strategy, leveraged to gain specific policy outcomes and to condition the wider political environment in targeted countries. The article describes 3 kinds of corruption –
- Bureaucratic corruption – the pervasive conversion of ordinary public service, backhanders to get permits, licences or services done or done quickly;
- Grand corruption – when business leaders or major criminals (or oligarchs) directly pay off top government officials in exchange for favours or advantage; and
- Strategic corruption – where corruption is used as a tool of a country’s strategies and policies.
The article argues that in bureaucratic and grand corruption, the payer and the payee are mainly just trying to get rich. In strategic corruption, by contrast, the greed is still there, for at least some of the players, but the corrupt inducements are wielded against a target country by foreigners as a part of their own country’s national strategy. The article refers to the Ukraine scandal that resulted in impeachment of Trump being attempted, Russian and Chinese, Turkish and other attempts at, or examples of, apparent strategic corruption.
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