Democracy. Russia. CIS.

Russia according to Wikileaks: Kickbacks and extortion.

Posted by democratist on December 2, 2010

4th December 2010,

While we do not approve of Wikileaks’ release of several hundred thousand formerly classified State Department cables (discretion is, and should remain an important element of diplomacy), now that these documents are out in the open, there seems little point in Democratist ignoring them, especially since they reveal much about how US diplomats (and others) have viewed Russia and other former Soviet States over the past decade or so.

The main problem with analysing much of this material, of course is one inherent to historical research, and indeed intelligence analysis; just because a State department official saw fit to write down their appraisal of a situation, or relay claims made to them by a third-party, this does not mean, either that their analysis was correct, or that the person they were talking to was necessarily telling them the truth (claims surrounding the “Litvinenko cable” detailed here may – or may not – prove a case in point).

In this regard, much of the information released is basically high-grade gossip. However, much like the historian or the analyst, we can apply our pre-existing knowledge and theoretical insights to contextualize newly available information, and come to a judgement about its likely veracity and relevance. Democratist will doubtless be adding our contribution to the rapidly growing pile over the coming months. 

As far as Russia specifically is concerned one point already stands out; while others have suggested that Vladimir Putin might be secretly revelling in the leaking of these reports since they underscore his strongman image, the Wikileaks cables validate much of what we at Democratist have been saying about corruption at all levels in Russia since we set up shop in May. As such they are likely to have a negative impact on much hoped-for western investment into Russia, and by extension to some extent Medvedev’s (already rather lacklustre) “liberalization” project.

After all, how many US or European business people are going to want to invest in a country that is described by the US government, in cables that it never thought would become public as, “a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy…in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a virtual mafia state.”

Russia’s “BRIC” image of a few years ago, already in tatters  before these revelations, is becoming so toxic that many major western companies will surely seek to avoid investment in Russia at all costs, fearing an unending nightmare of kickbacks and extortion, or pull back from existing commitments.

 Russia surely now has the worst PR of any major country on earth.




4 Responses to “Russia according to Wikileaks: Kickbacks and extortion.”

  1. I’d call it more a bruise than a black eye. Businesses investing billions in Russia most likely have not learned anything new about the country thanks to Wikileaks. News summaries built on Russian SMI and chatter amongst the powerful are not exactly the world’s best kept secrets (even before all this). Capital flight and weak(er than before) FDI are serious problems for Russia, but people are bound to keep sinking their money into the economy and immigrating to the motherland. (Corruption and bribes, after all, aren’t always obstacles for those seeking profits and visas.)

  2. […] chapter of the Wikileaks “cablegate” story broke in early December last year, Democratist suggested that one of its key impacts was to highlight the claims made by Transparency […]

  3. […] in December we wrote that we did not agree with Wikileaks’ release of several hundred thousand […]

  4. […] perspective, what is most interesting about these figures is that they cover the period before last December’s release of embarrassing Wikileaks cables which described Russia as “a virtual mafia […]

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