“Tough Love“ of the Eastern Europeans to Corruption in a “Still and Soft” Way

During a discussion of the Kiev Security Forum dedicated to the Day of Europe in Ukraine on 15 May in 2012-2016, Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow, currently an honorary member of the Atlantic Council of the…

During a discussion of the Kiev Security Forum dedicated to the Day of Europe in Ukraine on 15 May in 2012-2016, Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow, currently an honorary member of the Atlantic Council of the Washington Analytical Center, noted that Ukraine had managed to secure the support of the Administration of US President Joe Biden and got express signals about the intention of Washington to help Kiev withstand the Russian aggression. There is no longer any doubt that the freedom and security of Ukraine with the successful completion of the Euro integration project are among priorities of the United States.
According to Alexander Vershbow, at the same time, the United States expect more determined reforms from Kiev, as well as a stronger fight against corruption – this is the message of Washington of “tough love”, when some retreat from reforms is worrying, especially remembering March of the last year when several reformers were fired from the government, a decline in the work of some anti-corruption institutions has been observed, individuals associated with the former President Viktor Yanukovych (who fled to Russia after the democratic Maidan revolution) returned to power structures.

Analyst of the Atlantic Council noted particularly that even significant support of the United States for defense against an external enemy will not compensate for disability of Ukraine fighting against internal troubles.
Earlier, on 17 May, The Washington Post quoted US Secretary of State Anton Blinken who warned Kiev of threats to the future of Ukraine in case the “second” front against corruption inside the country is ignored. The main diplomat of the United States promised to increase support for Ukraine when Russians mobilize military units at its border, however he also criticized its corrupt political system, especially after the dirty dismissal of the Chief executive officer of the state-owned company Naftogaz Andriy Kobolyev, which seemed like a discreditation and even a betrayal of Western standards.

The US daily also stated that the team of Anthony Blinken applies “tough love” in relations with Ukraine, although some skepticism about this method remains, because / when “hard love” failed more often in the past, the topic of corruption since the attack of Russia in 2014 against Ukraine is almost at dead point. According to a political cientist Sam Charap of the analytical company , the question of the dynamics of reforms remains open, so that the US Secretary of State would not have to go to Ukraine every 4-8 years with the same questions.
Former Prime Minister of Ukraine Oleksiy Honcharuk, who visited the Atlantic Council on 22 January told from the United States that President Joe Biden understood Ukraine very well, as did the people in his administration, some of them are even of the Ukrainian origin. Therefore, the policy towards Kiev will be tougher than before – the priorities are formulated clearly, the requirements are strictly specific, especially when corrupt pro-Russian forces raise their heads and the disorder in the offices of the Ukrainian government is no longer unnoticed.
“Tough love” again – politicians of the United States already understand the threat of corruption to Ukraine.
The former Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine in 1998-2000 Steven Pifer told in a video conference hosted by the Business Council of the Unites States and Ukraine on March 2 that administration of the President Joe Biden is ready to encourage Ukraine for reforms, sometimes perhaps even ruthlessly.
The conversation between Volodyyr Zelensky and Joe Biden “ripened” almost a month and a half after the inauguration of the US President. When it finally “happened” in the evening of 2 April, because the situation on the Ukrainian border got very serious since the Russian units were concentrated there, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky first spoke in detail about anti-corruption reforms in a 50-minute conversation.
The phrase “Ukraine without corruption is not a fiction” belongs to the President of Ukraine as one of the most important generalizations in his annual report in the Verkhovna Rada on 20 October.
On 10 February, during a mid-term review of performance of obligations of Ukraine according to agreement with the Association of the European Union (EU), the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) Valdis Dombrovskis recalled a new package of € 1.2 billion in EU financial assistance to Kiev designated for mitigation of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and also pointed out that the entrenched corruption undermines the reforms, that is the source of benefit to only criminals and business oligarchs.

The Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis encouraged all fractions sitting in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada to send a clear signal to the Western allies that the path of reform is firmly irreversible.
The Baltic nations are as the older brothers in this regard, who have already gone down the anti-corruption path, but here, too, a subtle quiet corruption still exists.
The Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas announced his resignation on 13 January after the scandal, when his Centre Party promised a state soft money loan to the real estate developer, owner of Porto Franco Hillar Teder in exchange for up to one million euros support before the Estonian municipal elections in the autumn. Moreover, the Secretary General of the Centre Party Mikhail Korb and then an adviser to the Minister of Finance Kersti Kracht (who resigned after the Prime Minister and the whole government) promised to mediate in the municipality of Tallinn over territorial solutions in the Old Town of the Estonian capital favourable to Porto Franco.
In connection with this story, the Estonian press recalled the dismissal of the Minister of Education Mailis Reps in 2016 after a scandal involving the use of official transport for personal networks, when children of six ministers were taken to schools and extracurricular activities by cars of the Ministry.

It would seem that this is just rubbish; it is some kind of extracurricular activities… However, we have more than just rubbish.
In September 2020, information on money laundering began to appear in the international public domain thanks to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ, which brings together 108 media worldwide).

According to the portal Re: Baltica, which participated in the ICIJ project, some Latvian banks helped large Russian and Ukrainian businessmen and politicians in 1999-2017 to transfer several billion dollars abroad with the help of illegal schemes. For example, Mako Trading, a company related to the son Alexander of Viktor Yanukovych, transferred money to the Latvian Aizkraukles banka and Baltikums Bank, although in 2015 the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Mako Holding, which included Mako Trading.
The Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash, whose extradition is sought by the United States on suspicion of corruption, was able to launder millions of dollars through Latvian Trasta Komercbanka.
The Latvian according to the testimony of The Bank of New York Mellon in 2006-2016 made suspicious deals worth 29 billion USD. documents show that one of the wealthiest Russians, the Russian aluminium magnate (the holding ) Oleg Deripaska, transferred more than 3 billion US dollars of suspicious origin through this bank from 2002 to 2016.
Oleg Deripaska is emphatically loyal to the President of Russia, for example, by investing a billion dollars in the infrastructure of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that were particularly taken care by Vladimir Putin. He was included in the list of US sanctions on suspicion of money laundering and close ties with the Kremlin, which openly interferes with democracy – according to the US special services, Oleg Deripaska partially funded the failed coup d’état in Montenegro, by which Moscow tried in every way to “discoourage” integration into the democratic West.
This is just a small part of a „financial operation“ with a clear corrupt component in the Eastern Baltics – a news agency that highlighted the stories in March 2019, said that the money laundering scandal had exposed the shortcomings of the financial system of Europe that Russian criminals had used over the years.
finds about 3,240,000 links to the Lithuanian word “corruption” (results of 19 May). Who can say that this is not a hot topic in our country, too? For example, it seems that when we compare 15-year data, the situation in Lithuania has really improved, but it is still really stagnant in terms of transparency in public procurements.

It is worth mentioning in honour of the Baltic states that they no longer need the Western attention in the style of “tough love”, they are more likely to manage themselves, not only these “banking buttons” revealed here by ICIJ, which are revealed here.
However, after the expulsion of a series of Russian diplomats (starting in September), Bulgaria is often called the “Trojan Horse” of Moscow by the EU and NATO. According to the latest annual report from the Sofia Euro-Atlantic Security Center, the Bulgarian government and business are dependent on Russia, especially when “own” companies are “allowed” and hired at increased prices for the construction of major infrastructure, such as in the energy sector.
This situation exacerbates corruption, which was also mentioned in the EU report on the rule of law in the states of the Community. Transparency International distinguishes Bulgaria as the most corrupt member state of the EU.
The Bulgarian sociologist Evgenii Dainov notes in this connection that with such “hybrid strategies” the Kremlin has been seeking to destabilize the civilized world for a decade, to convince everyone that there is no truth, only paid views. Everyone lies for money and when we have such a situation, public relations are driven by the bold power.
Another Bulgarian sociologist Petar Cholakov gloomily sums up that even thirty years after the collapse of the USSR, the communist experiment is still very vital. Corruption remains the export “commodity” thanks to which the contemporary Russia is trying to regain its geopolitical influence. And the Kremlin knows that.

It seems that the West already knows, but the democratic world has had to go a systematic pit to understand the necessity of applying “tough love” to post-Soviet states that are often thrusting towards Western values often in the pro form.
According to the professor of political science at George Mason University Eric Shiraev, the biggest mistake of the USSR reformers was that when the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s, they focused on economic reforms when Russia had no infrastructure, no laws, and no tradition. Not only did they consider the country democratic, in spite of anything – the US President Bill Clinton in 1996 compared the first President of Russia (1991-1999) Boris Yeltsin to Abraham Lincoln, supporting the presidential election that year, ignoring corruption.

The Soviet professor of history at Harvard University Richard Pipes told in an interview with back in 2016 that U.S. policy toward Russia was often based on the stereotype that once the economy starts prospering, the democracy will appear. Internal contradictions will “get rid of” by themselves. Washington did not understand the historical background that the mentality of obedience to the law, which has not been disputed in the United States for several centuries, has not formed in Russia. Besides, it is also a victim of a 70-year-old Soviet experiment. In Russia, the centralization of power has flourished for centuries at the expense of individual freedoms.
According to the American journalist from the Soviet Union David Satter, who now writes about Russia, business oligarch s who were flourishing in times of Boris Yeltsin, were looking for an executor and guarantor who could ensure the status quo; it is probable that they saw Vladimir Putin as a person, who generally coped well with the “task “.
But his KGB habits and algorithms he brought as a KGB officer became a side effect not only to Russia. Not only the indifference to human dignity and life, visually manifested in the tragedies of the Beslan school, hostages of the Moscow theatre , the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft over Donbass, but also in the consolidation of the de facto authoritarian regime. Democracy has lost the financial interests of those in power.

A superficial approach to the collapsing Soviet Union returned to the West like a pendulum for some time as well as an export of the decline (destruction) of democracy. It seems that Washington learned that lesson not to step on the same rake twice, loves Eastern and Central Europe with “tough love.”
Arūnas Spraunius

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