There persists among post-Soviet and other kleptocratic elites a profound disdain for democratic and ethical principles, reflected and reinforced by a pervasive culture of physical theft and intellectual dishonesty in their home countries, notes Ilya Zaslavskiy, an Academy Associate at Chatham House, the London-based foreign policy think-tank. Their Neo-Gulag values derive not from any traditional ideology, but a wry cynicism and relentless pragmatism borne of the worst elements in Soviet society and modern capitalism, he writes for the Hudson Institute:
Non-state actors—oligarchs and businessmen, companies and NGOs—may not be active agents of their kleptocratic home regimes in the Western sense. But because they originate from the same corrupt environment, they often remain engaged with their masters through an informal mixture of espionage, personal relationships, business, and organized crime. And if they prove reluctant to cooperate, their past deeds provide all the compromising information necessary to ensure compliance. When kleptocrats engage with the West, whether through politics, business, residency, or other means, these corrosive values and corrupt practices are imparted to those with whom they come into contact—to the detriment of our democratic, financial, legal, and cultural institutions.
“The West, whether through ignorance, apathy, or greed, has mostly welcomed them with open arms,” Zaslavskiy adds. “We need to foster greater understanding of how Neo-Gulag values are being transferred to the West–and how, left unchecked, they threaten to devastate the very fabric of American democracy, capitalism and society.” RTWT
Kleptocracy and corruption are distinct, said analyst Oliver Bullough. The former is always multijurisdictional – a feature of globalization – and invariably features three key stages – “Steal, obscure, spend.” This provides an opportunity because offshore money laundering tends to be connected to rule of law jurisdictions, but it’s also a threat because the cross-border liquidity of assets incentivizes kleptocrats, he told a recent National Endowment for Democracy event on The Globalization of Venality: Kleptocracy’s Corrosive Impact on Democracy.
Join the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative for a discussion of Ilya Zaslavskiy’s report, How Non-State Actors Export Kleptocratic Norms to the West. After opening remarks by Mr. Zaslavskiy and responses by Jeffrey Gedmin and David Kramer, two expert panels will explore the development of corrupt norms and the true nature of contemporary kleptocratic regimes, as well as the methods they deploy to undermine Western democracy – and what can be done to fight back.
10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004