In Putin’s Russia, the Law is for Sale
Our last editorial focused on the extent to which Vladimir Putin’s so-called “legal system” has been fundamentally corrupted, to the extent that it cannot fairly be said that Russia has a legal system at all. Immediately after it appeared, we received a stunning practical example of what this means to ordinary Russians.
A study by the Clean Hands and Association of Russian Lawyers human rights groups has revealed, after analyzing 6,589 complaints from ordinary people received between July 2, 2009, and July 30, 2010, that positions in law enforcement are for sale: “the job of an aide to a district prosecutor could cost $10,000 [and] the job of a traffic police officer is the most popular position, carrying a $50,000 price tag.” Why Russians are willing to pay such huge fees for a job is clear: “Citing Interior Ministry data, Clean Hands said a standard bribe in Russia averaged 44,000 rubles ($1,450) in mid-2010, almost double the average of 23,000 rubles at the start of the year.”
To the ridiculous and offensive suggestion that corruption is just part of normal life in Russia, clean hands offers this devastating response: “Such an interpretation is pretty widespread, but it is nothing else than a means of manipulating public opinion in a bid to justify the growth of corruption in Russia.”
While the Russian economy is foundering, there remains on significant growth injury in the Putin dictatorship, and that’s official corruption. With bribes soaring, Russians are willing to pay larger and larger fees to land plum jobs which will let them cash in, and even the highest levels of law enforcement are riddled with such corruption. Needless to say, the effect is to purge professionals from the bureaucracy, leaving Russia totally unable to delivery anything remotely approximating justice.
Foreigners, of course, rely on the the legal system to protect their rights. Seeing that they cannot do so, foreigners are fleeing Russia and taking their money with them. Russia languishes as an international pariah, a backwater for foreign direct investment which is treated much more like a gambling casino than a respectable, civilized nation.
This, in turn, has horrific spillover effects on Russia’s general reputation in the world. Foreigners will of course assume that Russians are immoral, that Russian society is fundamentally corrupt and therefore not trustworthy. Russians will not be taken seriously in any sphere of international relations.