The Rise of Kleptocracy: Power and Plunder in Putin’s Russia

Issue Date January 2018
Volume 29
Issue 1
Page Numbers 76-85
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Read the full essay here.

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, opaque financial flows and an equally murky network of ex-KGB officers, with its roots in the 1990s, come together in a distinctive system of corruption. This system serves dual purposes: Those at the top follow the imperative of self-enrichment, but they also find in corruption a highly effective tool for consolidating domestic political control and projecting power abroad. At home, omnipresent corruption makes property claims and business ventures contingent on the whims of the authorities, while keeping officials themselves permanently under the threat of selective punishment. Abroad, corruption serves as a key lever of Russian influence in other post-Soviet states, as well as a tool for undermining established democracies. Yet it also creates vulnerabilities that can make Russia prone to reckless and extreme measures. Although Russia’s kleptocracy is a self-sustaining system, it faces a growing backlash in the forms of international sanctions and domestic discontent.

For a preview of this article, read Dylan Myles-Primakoff’s post on the Power 3.0 blog.

About the Authors

Miriam Lanskoy

Miriam Lanskoy is senior director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy. She is the author, with Ilyas Akhmadov, of The Chechen Struggle: Independence Won and Lost (2010).

View all work by Miriam Lanskoy

Dylan Myles-Primakoff

Dylan Myles-Primakoff is senior program officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy.

View all work by Dylan Myles-Primakoff