The Russian army’s corruption quagmire – POLITICO

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Polina Beliakova is a senior research fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

During the first days of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s achievements were famously – and beyond expectations – impressive. The Russian army was slow, disorganized, and could not control any major cities.

To account for this surprising development, experts point out that the Kremlin has false assumption on Ukraine’s combat readiness and capabilities. And while that may be true, there is another factor that may have contributed to Russia’s pre-war misjudgments and underperformance in practice – systemic corruption in the country. defense and security sectors of the country.

At the operational level, defense procurement corruption also has the potential to undermine logistics, manifesting in soldiers receiving inadequate equipment and supplies on the ground. Poor logistics slows troops down, weakens their morale, and hinders military effectiveness.

At the beginning of the invasion, there was account indicates that some Russian soldiers received rations containing Expires in 2015. Most of the companies responsible for supplying food to the Russian army are connection to Yevgeny Prigozhin – patron of PMC Wagnerorganization of mercenaries and sponsors of Internet Research Agencywas accused interfere in the US election. Several years ago, Prigozhin’s companies were accused by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of forming a consortium and tricking the state bidding system for defense orders, accepting contracts for several hundred million dollars. The quality of food and housing in the Russian army is said to be worse in its prisonwith unreasonably small meals and some harmful carry Escherichia coli bacteria.

There are also reports that Russian advances in Ukraine have been slowed by lack of fuel – and this in a country rich in oil and gas. But ineffective control on fuel consumption in the Russian military actually goes back long before the war in Ukraine and has historically created opportunities for embezzlement – that’s why fuel is often called the “second currency” of the Russian military. It can be said that the long tradition of corruption in the fuel supply has slowed Russia’s ascent in Ukraine.

It should also be remembered that the weapons currently aimed at Ukraine have already been manufactured even though this level of corruption. Meanwhile, many technological innovations, including those that could increase the accuracy of Russian attacks, never materialized due to graft, embezzlement and fraud.

In 2020, Transparency International’s Defense Integrity Index shows that Russia has high risk of corruption in its defense sector. The secret increase around the industry restricts civilian scrutiny of companies that engage in corrupt dealings with the Department of Defense without competition. Not surprisingly, most Russian defense companies show low or very low commitment to anti-corruption action and transparency.

For example, in 2012, a Russian arms company received about $26 million to develop an aircraft system for intercepting non-tactical missiles, according to local media reports. But the research was never successful, as the company entered into fraudulent contracts with shell companies, some of which were registered addresses of public toilets in the Samara region of Russia. In another case from 2016, another company responsible for providing radio navigation equipment and control systems for high-precision munitions was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal in which management This company’s leadership mimics research and development activities to steal money through fraudulent contracts.

Corruption in Russia’s defense sector is not limited to the military-industrial complex. It also penetrates the political level, potentially altering the incentive structure for Russian President Putin’s top security officials. Recent investigations have shown that top officials in the Russian Defense Ministry own assets significantly higher than their income, suggesting possible involvement in corrupt deals.

Maintaining a luxurious lifestyle discourages top security officials from offering expert advice that can frustrate autocrats and expose them to corrupt networks. In the case of Ukraine, this means running the risk of reporting to Putin that the country he wants to invade will go to war, that civilians have no desire to join the “Russian world” and may say hello. welcome troops with Molotov cocktails rather than bread and salt, according to local tradition. In this way, the corrupt loyalty of top Putin officials may have backfired and contributed to intelligence failures and misjudged risk assessments in Ukraine.

Of course, corruption in the Russian security sector does not predetermine the outcome of the war. Russia still has vast capabilities and many armies will be put into combat. But whatever benefit the military can achieve, it will have to do so as it battles the challenges posed by rampant corruption, from misjudgment at the highest levels to expired military rations in the field. The Russian army's corruption quagmire - POLITICO

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