Staunton, August 31 Like the citizens of most countries, Russians are generally prepared to sacrifice to support national security, but they can become outraged if they learn that money taken from programs that helped them and supposedly given to the military is being diverted as a result of corruption.
And that can have immediate political consequences. Perhaps the best example is provided by Harry Truman who rose from being a virtually unknown US senator to Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president and eventual successor largely on the basis of the authority and popularity he acquired by exposing corruption in US military spending during World War II.
Consequently, the Kremlin has to be concerned about the growing number of stories in the Russian media documenting the fact that money that had gone for schools, hospitals and public welfare and that now is supposedly going to the Russian armed forces is ending in the hand of corrupt oligarchs and officials.
In the current issue of Kommersant-Vlast, three articles document the most well-known cases of corruption in this sector over the last two decades, point to the measures that the authorities have put in place to stop it without much success, and detail oft-repeated official statements that corruption in military spending is equivalent to “treason” (see here, here and here).
The journal’s Ivan Safronov points out that “Russia has never regretted spending money on the armament of the army and fleet, but this funds not always have gone where they are supposed to.” In such cases, and almost 200 of them have been identified in recent years, Russians are more than a little angry.
In February 2012, Vladimir Putin said that “corruption in the military-industry complex is absolutely impermissible.” And officials have suggested that the actions they have taken in recent years are sufficient to prevent it. But reports of new corruption cases, some of them massive and high-profile, suggest that they haven’t succeeded.
In the current environment where Russians know that they are being forced to tighten their belts in order to finance Moscow’s military policies, they may no longer be willing to treat this phenomenon as simply business as usual. And it is not implausible to think that there are some Russian politicians who might like to use this issue to boost themselves and their causes.