Tucked away on page 4 of the Moscow Times today there is a remarkable article which made me wonder whether I wasn’t hallucinating.
Everyone knows that Russia is corrupt, but did you know just how corrupt? The short answer is: more than any other country. That, at least, is the conclusion of a survey just published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which examines the level of economic crime around the world.
You might think that the scandal involving Hermitage Capital in Russia couldn’t get any more perturbing. If you have been following the case, you’ll be aware that the British investment fund, managed by American-born financier William Browder, has repeatedly accused Russian criminals and corrupt officials of stealing $230 million in funds from the Russian budget.
The Russian Interior Ministry is about to seek the arrest of William Browder, the chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management, for illegally evading taxes. That’s according to a front-page article in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, a leading political-economic daily.
President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain have deliberately raised the stakes in the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme by dramatising the disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant. Their shoulder-to-shoulder statements of resolve, less than a week before Iran opens talks with six major powers in Geneva, raised more questions than they answer.
In the wake of President Obama’s decision to scrap the U.S. missile defence shield in eastern Europe, many are pondering Russia’s response. The relationship will remain in the spotlight this week, when President Medvedev heads to the U.S. for the G20 summit. Although the precise nature of Russia’s reaction remains to be seen, it has a big incentive to improve relations. It badly needs American investment and co-operation to help solve serious economic problems at home.
After just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration’s decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The announcement that the major powers, including the United States, are going to open talks with Iran on Oct. 1 ought to be a source of rejoicing. After all, isn’t this what much of the world has been urging for several years, while the European Union conducted a frustrating, low-key dialogue like the warm-up band at a rock concert?