The war has bought out a diversionary tactic known as *whataboutism on Ukraine.
Russia’s corrupt? So is Ukraine! Russia has oligarchs? So does Ukraine! Russia is run by an autocrat you say? Well Ukraine is full of Neo-Nazis starting with its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
These statements come from the Russian disinformation arsenal and aim to confuse, obfuscate, and generally give people the impression there’s no discernible difference between the two countries.
So let’s look at corruption, as most rational and reasonable people with access to an independent media aren’t buying the absurd „Neo-Nazi” slur. For the record, members of Mr. Zelensky’s family were murdered during the Holocaust and others fought in the Red Army against Nazis.
Eastern Europe is more corrupt than Western Europe. The least corrupt countries are the Nordic countries. Former Soviet republics are more corrupt than the most corrupt EU countries.
The only former Soviet countries that score well on the corruption index are Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia which have been members of NATO and the European Union for years.
Last week, I was registering a car at the traffic police headquarters. Above almost every counter or ‘ghiseu’ as they are called in Romanian there was a sign saying “we don’t take ‘atenţii,’” meaning bribes.
The signs tell us two things: one, the official policy is ‘no bribery’ (there are probably CCTV cameras) and two, Romania has or has had a problem with kickbacks paid to police and clerks (otherwise why the signs?).
Graft, especially petty corruption, has decreased in Romania in recent years since it joined NATO and then the European Union in 2007.
In the early 2000s, I was traveling with someone who committed a misdemeanor and paid a bribe to a police officer to avoid a larger punishment. The traffic cop even told him how much to hand over. I doubt that scene would be repeated now as *Romania has mechanisms to stop bribery…. Plus salaries have increased as the economy has improved.
So what about corruption and bribery in Russia and Ukraine (neither is in NATO or the EU)?
Transparency International, the anti-graft watchdog and globally accepted standard for measuring corruption has this report:
In 2021, Russia was 136th place out of 180 for corruption and 27% of people said they’d paid a bribe in the last year. It scored 29/100.
Ukraine was in 122nd place, with 23% of people admitting they greased someone’s palm. It scored 32/100. Moldova, another former Soviet republic, scored slightly better than Ukraine.
The difference is that Ukraine and Moldova want to join the European Union. That means they need to put in place a number of mechanisms and anti-corruption checks. These will result in less corruption as happened in Romania.
That appears to be the problem.
Russian President Vladimir Putin simply doesn’t want his fellow Slavs to embark on a path of democracy and transparency. So Kremlin propaganda infers that it’s just as hopeless in Ukraine as it is in Russia.
- Whataboutism is the practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.
- Romania came 66/180 and scored 45/100 on the Transparency International index. Twenty percent of people said they’d paid a bribe to a public official in 2021.