Leadership: Russian Officers Turning Into Bandits


July 17, 2009: Despite efforts to reform the military and downsize its personnel, Russia continues to experience epic levels of crime among its military personnel. This is particularly true of the Russian officer corps. A recent study found that serious crime among the officers was the highest it has been in a decade. The chief military prosecutor for the Russian armed forces is saying that immediate steps must be taken to stop the trend, or else the entire professional military structure is in danger of becoming paralyzed.  

Russian military officers last year committed 4,159 serious crimes, which included 1,754 crimes related to corruption or lack of integrity. Compared to 2007, this was a 38 percent increase in crimes by officers. Thus far this year, records indicate that Russian officers are already responsible for over 2,000 serious crimes. The major crimes, unsurprisingly, are related to bribery, corruption, and abuse of subordinate personnel. More than 540 servicemen were reportedly abused or assaulted by commissioned officers during the first half of 2009. One-third of the offenses committed thus far are related to bribery. 

Traditionally, crime is easy for officers to get away with in the Russian military. Enlisted personnel (even sergeants) typically have little to no access to much of anything that can make them large amounts of money. The one exception to this, of course, is if the troops are in a war zone, like Chechnya, in which lots of money can be made looking the other way towards drug smuggling, arms trafficking, and any other shady business that has to pass through an army checkpoint. Even then, officers get the largest chunk of the profits. 

Officers retain most of the power within the rank structure and, having unlimited access to things like armories, logistics areas, and motor pools, can potentially makes thousands of dollars selling everything from light weapons to stolen gasoline. Corruption continues to plague the Russian military and, like always, while the enlisted men are willing to take a few dollars in bribes, it's the officer corps that really gets rich from corruption. 


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