Russian interior minister Anatoly Kulikov yesterday criticized a report recently published in the U.S. for exaggerating the danger posed by Russian organized crime groups to U.S. national interests. Kulikov disparaged the report’s conclusion that foreign entrepreneurs and investors cannot be protected in Russia. He also suggested that Russia’s own law enforcement agencies are making progress in the fight against organized crime and charged that the authors of the report were pursuing a secret agenda aimed simply at justifying continued budget expenditures for the American special services. (Russian agencies, October 14)
Although he did not name the report specifically, Kulikov was presumably referring to a study issued in late September by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Panelists sponsored by the Center described Russia as an increasingly unreliable partner in international affairs because of rampant official corruption and the growing influence of organized crime. It also concluded that the erosion of legitimate government authority in Russia is endangering international efforts in peacekeeping, nuclear non-proliferation, and economic restructuring. The panel urged the Clinton Administration to declare Russian organized crime a threat to U.S. national security, and said that the U.S. should press its G-7 partners to discuss an investment treaty that would deny export credits to Western firms doing business with firms in Russia controlled by organized crime. (Reuter, September 30)
A similar warning was voiced by FBI director Louis Freeh in testimony before the House International Relations Committee only days later, on October 2. Freeh described Russian organized crime as a threat to U.S. national security and said that about 30 Russian crime syndicates now operate in the U.S. The size and sophistication of these Russian crime operations, he added, far outstrip those of traditional Italian mafia groups. The Russian groups were said to have forged links with South American drug cartels and to be dealing heavily in weaponry. Freeh also claimed that U.S. law enforcement agencies now take "very seriously" the possibility that Russian criminal gangs could gain possession of nuclear weapons, and, for that reason, that the U.S. is under a greater threat "from nuclear detonation now than at the height of the Cold War." (The Washington Post, Reuter, October 2)
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