Recent allegations of collusion between Russian organised crime and American politicians are surprising. But perhaps they shouldn’t be.
Around the world, the lines between politics and organised crime are blurring.
In South America, the Car Wash scandal unmasked a continent-wide network of corrupt electoral financing. The North Korean government stands accused of participating in global counterfeiting, drug-running and human-trafficking activities. And, as recent research from United Nations University shows, wherever there is armed conflict, there are usually links to organised crime.
The 2011 White House “Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime” foresaw these risks, asserting that criminal networks “threaten U.S. interests by forging alliances with corrupt elements of national governments.”
And the White House should know. Just days ago, the release of previously confidential U.S. government materials on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy seemed to confirm that the CIA worked with the American mafia to try to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Organised crime groups have long worked as a complement to state structures, doing what governments could not (acceptably) do. That extends to trafficking drugs and arms, domestic assassination, extortion, money laundering, and strategic offshore investment — including in foreign politicians.