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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Overwhelmed by Crime

A major, two-day meeting on the fight with crime, which Yeltsin and Rutskoi conducted at the end of last week attracted the attention of the entire world, although there was nothing new or unexpected in the information disseminated there, nor in the resolutions that were adopted. It is all old news, and has been written about numerous times.


But the higher government echelons tried for a long time to pretend that the unheard-of rise in crime in the country and its influence on the economic and political situation has been exaggerated by the press. and it is really only now that this extremely threatening phenomenon has been officially acknowledged. But society is interested in reality, not in what is admitted.


This reality is extremely sad. Crime, both organized and individual, has overwhelmed the country. This is not only a sign and a consequence of political and economic instability, as Yeltsin observed, but is also the most sinister indicator of a paralysis of power.


Criminals, irrespective of their sphere of operation, have quite accurately felt the inability of the authorities to act. Neither the police, the state security apparatus, the prosecutor's office, the courts nor the mayor's office seem to be able to do anything, and, what is even more terrifying, criminals know of the existence of an easy, readily available means of finding a "common language" with the authorities.


The extreme politicization of all the forces that are supposed to be fighting crime, their lack of faith in tomorrow and their innate greed has led to a sharp drop in the government's ability to fight the rising tide of crime. It is a total mystery how the state can hope to stem this tide in the foreseeable future. It is especially depressing that, with unbelievable rapidity, the predictions of analysts have come true: corruption inevitably leads to a rise in terrorism, by which some mafia clans of "new businessmen" settle scores with others, usually with almost no negative consequences to themselves.


The first step toward fighting this all-encompassing crime wave is to acknowledge that it is the number-one problem in the country. Without this there can be no second step. But what will the next steps be? The government has no clear-cut and realistic program of action. and can there be such a plan in today's political situation?


As always in Soviet history -- and today's government has adopted traditional Soviet methods -- the easiest and most usual road is to make a decision, issue new laws and create a commission with the participation of high-level officials. An enormous number of decisions get made, but who pays attention to them? The criminals?


Why do we need new laws, when no one is observing the old ones? Are there really no effective laws which prohibit and punish murder, extortion, blackmail, robbery, bribery, abuse of power? Yes, many modern crimes are not in the Criminal Code, but hundreds of thousands of crimes that carry severe penalties under the law go unpunished today. So why should new laws help us?


Now there is a commission. There have already been so many of them that the creation of a new one provokes only a sad smile. At one time the famous Russian satirists Ilf and Petrov suggested that a commission be created to liquidate all commissions. This advice seems very relevant today. Let us not forget that for the past year and a half many such task forces have been created, including one under the control of Rutskoi. The results are well-known.


Until political scandals and intrigues stop rocking the country, no positive movement is possible. The revanchist forces welcome the rise in crime and the escalation of fear in the population -- this is the most convincing argument they have in their demands that Soviet power be restored. The wars in the Caucasus and in Central Asia also hinder stabilization. Ethnic conflicts and the fight for sovereignty distract attention from those things that in reality are the most alarming problems for the population. The economic situation is such that today absolutely any official charged with fighting criminals can be bought over and over by these criminals, who are in the real sense above the law.


This commentary is far from optimistic. But there is nothing worse than seeing only what you want to see and comforting yourself with illusions. The truth must be faced.


Arkady Vaksberg is a prominent Moscow jurist and political observer for Literaturnaya Gazeta.