Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Resign Over Corruption? Here, Never

So when will we see a Russian government resign en masse over widespread corruption?

The European Commission's mass resignation Tuesday - in response to an independent report chronicling widespread corruption in the European Union bureaucracy - was one of the more heartening and noble scenes in recent years.

Neither commission President Jacques Santer nor any of the other commissioners were accused of having gained personally from corruption. Santer noted bitterly and correctly that nearly all of the documented abuses took place before 1995, when this commission took office.

But even if they felt the report unfair, Santer and his colleagues had enough of a sense of honor to step down from jobs that pay more than $200,000 a year.

For failing to control public finances and prevent such mismanagement and nepotism, the European Commission of course deserves criticism. But not for resigning. In resigning, Santer acknowledged that public service is a sacred trust - a privilege, not a right. In resigning, the commissioners displayed an admirable respect for the public - and offered an admirable precedent.

Much of the original EU corruption scandal centered on misspent aid to the former Soviet Union, so these commissioners were in part resigning over Russian corruption. But don't expect Russian officialdom to see any moral examples here. Even aside from those many officials who are personally on the take, President Boris Yeltsin and this government, like Yeltsin's previous governments, preside over a shamefully unethical system that would make the dirtiest eurocrat blush.

But resign? Never! There are a million excuses at hand - it would, no doubt, be trumpeted as "the worst possible time" for Russia to enter "a political crisis."

Never mind that the European Commission's resignation comes at "the worst possible time" for Europe - which is juggling a sickly euro, a strange banana trade war with the United States and sweeping financial reform to help ease Eastern European neighbors into the union. Just watch, Europe will get by without Santer and his commission. And in case of a mass mea culpa over the shameful levels of corruption here, Russia would just as easily get by without this particular collection of lackluster apparatchiki.

Indeed, if it is depressing to watch the European Commission resign, it is only because it reminds us that while Europe can renew itself through the democratic process, Russia can't - the nation remains a hostage to Yeltsin, who has nothing to offer, but whose departure at this point would simply surrender the nation to another old apparatchik with nothing to offer, Yevgeny Primakov.