Combating Defence-related Corruption in Countries with Unresolved Territorial Disputes or Frozen Conflicts

Unresolved territorial disputes and frozen conflicts can substantially increase corruption risks in their region. Prime examples are the unresolved territorial disputes over secession on the territory of the former Soviet Union: Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Transdnistria in Moldova and, until August 2008, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. They also include situations like the conflict between Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus and the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.

Generally speaking, countries with frozen conflicts have high rates of corruption. Box 13.1 shows the ratings of some relevant countries on Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index. Unsolved territorial disputes and frozen conflicts clearly add a number of specific elements to the corruption equation yet their influence should not be exaggerated. The level of corruption in a given country is often more related to societal and economic factors than the existence of a frozen conflict. For example, the high levels of defence-related corruption that existed in Georgia before the 2003 Rose Revolution were more closely related to the state of financial ruin of Georgia’s Ministry of Defence than the threat posed by the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Especially in the former Soviet space, one of the most corrupt regions in the world, it is hard to divorce “normal” corruption from corruption that is causally linked to the existence of unsolved territorial conflicts.

Frozen Conflicts as Drivers of Corruption Risk

The principle factors that increase corruption risks for defence and security establishments in regions with unresolved territorial disputes and frozen conflicts are: increased military expenditures, reduced transparency, the creation of legal “grey zones” and the existence of unregulated paramilitary formations. This is frequently compounded by an ideology of “national survival” and high levels of public support for the military that can lead to tacit tolerance of corrupt activities as the price to pay for national security.

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