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Global threat of Russian Organized Crime Explicatory Essay

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Schwirtz, Michael. Vory v Zakone has Hallowed Place in Russian Criminal Lore. New York: The New York Times. 2008. Web.

This article gives an account of a police ambush conducted on a meeting held by Russia’s criminal elite in Moscow. During the attack, 37 members of the Vory v Zakne, a dominant criminal organization in Moscow were detained. The reasons for the attack were not clear and most of those arrested were released.

The authorities failed to explain why they had conducted the raid. In addition, they lacked evidence necessary to accuse the detainees. Vory v Zakne was influential in Russia and received the people’s support because it opposed the country’s irregular political and legal practices which were evident. The group emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union and further spread to other cities around the world such as New York, Madrid and Berlin (Schwirtz para. 1-4).

The group engaged in several criminal activities. It was speculated that the meeting was held to discuss a conflict between two criminal groups and would result into war. However, the leaders of these groups dismissed the claims.

Partly because of its association with prison life, the Vory was claimed to have some sort of attraction in Russia (Schwirtz para. 4). However the Vory group lost its power to more educated and capitalistic criminal groups during the1990s. These new groups had stronger influence in business and governance hence conquered Vory’s former territory. The number of Vory members still existing is undefined and their influence in the Russian Economy is no longer strongly felt.

Kling, Arnold. Black Markets and Russia’s Failure: Arnold Kling. Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund Incorporation. 2002. Web.

The transition of Russia from communism to capitalism is said to be a setback due to the shift from use of black market to improve the economy (communist era) to use of black markets in promoting criminal activities (capitalism era). Arnold King hypothesized that the blossom of Russia’s black markets hindered the transition from state ownership of business to private ownership.

This is because nonprofit making state-owned businesses could survive employee theft that characterized the black markets while private businesses required employee honesty. Therefore, successful transition required destroying of black markets in addition to creating open markets. Arnold further raised a question on other factors that might have led to failure of successful transition to capitalism in Russia (Kling para.1-5).

Johnson’s Russia List. TV Station Profiles Russia’s Black Market for Weapons. 2002. Web.

The Russia’s armed authorities, consisting of the army and police among others were reported to be a source of weapons for the Russian black market. According to an interview held with a Chechen rebel (Chechen is the main recipient of sold firearms) and the head of the Russian Security Department, the weapons were lost during wars, sold or stolen from poorly guarded armories. A track driver from Chechen interviewed said that one could easily buy weapons at the central market in Groznyy after the first war in Chechen.

Traders paid for the weapons as if they were mere consumer products such as clothes or meat. Weapons were bought only by special recommendations which involved bribery as opposed to open transaction (Johnson’s Russia List para. 1-3). In Russia, criminal gangs stole weapons from legitimate firearm manufacturers. According to the managing director of Izhevsk Weapons Factory, its products, especially the Makarov pistol and Kalashnikov rifle were stolen and sold at the town’s central market.

According to a designer of Izhevsk factory, the Kalashnikov gun design was so familiar that it could be easily assembled even by amateurs. The most important parts were stolen from factories and then used to assemble guns. Though confiscated guns stored by the Interior Ministry were often destroyed, other guns produced constantly by factories found their way into the black market.

The Washington Times. Rampant Corruption in Russia. 2009. Web.

In Russia corruption has been so rampant among government officials with prosecutors filing charges against 12,000 officials accused of corruption in 2008 (The Washington Times para. 5).

It was estimated that government officials’ income from corruption could be equivalent to about a third of the national budget. Russia is one of the top ranking countries in corruption index according to the Transparency International Report. The Russian government introduced new laws which required disclosure of family members’ holdings by government officials.

However, this strategy was not successful in fighting corruption since government officials hid assets or sent their gains abroad. According to the current Russian President, there is no mechanism to assess honesty in the declarations made by government officials, making them unreliable. Corruption is deeply rooted in Russia and the president stresses the need to curb it in order to build the nation’s reputation.

Security and Society. The Rise and Rise of the Russian Mafia. 1998. Web.

The growth of criminal groups in Russia has been alarming, with the authorities unable to achieve any success in fighting these Russian Mafia groups. In 1998, it was estimated by the Russian government that the Russian mafia controlled about 40 percent of private businesses and around 60 percent of state owned companies. The downfall of communism in Russia left a social, economic and moral void which was filled by the Russian Mafia (Security and Society para. 1-6).

The criminal activities of the mafia spread to other counties such as Israel, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Switzerland among others. Many of these counties have realized the threat posed by Russian Mafia to their national security. The high rate of economic extortion in Russia by the mafia made most countries to withdraw their foreign investments from Russia.

Is Organized Crime in Russia a threat to the world at large?


The organized crime experienced in Russia has over the years has affected the economy and social stability of the country. Various criminal organizations have an influence on key industries and the business sector hence threatening the economy. They control businesses through illegal exports and financial fraud leading to loss of revenue to the state and general economic crisis. These crimes are also characterized by violence, killings and national insecurity.

Criminal organizations attempt to legalize income acquired through criminal means by buying foreign currency, buying shares of private enterprises and creating fictitious companies among others. It is evident that organized crime is a great threat in Russia and has dominated the economy as a result of gaps in policy and inefficiency in law enforcement. This form of crime is gradually going beyond the Russian boundaries and is bound to be experienced in most parts of the world.

The objective of this essay is to determine the extent to which organized crime in Russia is a threat to the rest of the world. This will be achieved through highlighting the threat of Russian organized crime to different countries as well as examining their responses and eventually providing recommendations.

Global threat of Russian Organized Crime

A number of criminal organizations involved in organized crime in Russia have expanded their activities to other counties either on their own or through collaboration with foreign groups. These crimes are spilling over to other countries due to increased economic interaction among countries and global trade (Finckenauer & Varorin 12). The criminal activities range from stealing automobiles, drugs trafficking, children and women trafficking, arms trafficking to money laundering.

Russian Criminals have been claimed to be responsible for violent crimes in other countries such as Israel, Canada and United States as well as in some countries within western and central Europe according to reports compiled by regional law enforcement authorities. These criminal activities have economic impact in specific countries and also regionally. Therefore it is important to assess the magnitude of the threat posed by the crimes at an international level.

Threat of Russian Organized Crime to Israel

The demand for drugs in the international market has created an opportunity for Israel and Russian criminal organizations to get more involved in drug trafficking, with the profits associated with the crime being extremely attractive (Webster & Arnaud 125). With the increased rate of drug trafficking by these criminal groups, there is an anticipated rise in participation of criminal organizations not only from Russia and Israel but also from other countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Eastern Europe and the United States.

This is likely to have economic implications in each country. It is also most likely to cause insecurity and a state of unrest in these countries, as a result of the violence associated with drug trafficking and increased consumption of drugs. The presence of a large number of Immigrants from Russia makes Israel more susceptible to crimes committed by Russian crime groups.

Threat of Russian Organized Crime to the United States

Russian organized crime in the United States is characterized by violence and threat to national security. Criminal markets are gained and controlled by use of violence. Some of the criminal activities include kidnappings, drug trafficking and murders among others.

Various Russian criminal groups engage in a variety of frauds and scams such as stock frauds, fuel tax evasion and health care fraud. These criminal groups have also ventured into the United States’ banking sector, for example the Bank of New York was a victim of money laundering of up to $7 billion, organized by a Russian Criminal group in 1999 (Finckenauer & Varorin 18).

A major factor enhancing activities of Russian Criminal organizations in the US is the increasing population of Russian immigrants who provide an environment conducive for operation of criminal acts. Fuel frauds in Los Angeles and New York were mainly committed by Russian organized crime groups. These frauds cost the US government annual tax revenue of about $2 billion. Such treads pose a great threat to the US economy and the implication of the criminal activities cannot be ignored.

Threat of Russian Organized Crime to Europe

In Eastern Europe, the Russian mafia took advantage of the emerging enforcement of post-communist law to widen the scope of their crimes. While countries struggled to adjust to this new situation, Russian criminal groups got a chance to spread their criminal activities to the Eastern Europe region.

The geographical proximity of the region to Russia also enabled easy penetration of the Russian mafia. These crimes extended to Western Europe too (Webster & Arnaud 133). In Berlin, Russian criminal organization acquired revenue from engaging in crimes such as car theft, prostitution and smuggling of drugs.

In Italy, there exist relations between crime groups from both countries who engage in illegal businesses, drug trafficking as well as smuggling of arms. In 1997, one of Moscow’s largest criminal organizations was arrested in an Italian hotel where the criminals had met to make arrangements for their money laundering operations in Italy. The Russian crime groups are also responsible for cases of car theft, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and financial crimes in Central Europe.

Response to international threats of Russian organized crime

One of the responses to international organized crime is improved administrative efforts in dealing with the impacts of such crimes. It is important for political leaders to acknowledge threats posed by organized crime to national security and the economy. After recognition, decisions should be made in support of anti- crime legislation.

For example in the United States, President Clinton (during his regime) issued directive orders to government agencies that required use of all legal means to fight international organized crime in the most creative and aggressive ways possible. This included the use of authority to deny visas to criminals and prevention of any cooperation with criminal organizations as measures for curbing foreign criminal activities especially from Russia. Clinton also supported the International Crime Control Act of 1996 (Mora 35).

The act encouraged global cooperation among governments through introduction of an integrated approach which comprised of joint law enforcement programs. This consequently would enhance flexibility in carrying out inter-state investigations and in arresting international criminals. However, most countries lack the political will to champion for such legislative and administrative responses.

Another major response is adoption of an international law enforcement approach. This was expected to facilitate early warnings on international criminal threats and help countries to deal with anticipated (Webster & Arnaud 137). It also has the potential of networking with the police forces in different countries in order to effectively handle international criminals. An example of such a response is the establishment of an International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest.

It was created to facilitate training of foreign law enforcement officers, hence building capacity for organized crime control. However, creation of international partnerships is not the best solution. It has been proven that such networks provide channels for criminals to hide their dealings in different banks and other storage areas all over the world. Therefore, failure of current responses necessitates formulation of more efficient and strategic responses to international organized crime.


At national level it is important to approach international crimes from an interdepartmental point of view in order to address all aspects of crime. This calls for formation of transnational threats committees consisting of officials from the central intelligence, national security, legislative and treasury officers.

This is because organized crimes cut across different sectors and require the attention of all stakeholders. There is also the need to harmonize policy concerns at both international and national level so as to attain effective response to threats of organized crimes.

This would involve setting up guidelines for creation of a specific international hierarchy that would be responsible for coordinating policy initiatives among countries. Transnational issues cannot be solved locally therefore collaboration amongst nations is very vital in the reforming responses to organized crime. However, achieving such harmonization is not easy and calls for a lot of devotion from each country in order to come up with viable solutions.

There is need to also address the source of the problem of organized crime by curbing them right from their counties of origin. For example, in Russia, criminal organizations have dominated due to lack of appropriate implementation of laws against corruption and organized crime (Mora 38). In order to overcome this, feasible legal systems should be set up, coupled with commitment of governments to fight corruption in countries dominated by organized crime.


From the above discussion, it is evident that the Russian organized crime not only threatens national security and the economy in Russia alone but also in a number of other countries making it to be of a global concern. The transnational nature of the crimes has been promoted by increased trade relations among nations. However, this does not mean that international cooperation is a negative initiative.

It only implies that nations need to come up with stronger, more disciplined and strategic relations in order effectively deal with international organized crime. Though it is difficult to achieve such disciplined international relations, this is the best way out of the implications of organized crime. Russia also has a major role to play in regulating the culture of criminal organizations through dedicating itself to curbing corruption and enforcing appropriate legal measures.

Works Cited

Finckenauer, James and Varorin, Yuri. The Threat of Russian Organized Crime. Issues in International Crime, 3.2 (2001): 6-29

Johnson’s Russia List. TV Station Profiles Russia’s Black Market for Weapons. 2002. Web.

Kling, Arnold. Black Markets and Russia’s Failure: Arnold Kling. Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund Incorporation. 2002. Web.

Mora, Stephens. Global Organized Crime as a Threat to National Security. Global Organized Crime, 10.3 (1996): 34-40.

Schwirtz, Michael. Vory v Zakone has Hallowed Place in Russian Criminal Lore. New York: The New York Times. 2008. Web.

Security and Society. The Rise and Rise of the Russian Mafia. 1998. Web.

The Washington Times. Rampant Corruption in Russia. 2009. Web.

Webster, William and Arnaud, Barnet. Recent Trends in Russian Organized Crime. Global Organized Crime Project, 7.3 (2002): 120-144.

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