/ mobs / smart / ruthless /
Misha Glenny, journalist and author of quite a few books about the Balkans and Yugoslavia, of which I found The Fall of Yugoslavia especially informative and balanced, writes in the New Statesman about the rise of Mob rule all over the planet and especially Eastern Europe and those countries "fortunate' enough to taste the benefits of the West's humanitarian interventions. Glenny points out that:
Recent research into the use of gangsterism in the former Soviet Union and the Balkans suggests that the west contributed significantly, if unwittingly, to the phenomenon [of gangsterism] in the early 1990s. And once organised crime has begun the process known as "state capture", through which it influences policy, it is very difficult to reverse the process.
The "shadow economy" has always played a critical role in both armed conflict and violent state formation. But since the 1980s shadow activity has increased fourfold as a proportion of the global economy. According to estimates collated from the World Bank, the IMF and academic research, shadow transactions accounted for between $6.5trn (£3.6trn) and $9trn (£6trn) in 2001, which is between 20 and 25 per cent of global GDP...
He then goes on to highlight Russia and the Balkans as areas where Mobs thrived in the aftermath of the collapse, as a direct result of, among other things, the sort of financial deregulation and capital mobility that has characterised these past couple of decades. Glenny notes that:
...All recent military interventions by the west (with the partial exception of East Timor) have proved a real boost for organised crime...
and makes a point rarely mentioned either in the naive accounts of Balkan turmoil in the West or by the wingnut nationalists in our little corner of the globe:
...In public, the criminal bosses from the various republics were denouncing their national enemies as demons bent on genocide and extermination. But in private, the Croatian, Bosnian, Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian money men and mobsters were thick as thieves. They bought, sold and exchanged all manner of commodities, knowing that the high levels of personal trust between them were much stronger than the transitory bonds of hysterical nationalism. They helped foment this latter ideology among ordinary folk to mask their own venality...
(He also mentions an episode of Greek involvement in a hostage situation in Bosnia, just before Srebrenica, which I've never heard mentioned here, and about which I'll go around checking to see if I can find something more...)
[The link is non-permanent and is valid only as long as this issue is the current issue]