Opinion Brief

WikiLeaks: Is Russia really a 'virtual mafia state'?

According to new WikiLeaks revelations, U.S. diplomats say the Russian government frequently collaborates with organized crime, with the tacit approval of Vladimir Putin

According to secret cables released this morning by WikiLeaks, U.S. diplomats consider Russia to be a "virtual mafia state" where police, government, and spies are all working with organized crime networks. Among the particularly "damning" allegations revealed by the leaks: That Russian spies use mafia bosses to carry out money-laundering and racketeering; that law enforcement agencies act as a "de facto protection racket" for criminal gangs; and that "rampant bribery" costs the country $300 billion a year. What will the international fallout be? (Watch a CNN report about WikiLeaks and Russia)

Russia may withdraw even further: This "could make dealing with Russia even more difficult," says Stefan Wagstyl at the Financial Times. Now that the suspicions of U.S. diplomats are out in the open, "alpha dog" Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could decide there's no point "even pretending to be nice." Russians who seek to "engage with the west" will be marginalized."Russia & WikiLeaks: red faces all round"

Putin may be encouraged: Actually, the Russian leader may be "reveling" in these leaks, says Andrew Osborn at The Daily Telegraph. Not only do they help him cultivate his "strong man image," but they also prove Russia is still significant. The Kremlin's biggest fear is that "its old Cold War foe" does not take it seriously. These cables prove "America is still watching and listening.""Vladimir Putin will secretly be revelling in the the WikiLeaks scrap"

The Russian people will continue to suffer: The "depressing truth" is that there's nothing new here, says Carl Mortishead at The Globe and Mail. Much as Russia would like to portray itself as a "sophisticated, diversified modern economy," it is nothing more than an authoritarian "kleptocracy." As long as the West continues to pay "tithes to a state looted by gangsters," the Russian people will "continue to fester and suffer."   "Sadly, no surprises in WikiLeaks' Russia chatter"

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