Helping the Eastern European chess player is essential for the United States

Too often, international relations are viewed in a static and surprisingly careless way, like chess pieces on a chess board with no internal dynamics of their own – or at least none that matter. It’s a terrible way to look at the world, as if what goes inside the engine doesn’t affect a car’s performance.

Instead, it’s time to put some meat on the bones regarding what President BidenJoe BidenRisch appalled by blockade by other GOP senators on Biden’s diplomatic choices Sunday shows preview: Boosters open to all American adults; House MPs push spending plan to Senate, White House calls for investigation into sexual assault allegations of missing Chinese tennis star MORE meant when he announced to the allies that “America is back”. Soothing rhetoric is good, but it’s not far enough away. If the United States is to truly strengthen its partners in the world – especially the pro-American countries of Central and Eastern Europe – it must support what is happening inside the “chess pieces” of the region.

These pro-American states fear that their sovereignty will be challenged by Russia and Belarus and need to be strengthened at the national level, in part because only then can they act on the chessboard. ‘in a way that suits them and their American partners.

It is clearly in the American national interest that these Central and Eastern European allies have stable political systems, based on the rule of law, so that they can resist both internal corruption and external subversion. . Otherwise, weak institutions can be easily manipulated by foreign governments on the outside and criminal actors on the inside.

There is no doubt that many Central and Eastern countries are in desperate need of America’s help. Too often, local leaders claim to be carrying out legal reforms or fighting money laundering while covering up senior government officials and oligarchs. First, Moldova is just recovering from a 2014 scandal in which the country lost 12% of its GDP in a complex bank fraud scheme.

Second, even though Ukraine has established a National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the US Chamber of Commerce reports that the lack of rule of law and extreme rates of corruption continue to deter much-needed foreign investment in the country.

Third, the Latvian banking system is mired in a Kremlin-related money laundering operation (it also encompasses Moldova). The country’s elite have been judged to be failing, in terms of a judicial crisis in which journalists are attacked and investigations of businesses and politicians are hampered.

Latvia has come under pressure from the United States and the European Union to clean up. However, its performance remains insufficient; he suffered from poorly organized anti-money laundering policies, which appear to have backfired. In their haste to please, Latvian law enforcement has frozen more than $ 1.5 million in “suspicious” funds, while operating on the basis of artificial monetary targets set by the Cabinet specifying which funds to ban, rather than focusing on the real nature of the problem.

The leaders of the Latvian Financial Intelligence Unit have called for the process to be speeded up, in defiance of constitutional standards, criminal procedure and applicable rules of evidence, said Jelena Kvjatkovska, a Riga-based lawyer at Rode & Partneri . Latvian Attorney General Juris Strukans blamed “the Americans” for the seizure of bank deposits. Worse yet, judges lacking in the field experience or the necessary economic and financial background have been appointed to hear complex cases of which they had no idea, she adds.

This rush for justice has inevitably led to the conviction of innocent people while senior culprits are at large. Few convictions of members of the Latvian government or other insiders have taken place; the courts, in fact, have exonerated senior officials.

In one of the most notorious cases, FINCEN, the anti-money laundering arm of the US Treasury, sued Ilmars Rimcevics, the former chairman of the Central Bank of Latvia, who was inexplicably earning more than the chairman of the US Fed. However, the Latvian Anti-Corruption and Prevention Bureau dropped the case for lack of evidence.

On the other hand, the head of the Latvian Financial Investigation Agency, Ilze Znotina, was recorded asking judges to disregard evidence and witnesses in the interests of speedy corruption trials. But that’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Perpetuating corruption to eradicate corruption is a tactic doomed to failure forever.

In order to establish an effective legal system, constitutions and criminal procedures, it is imperative that local law enforcement and judicial authorities respect a political culture based on the rule of law. Otherwise, the new institutions will certainly be abused and weakened to the point that the chess piece dies from within.

So how should the Biden administration help the Central European chess piece? The paradoxical answer is that they have to care a lot more about what goes on inside the chess piece if it is to be part of the larger game. The Biden administration should try to strengthen cooperation between local judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies, together with the European Union, to provide technical support, training and best practices.

The problem with this decidedly unglamorous approach is that it takes decades to sink in, and the results are nearly impossible to see – let alone quantify – making it difficult to generate American enthusiasm to complete the process. anti-corruption race. But only such an organic political approach can eradicate the cancer of corruption over time, with the United States helping to heal its Central and Eastern European allies from within. Only then will the battle against corruption be truly won.

But if the political results are difficult to discern and long in coming, the strategic rewards will be overwhelming. A healthy, prosperous, vibrant, democratic Central and Eastern Europe – founded on a political culture firmly grounded in the rule of law – would be a geostrategic boon for the United States. Russian overtures to the region would look pathetic, discredited, and could be easily dismissed. By dealing with the internal endemic internal weakness that is the price of corruption, a strengthened Central and Eastern Europe could help its American ally mitigate the Russian strategic threat to the east.

Maintaining this critical alliance advantage must become a cardinal feature of US foreign policy. Helping our friends from Central and Eastern Europe to help themselves makes solid moral, strategic and geopolitical sense.

Dr John C. Hulsman is Chairman and Managing Partner of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a global political risk consultancy based in Milan, Germany and London. A life member of the American Council on Foreign Relations, Hulsman is a contributing editor-in-chief of Aspenia, the flagship foreign policy journal of the Aspen Institute in Italy. Follow him on twitter @ JohnHulsman1.

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