Russian Organized Crime

Project Chair: William H. Webster
Task Force Chair: Gerard Burke, Former Deputy Director, National Security Agency
Task Force Research Assistant: Todd H. Nelson

In his February 1997 state of the nation address, President Boris Yeltsin admitted that the "criminal world has openly challenged the state and launched into an open competition with it," warning that "there is corruption at every level of power." His concern reflects the danger posed by Russian organized crime groups, which threaten both U.S. national security and law enforcement interests.

Russian organized crime undermines Russian support for economic liberalization and political reform by co-opting and corrupting institutions within government and the commercial sector. The breadth and depth of Russian organized crime already runs so wide and deep, that Russia is on the verge of becoming a criminal syndicalist state, dominated by a lethal mix of gangsters, corrupt officials, and dubious businessmen. The situation was punctuated by a warning to Congress from former CIA Director Woolsey, who argued "there is a real threat that the surge in crime will sour the Russian people to Yeltsin's reform program and drive them into the arms of Russia's hardline political forces." The current economic crisis cannot be separated from the crisis of crime and corruption, which has also been the greatest impediment to attracting foreign direct investment. Russia has been forced into the unpalatable position of depending on foreign aid and investment given massive capital flight and the wholesale plundering of its natural resources by its oligarchs. An overarching national security concern is the involvement of Russian organized crime in the nuclear black market.

Russian organized crime groups pose a unique law enforcement challenge, jeopardizing public safety throughout the world through their transnational criminal enterprises. Worldwide money laundering activity from Cyprus to the Cayman Islands and from Vanuatu in the Pacific to Venezuela; the assassination of American businessman Paul Tatum in Moscow; financial scams in New York; car theft rings in Europe; narcotics trafficking and money laundering alliances with Colombian and Nigerian druglords and the Italian mafia represent but a few of the tentacles extended by Russian organized crime networks throughout the world. Currently 200 large Eurasian criminal organizations operate worldwide and have formed alliances with their criminal counterparts in 50 countries (including 26 U.S. cities).

Released on September 29 in a joint press conference with Senator Kyl (R-AZ), the CSIS Russian Organized Crime Report (see below detail information) generated media headlines globally, triggering two sets of Congressional Hearings. The Russian Organized Crime Report, offers concrete policy recommendations for both government and business to use in their battle against Russian organized crime. Drawing on expertise from the U.S. intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic communities, along with the private sector, the report assesses the impact of Russian organized crime on Russia and the U.S. and assesses its implications for U.S. foreign policy and foreign investment. CSIS Russian Organized Crime and Corruption Report published in 2000 illuminates the dimensions of the challenge organized crime and corruption have posed to Mr. Putin's leadership.

Russian Organized Crime Task Force Membership

Valentin Aksilenko, KGB (retired)
Jennifer Bowers, Department of State
Vladimir Brovkin, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center
James Brusstar, National Defense University
John Dziak, Dziak Group, Inc.
Fritz Ermarth, National Intelligence Council (retired)
John A. Hurley, U.S. Customs Service
Nancy Lubin, JNA Associates, Inc.
John MacGaffin, Central Intelligence Agency (retired)
Ronald Marks, Central Intelligence Agency (retired)
John Martin, OSO Group
James Moody, Federal Bureau of Investigation (retired)
John Picarelli, Pacific-Sierra Research Corporation
Jack Platt, Hamilton Trading Group
Russell Ross, Department of State
John Sopko, Department of Commerce
Antonio Santiago, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Graham Turbiville, Foreign Military Studies Office
William Wechsler, National Security Council
Victor Yasmann, American Foreign Policy Council