By Walter Kegö Alexandru Molcean for Institute for Security and Development Policy. One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century by far is the opening of international borders, the worldwide flow of communication and advanced technology, which create rich opportunities for enhanced political and eco- nomic cooperation between countries. However, this globalizing trend, whether we consider the political, economical, social or cultural sectors of human life, reveals its darker side when the phenomenon of organized crime is taken into consideration. Although globalization is an age-old pro- cess with which every state has always had to deal, the scope of the activi- ties pursued by organized criminal groups has become alarming in recent decades. In consequence, it appears that, to quote Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Preven- tion (ODCCP), ”Never before has there been so much economic opportunity for so many people. And never before has there been so much opportunity for criminal organizations to exploit the system.”1
Taking into consideration the latest trends and events we can surely infer that certain criminal organizations have made (and are still making) maximum use of these opportunities, Russian speaking organized crime groups being the most “successful” from this point of view.
In the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become the target of a growing global crime threat from the criminal orga- nizations and criminal activities that have poured over the borders of Rus- sia and other former Soviet republics. The nature and variety of the crimes being committed seem unlimited — trafficking in women and children, drugs, arms trafficking, automobile theft, and money laundering being among the most prevalent.
The spillover is particularly troubling to Europe because of its geo- graphical proximity to Russia and to Israel (because of its large numbers of Russian immigrants). But no area of the world seems immune to this menace.2
After avoiding any use of the term “Russian mafia” in the last few years, law enforcement personnel in Europe and elsewhere are now referring to it again, noting that it numbers “up to 300,000 people” and dominates the criminal world in many countries around the world.
Law enforcement personnel in many countries — including Spain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, France, Mexico “and even the United States” — have been surprised by how “confidently” criminal groups consisting of people from the former Soviet Union now dominate their national criminal worlds. The Russian speaking groups have succeeded in pushing aside local groups and establishing their own “spheres of influence” to the point that they no longer need to “clarify relations with the help of arms.”3
The transnational character of Russian speaking organized crime, when coupled with its high degree of sophistication and ruthlessness, has attracted the world’s attention and concern to what has become known as a global “Russian Mafia.” Along with this concern, however, has come a fair amount of misunderstanding and stereotyping with respect to Russian speaking organized crime groups.