Whenever I see Vladimir Putin in the news I think about corruption and what Russia could have been without it. I realize that Putin is just the top of the corruption pyramid, he´s the symbol of the rotten condition of things in Russia. And I also realize corruption isn´t unique to Russia. It seems to pervade the world everywhere.
Putin´s trip to Brazil received a lot of coverage because he´s trying to extend Russian influence in Latin America. The trip included stopovers in Nicaragua and Cuba (both nations are ruled by autocratic regimes which survive thanks to their status as Venezuela´s parasites.
Corruption in Russia isn´t unique, it´s highlighted because it´s so pervasive and because it drains so much potential from the Russian people, who see incompetent thiefs steal their money and take it abroad to buy football teams, mansions, super yatchs and super models.
An interesting point raised recently in the media is the fact that corruption in these countries seems to be associated with nationalism and/or ultra religiosity. People in corrupt nations accept corruption if these corrupt leaders mix capitalism, populism, and religion in the appropriate doses, and manage to keep the economy growing.
Putin emphasizes Russian nationalism, homophobia, and promotes the Russian Orthodox Church. In other nations, for example in Turkey, the government tends to peddle Islam as a cover for their corruption. Brazil´s Dilma Rouseff was trying to cover corruption building football stadiums and holding sports events. And this would have worked but she did fail to deliver a strong growing economy.
Her buddy the autocrat Nicolás Maduro peddles nationalism and a
the cult of personality of their dead Chávez. This may have worked and allowed chavista hyper corruption to continue, but the economy went to hell, and this has made Maduro so unpopular his own red cadres are getting ready to toss him out.
Who is really smiling in that BRICS group? Chinese “communists” have mixed corrupt and savage capitalism while invokiung the glory of ancient China, but they also deliver economic growth on the backs of an exploited working class. The Chinese people live with obscene pollution, human rights abuses, and 14 hour a day work hours…but they see the economy growing, and even though they realize the government is both corrupt and abusive they aren´t about to rock that boat too hard (for now).