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Is corruption a threat to the new-born democracies of Eastern Europe?

This article originally appeared in the July/August 1992 issue (Vol. 6, No. 1) of ethikos.

The nations of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union face some daunting problems. But according to Stephen Potts, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics: “The single greatest threat to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is corruption.”

A corrupt regime soon becomes a tyrannical regime, asserts Potts. “If you’ve been corrupt, and you lose power, you know the people will turn on you and prosecute you. A corrupt official quickly realizes: “‘I cannot afford to lose power.’” Democratic processes are eroded.

That has been the pattern in much of Africa since the 1960s, as well as other parts of the world, including Latin America.

Potts therefore has this message for U.S. companies doing business in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union: Don’t offer bribes and kickbacks to corrupt officials or intermediaries; such actions may hinder the development of the fragile democracies.

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