National Security

Published — November 25, 2008 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Europe’s future mafia states


The National Intelligence Council released its latest study on the world’s future last week, Global Trends 2025. The report, produced by experts inside and out of the U.S. intelligence community, found, among other things, that Al Qaeda could soon be on the decline and that America will be less dominant as China, India, and other powers rise. But buried on page 33 was also this tantalizing tidbit:

“Crime could be the gravest threat inside Europe as Eurasian transnational organizations — flush from involvement in energy and mineral concerns — become more powerful and broaden their scope. One or more governments in Eastern or Central Europe could fall prey to their domination.”

While some media reports noted this provocative passage, missed in the coverage was exactly which countries the U.S. spy agencies were talking about. PaperTrail consulted organized crime experts close to the U.S. government, who were all too happy to name names. Topping the list of potential Mafia states: Moldova, that ex-Soviet cauldron of crime and corruption, and the Balkan nations of Albania and its newly-founded neighbor Kosovo, known for their ruthless drug trafficking syndicates.

Also on the list: Latvia, new European Union member Bulgaria, and various other Balkan states, including Serbia.

And then there’s Russia.

“Russia of course is its own monster,” said one crime expert with long experience in the region. “The Russian Far East is already ‘captured’ by criminal interests and run by crime. There are pockets inside the country where things work a little better and where periodically a little rule of law is permitted to sneak in, but usually because there’s little there of moneymaking interest to the mob.”

In the report, the spy agencies paint a gloomy picture in which increased energy demands give criminal networks plenty of opportunity to extend their reach even deeper into corporate board rooms and government cabinets. Gangsters, it says, could control states, and influence markets and foreign policies. And their influence won’t be limited to Europe.

“With energy supplies increasingly concentrated in countries with poor governance, longstanding practices of corruption and the absence of the rule of law, the potential for penetration by organized crime is high,” the report warns. Sounds like we need a longer list.

Read more in National Security

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