Lawmakers call for tougher Allied action against security threat from corruption

20 November 2022

Lawmakers from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly appealed to Alliance governments Saturday to intensify domestic and international efforts to fight corruption. They warned that Russia and other authoritarian states use graft to undermine governments and subvert democracy.

“Malicious actors like Russia employ corruption as a tool of statecraft,” British Member of Parliament Harriett Baldwin told the Assembly’s Economic and Security Committee (ESC).  “The Kremlin routinely uses corruption to create a docile and complicit elite at home and to weaken states along or near its borders.”

Baldwin authored a draft resolution adopted by the ESC that called for “a collective effort to insulate Allies, partners, and the democratic world more generally from the nefarious influence of corruption.”

The resolution is due to be adopted Monday by the entire Assembly at the end its four-day annual session, held this year in Madrid. Among a series of concrete recommendations, it calls on governments to close legal loopholes facilitating money laundering; to monitor cryptocurrency markets for illegal activity; and establish a Centre for Democratic Resilience at NATO Headquarters.

The opening day of the Madrid meeting was marked by Assembly members expressing unwavering support for Ukraine’s resistance to illegal Russian aggression. However, the close to 300 lawmakers from NATO and partner countries also debated a range of other key security issues. 

A report by Polish lawmaker Michal Szczerba warned that Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine risks increasing instability and polarisation in the Western Balkans. To counter that threat, NATO and the European Union should boost ties with countries in the region and advance their Euro-Atlantic integration. 
“NATO should consider enhancing its military presence in the Western Balkans to deter aggression and violence at a moment of extreme international tension,” Szczerba wrote. “A strong signal needs to be sent that the region’s stability remains a vital interest of the transatlantic community […] and that Russia and its proxies will not be allowed to destabilise this important part of Europe.”

Delegates shared the view that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscores why NATO and Allied resources and the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept have to be focused on defence and deterrence in Europe. At the same time a report presented by Portuguese member Marcos Perestrello de Vasconcellos cautioned the Allies not to lose sight of “the global strategic pivot to the Indo-Pacific.” 

The report noted that NATO’s approach in the region will remain concentrated on enhanced partnerships with like-minded democracies, especially Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. Relations with China will, however, also loom large. 

“Allies must reduce their strategic dependency on China,” Perestrello de Vasconcellos wrote, referencing economic supply chains and Chinese investments in critical infrastructure. 

At the same time, dialogue with Beijing should be maintained in areas such as arms control, peacekeeping, climate change, Afghanistan and denuclearisation in the Korean peninsula.

Supply chain concerns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine were taken up more broadly in a report by Turkish legislator Faik Oztrak

As Allies seek more economic autonomy to reduce dependency in strategic sectors, he cautioned against killing “the golden goose of broadly shared prosperity that free trade and open markets generate.”

“None of this should mean the end of the open trading system, but as regards critical technologies and products: ‘buying NATO’ probably makes more economic sense than over-relying on strategic competitors or ‘buying national’,” Oztrak told the ESC.

Despite successful efforts by Allies and partners, terrorism remains a persistent, complex and evolving threat to the citizens and security of NATO nations, warned French lawmaker Jean-Charles Larsonneur.

“Russia is the principal threat to Euro-Atlantic security today. Terrorism, however, remains the main asymmetrical challenge,” he wrote in a draft report adopted by the Defence and Security Committee. “While Allies focus on […] their collective defence and deterrence posture today, they maintain a constant vigilance regarding the evolution of the terrorist threat.”

The report recommended increased intelligence sharing, including among Allies’ homeland security agencies; continued support for kinetic counterterrorism operations; and backing multilateral efforts by the United Nations, European Union, African Union and other organisations to address the roots causes of terrorism. 

Preserving a space for humanitarian action is another area where the Alliance can enhance security, argued a report drafted by Belgian Senator Rodrigue Demeuse

Humanitarian action “plays a fundamental role in stabilising countries and regions in conflict and thus, by extension, in ensuring the security of the Alliance,” he wrote. “It is therefore imperative that Allied countries and NATO take additional measures to improve the security of humanitarian actors and remove barriers that prevent them from assisting populations in need.”