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10 E. Eur. Const. Rev. 67 (2001)
Blackmail as a Tool of State Domination: Ukraine under Kuchma

handle is hein.journals/eeurcr10 and id is 171 raw text is: Blackmail as a Tool of State Domination:
Ukraine under Kuchma
Keith A. Darden

1. Historically: A tribute formerly extracted from farmers and
small owners in the border counties of England and Scotland,
and along the Highland border, by freebooting chiefs, in
return for protection or immunity from plunder.
2. By extension: Any payment extorted by intimidation or
pressure, or levied by unprincipled officials, critics, journalists,
etc. upon those whom they have it in their power to help
or injure. Now usually a payment extorted by threats
or pressure, especially  by  threatening  to  reveal a
discreditable secret.
Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition
kraine, like most other post-Soviet states,
was generally depicted in the 1990s as weak,
fragmented, and facing a crisis of state
building. (An important exception is Lucan Alan Way,
Bureaucracy by Default: Budgetary Politics and the
Post-Soviet Ukrainian State [Ph.D. diss., University
of California Berkeley, 2000].) High          levels of
corruption were assumed to be a sign that the state
was incapable of enforcing the law and had been
captured by an oligarchy of private interests. Similarly,
the slow pace of economic reforms was generally
attributed to the relative weakness of the presidency
in its relations with the communist-dominated parlia-
ment. In    recent years, many     policymakers have
expressed hope that the further transfer of authority
from the parliament to the president would break the
deadlock preventing the implementation of reforms
and lead to the creation of a state strong enough to
enforce the law. By the end of the decade, calls for a
stronger, more centralized state to stamp out corrup-
tion and impose market reforms had become a chorus
among Western observers.

It is the contention of this essay that the Ukrainian
state, and the presidency in particular, is not weak, but
that many of its capacities are exercised through
informal mechanisms of control that, until recently,
have been hidden from view. Drawing on recently
released recordings, reportedly made in the office of
President Leonid Kuchma by an officer in his guard
service, I will explore one of these mechanisms: the
widespread and systematic use of blackmail by the
organs of the state as a way to establish political control.
The new evidence suggests that pervasive corruption,
combined with extensive surveillance by the state and
the collection of evidence of wrongdoing, has provided
the basis for the Ukrainian leadership to use blackmail
systematically to secure compliance with its directives.
Corruption, rather than a sign of state weakness, is an
essential element in an informal technique of presiden-
tial control in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states.
This essay proceeds in three parts. I first outline the
basic mechanism by which blackmail serves as an instru-
ment of presidential control. Then, drawing on the
newly released recordings, I piovide suggestive evidence
that blackmail has played a central role in securing pres-
idential control over the so-called oligarchs, over the
heads of enterprises and collective farms, and in
compelling state officials to secure Kuchma's victory in
the 1999 presidential election. Finally, I suggest that this
system of rule is likely. to be sustainable and, without
pressure from the international community to divide
rather than concentrate the powers of the state, it will be
difficult for opposition forces in Ukraine to cast off this
system in the foreseeable future.

SPRING/SUMMER 2001                                                                                             67

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