Dictators Without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia

In This Review

Dictators Without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia
by Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw
Yale University Press, 2017
312 pp.
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Corruption is no mere nuisance; it can suffuse a country’s core institutions and dominate political life. On this subject, Russia gets all the attention, but virtually every post-Soviet state, with the exception of the Baltics, is as bad or worse, especially the five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In this relentless exposé of corruption in the region, Cooley and Heathershaw detail the looting of state coffers, bribery on a massive scale, a labyrinth of opaque means for hiding assets abroad, and the ways in which corrupt elites use their wealth not only for personal excess but also to amass ever more political power. Such revelations, however, are not the authors’ primary purpose. Instead, they are intent on highlighting the extent to which the corruption of authoritarian rulers in these countries relies on the complicity of outside abettors, including Western lawyers, banks, and even courts, and how such collusion erodes the power of international norms and institutions. That pernicious impact on global governance makes this subject salient and this book important.