United States classifies anti-corruption as a matter of national security

“Corruption is a cancer in the body of societies, a disease that consumes public trust and the ability of governments to achieve results for their citizens. ” Thus begins a statement from the White House, published on December 6, to introduce an unprecedented document: “The first American strategy to counter corruption”. An important doctrinal and organizational effort, long demanded by experts in tax evasion and illicit enrichment circuits, knowing the central role of the United States in the financial world.

Like the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2022, announced this week, the publication of this document has been carefully calculated: it comes two days before the opening of the Summit for Democracy, scheduled for December 8 and 9. This event, which will take place mainly by videoconference, will bring together representatives of around 100 States, civil societies and the private sector. The White House approaches it without triumphalism, aware of the vulnerability of the own American model, embodied by the assault on Capitol Hill on January 6 by supporters of Donald Trump.

The summit should be an opportunity for participants to make concrete commitments – which will be verified during the year 2022, before a new meeting between leaders in the fall, this time face-to-face. These commitments focus on three themes: strengthening democracy in the face of authoritarianism, respect for human rights, and finally the fight against corruption.

Formerly a secondary disease

On June 3, Joe Biden had formally defined this struggle as a national security interest. The official document just released recognizes the scale of the challenge. “Changing entrenched cultures of corruption requires significant political will, and achieving lasting results can take decades. ” The text recognizes that, for too long, the actors of corruption and their financial accomplices have taken advantage of “Vulnerabilities” the United States. But, beyond the relevant observation, the real room for maneuver of the White House is not obvious, vis-a-vis Congress and the legislations of the States.

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“On paper, the administration has the right strategy, but will it have the right policies? asks Ben Judah, associate researcher at the Atlantic Council, author of several reports on international kleptocracy. It is a bit like the European Union, in many cases. Will she be able to convert an excellent paper strategy into action? Will she have the courage or the political capital to promote presidential corruption decrees? It’s not clear. She is facing a filibustering Congress. There are Republicans in favor of this agenda, but we’ll see how they react if it’s associated with Biden’s name. “

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