International law - How important is the end of the Cold War as a factor in the growth of transnational crime?

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 (LLM) International Law

How important is the end of the Cold War as a factor in the growth of transnational crime?

Indisputably, due to the perceived growth of transnational crime, the period since the

early 1990s has been one in which a rising number of countries have identified it as a national security threat. It is true that the end of the last century has been manifested by a number of major political upheavals which transformed the function of the world massively. The end of the Cold War along with the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and the related regime change in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of Yugoslavia into its constituent parts, and the changes in the long-standing political systems in Africa and Asia have created a new world order. In addition, the revolutionary improvements in transportation and communication provided by the increased globalization at the beginning of the 1990s have decreased physical barriers around the world, making it easier for criminals to expand their activities and operate in a global environment. Transnational criminals, therefore, have benefited from the weakening of certain government institutions, more open borders, and the resurgence of ethnic and regional conflicts across the globe and been engaged in a variety of illicit activities, including narcotics and arms smuggling, trafficking in persons, counterfeiting, and money laundering and other financial crimes. As Sterling C. elegantly illustrates in her book, Crime without Frontiers, “the collapse of the USSR, compound by the lowering of frontiers within the EC, has precipitated the largest and most insidious criminal assault in history-the formation of a borderless consortium of organised crime across the globe, a Pax Mafiosa. Sicilian Mafia, American Cosa Nostra, Japanese Yakuza, Colombian drug cartels, Chinese Triads and the fledgling Russian Mafia are replacing conflict with common strategy, sharing resources and protection to exploit the opportunities of the new world order.”

This study, however, will be focused on the growth of transnational crime during the last century and how this been influenced by the end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and communism. A clear and comprehensive presentation of the way in which this particular type of criminals are operating and how their activities affect the globe will be specified in conjunction with a number of new and more hazardous threats emerging out of this. In addition, special attention will be given to the aftermath of the Cold War by explaining the consequences of the political uncertainty and economic disaster that the Soviet Union was faced with in the 1990s and the impacts they have had on the rest of the world.  An explanation of the nature and scale of the problem will be also provided along with a number of strategies adopted in order to control it.

By beginning, therefore, our tour into the world of transnational crime, its politics and dynamics it will be a mistake not to mention the fact that the concept of ‘transnational crime’ is not a new one as it’s existence draws back to mid 1970s when the then UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch coined the term in order to identify certain criminal phenomena transcending international boarder, transgressing the laws of several states or having an impact on another country. At that time the following categories of transnational crime have been identified: organized crime, white-collar crime and corruption; offenses involving works of art and other cultural property; criminality associated with alcoholism and drug abuse; violence of transnational and comparative international significance, and criminality associated with migration and flight from natural disasters and hostilities.  In 1994, however, the Secretariat, in an attempt to provide greater precision, engaged in a bold effort of successfully identifying 18 relatively new categories of transnational crime in accordance with a definition which accepts as transnational crimes “offences whose inception, prevention and/or direct or indirect effects involved more than one country”. Some of the most important categories were the money laundering, the illicit drug trafficking, corruption, illicit traffic in arms and persons, terrorist activities and other offences committed by organized criminal groups.

In recent years, however, has been argued that transnational organized crime is growing extremely fast and because its networks vary considerably in structure, strength, size, geographical range, and the scope and diversity of their operations, it is exceptionally difficult to eliminate it.  The United Nations, in an attempt to identify and control the problems deriving from this, sought a suitably broad definition in its Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, to which the United States became a party in December 2005. According to the U.N., therefore, organized crime groups consist of “three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences ... in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.” 

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Nevertheless, it has been reasonably argued that most of the origins of transnational crime are not new; they are, in fact, quite similar to factors that drive crime in general. Desperate socioeconomic conditions, which stimulate migration and its antecedent trafficking in persons; the desire for illegal goods and services, which moves crime into the transnational realm when the suppliers are in one country and the consumers are in another; and the universal greed for money and power, have always been hinted behind crimes.   Also, money, drugs, arms and commodities have always been smuggled across borders and oceans as criminals ...

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