Putin vs Democrats – The New York Times

Democracy has been in decline worldwide for more than 15 years. One major reason is the increasing ruthlessness of authoritarian leaders, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin. Today, I will introduce you to how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fits with broader geopolitical trends over the past decade and a half.

Putin has spent more than two decades consolidating power, rebuilding Russia’s military and weakening his enemies. He has repeatedly undermined democracy movements and popular uprisings, including those in Syria and Belarus. He interfered in elections in the West. And he deployed Russian troops to enforce his will, including in Georgia and Crimea.

The invasion of Ukraine – the largest war in Europe since World War II – is a significant escalation of this behaviour. The fall of the country would mark the violent end to one of the world’s democracies.

Experts say moves like Putin’s, as well as insufficient resistance from other governments, have fueled this global decline in democracy. Only one in five people now live in countries considered “free”, down from almost half in 2005, a new report from Freedom House found.

The Ukraine invasion is “a taste of what a world without checks on anti-democratic behavior would look like,” Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, told me. He remains hopeful that democracies will rally to impose severe penalties on Russia, signaling that they will not tolerate Putin’s behavior. However, he warned, “if they don’t, this will turn the world back in a major way – not just for democracy, but for the rule of law.”

The collapse of the Soviet Union more than three decades ago gave birth to democracies across Eastern Europe – and angered Putin. He once described the breakup of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” – a period that included two world wars and the Holocaust. He has suggested that he wants to reverse that collapse.

Putin’s complaints are less ideological — he’s not a communist, and doesn’t rule like someone else — and more self-interested: He wants to protect his power and expand his reach. Russia’s global reach, which will strengthen his support at home.

But the effect of his rule is to weaken democracy globally. After Georgia joined NATO, with the support of voters, Russia invaded in 2008 and has interfered in the country’s politics ever since. Russia has worked with autocratic leaders to help crush democracies and protests where Putin believes his country has security or economic interests, including in Kazakhstan and Venezuela.

He also tried to destabilize democracies in the West – by interfering in elections in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, among other countries.

In Ukraine, Russia’s interference in the 2004 presidential election helped create protests against corruption and for fair elections, a movement known as the Orange Revolution. In another round of protests a decade later, the Ukrainians overthrew a pro-Russian government and replaced it with one more pro-European and Western.

Russia responded by invading and annexing Crimea, in southern Ukraine, and by supporting separatist forces in the east, who have been fighting the Ukrainian government ever since. Now, Putin is trying to gain control of all of Ukraine.

Democracy has also declined globally because democracy leaders have done too little to stand up for themselves, the Freedom House report argues.

It is now clear that the world’s reaction to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula was not enough to prevent Putin from going further. Even the sanctions imposed on Russia following an all-out assault on Ukraine this week have stopped at maximum sanctions, reducing much of Russia’s energy sector where the European economy remains. dependent.

At the same time, autocratic governments have working together more and more, using its collective economic and political power to create a buffer against penalties from other governments. China Russian wheat imports approved last week, effectively softening the impact of new Western sanctions.

Authoritarians have also given up on fabricating democratic norms. Putin, like rulers in Nicaragua, Venezuela and elsewhere, has tried to at least maintain the appearance of free and fair elections. But now they routinely imprison political opponents, denying the opposition’s ability to maneuver.

All these moves have shown what other leaders with authoritarian aspirations can do when the liberal democratic order loses its grip.

Against this backdrop, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is part of a broader test: whether the global erosion of democracy continues unchecked.

  • Charles M. Blow: Trayvon Martin’s death a decade ago gave birth to a movement.

  • Ross Douthat: An invasion of Ukraine that Putin considers successful would still diminish his interests.

  • Sasha Vasilyuk: My family in Ukraine never asked to be rescued by Russia.

Sunday Question: Is Ukraine Putin’s Afghanistan?

Putin’s Invasion can inspire John Nagl writes in Foreign Policy magazine. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution notes that the Afghan uprising need outside funding and weaponsand it is not clear which country would provide similar assistance to Ukraine.

According to the Book: For Lisa Gardner, success is “when readers tell me they ignore their kids and come to work late just to finish one of my novels”.

Our editors’ picks: The author explores history (Watergate) and modernity (information overload).

Best selling times: “The Splendid and the Vile,” a test of the leadership of Winston Churchill by Erik Larson, continues as paperback non-fiction. See all our listings.

Book Reviews Podcast: Author Dennis Duncan discusses his new book, “Index, History of,” a historical overview of the modesty index. Putin vs Democrats – The New York Times

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