12 votes

America needs a better plan to fight autocracy


  1. [2]
    Anne Applebaum argues that Western countries need to re-evaluate the tools we have to fight ascendant autocracy. She lays out the following three points as a starting point: Put an end to...

    Anne Applebaum argues that Western countries need to re-evaluate the tools we have to fight ascendant autocracy.

    Nowadays, autocracies are run not by one bad guy, but by networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services (military, police, paramilitary groups, surveillance personnel), and professional propagandists. The members of these networks are connected not only within a given country, but among many countries. The corrupt, state-controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with their counterparts in another, with the profits going to the leader and his inner circle. Oligarchs from multiple countries all use the same accountants and lawyers to hide their money in Europe and America. The police forces in one country can arm, equip, and train the police forces in another; China notoriously sells surveillance technology all around the world. Propagandists share resources and tactics—the Russian troll farms that promote Putin’s propaganda can also be used to promote the propaganda of Belarus or Venezuela. They also pound home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America. Chinese sources are right now echoing fake Russian stories about nonexistent Ukrainian chemical weapons. Their goal is to launch false narratives and confuse audiences in the United States and other free societies. They do so in order to make us believe that there is nothing we can do in response.

    She lays out the following three points as a starting point:

    1. Put an end to transnational kleptocracy.

    Currently a Russian, Angolan, or Chinese oligarch can own a house in London, an estate on the Mediterranean, a company in Delaware, and a trust in South Dakota without ever having to reveal to his own tax authorities or ours that these properties are his. A whole host of American and European intermediaries make these kinds of transactions possible: lawyers, bankers, accountants, real-estate agents, PR companies. Their work is legal. We have made it so. We can just as easily make it illegal. All of it. We don’t need to tolerate a little bit of corruption; we can simply end the whole system, altogether.

    1. Don’t fight the information war. Undermine it.

    We need to provide real, long-lasting competition for the Russian state-run cable and satellite television that most of the people in these regions watch. Hundreds of talented Russian journalists and media professionals have just fled Moscow: Why not start a Russian television channel, perhaps jointly funded by Europe and America, to employ them and give them a way to work? At the same time, we should increase funding for existing Russian independent media outlets, most now expelled from the country, and provide support for the many grassroots efforts to run social-media campaigns inside and outside the country.

    1. Put democracy back at the center of foreign policy.

    We need to break the links among autocracies, to forge new and better links between democracies, to reinvent existing international institutions that are no longer fit for purpose. It is alarming, even astonishing, that the United Nations has played no role in preventing or mitigating the war in Ukraine because Russia, as a Security Council member, has so successfully blocked it from doing so. In fact, Russia and China have been seeking for years to undermine the UN and all of the other international organizations that conventional wisdom said would promote human rights and prevent exactly the kind of unprovoked war that we are seeing unfold today.

    7 votes
    1. joelthelion
      Link Parent
      Thanks for sharing this very insightful article!

      Thanks for sharing this very insightful article!

      1 vote