'Putin has stopped pretending': Political scientist warns autocrats are brazenly 'trying to remake the world in their image'

'Putin has stopped pretending': Political scientist warns autocrats are brazenly 'trying to remake the world in their image'

When far-right Donald Trump supporters viciously attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 — some of whom set up a hangman’s gallows for then-Vice President Mike Pence outside — people all around the world asked, “If democracy isn’t safe in the United States, where it is safe?” And as MAGA Republicans in state legislatures introduce one draconian voter suppression bill after another, it is painfully obvious that many of them believe the U.S. should move in the direction of authoritarians like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin — both of whom are openly admired by Trump and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, even as Russian forces invade Ukraine.

Democracy is under assault all over the world, from the U.S. to Brazil to Eastern Europe. Journalist and political scientist Yascha Mounk examines the growth of authoritarianism in a disturbing article published by The Atlantic on February 24. And Mounk, a native of Munich, Germany and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the world finds itself in an increasingly dangerous position.

“Vladimir Putin has stopped pretending,” Mounk laments. “For months, the Russian president had claimed that he was merely interested in the security of his nation…. Then, he ordered a full-scale attack on a sovereign nation. Russian missiles blew up targets in key cities, including Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. Russian troops rapidly advanced into Ukrainian territory. War has returned to the heart of Europe.”

Mounk covers a lot of ground in his article, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the January 6, 2021 insurrection to the military junta in Myanmar — describing all of those things as examples of authoritarianism continuing to advance.

“The attack on Ukraine coincided with the long-planned publication of a Freedom House report on the state of democracy in the world,” Mounk observes. “As this year’s report went live on the organization’s website, just after midnight this morning, CNN was showing live pictures of Russian troops advancing across the border and billowing towers of smoke rising above major Ukrainian cities. Based on meticulous monitoring of developments in every corner of the globe, Freedom House finds that the world has entered the 16th consecutive year of what the political scientist Larry Diamond has termed a ‘democratic recession.’”

Describing Freedom House’s findings, Mounk offers a lot of reasons to be worried.

“In 2021, the number of countries moving away from democracy once again exceeded the number of countries moving toward it by a big margin,” Mounk notes. “Democratic institutions and civil rights deteriorated in 60 countries, with Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Tunisia, and Sudan experiencing especially precipitous declines. At the beginning of the democratic recession, about half of the world’s population lived in a country classified as ‘free.’ Now, only two out of every ten people do.”

“Assaults on democracy,” Mounk warns, have “grown much more brazen.”

“Many democracies are now rife with acrid divisions and face domestic challenges to their stability; this strain on democratic institutions is especially pronounced in the United States,” Mounk observes. “And the power of the democratic world is being challenged by a rising China and a revanchist Russia; the world’s dictators can turn to resurgent authoritarian regimes for economic investments, military supplies and international legitimacy.”

Mounk continues, “All of this helps explain why the world’s dictators are taking off their masks. Autocratic leaders, from Myanmar to Nicaragua, no longer feel constrained by the need to maintain some semblance of democratic legitimacy or appease the State Department. And those dictators, like Vladimir Putin, who also have significant military might at their disposal, are now trying to remake the world order in their image.”

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