A group of national security experts testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill about the rise of authoritarianism, warning lawmakers that countries such as China and Russia are seeking to gain power by undermining democratic systems, the Hill reports:
In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, Open Constitution Initiative co-founder Teng Biao and Center for a New American Security’s transatlantic security expert Andrea Kendall-Taylor said there are indicators popping up worldwide that suggest a growing return to dictators and despots.
“Warning signs abound across the globe: the discarding of mainstream politicians, the emergence of leaders who seek to divide rather than unite, the purist of political victory at all costs and the invocation of national greatness by people who identify greatness only with themselves,” Albright told the committee in her opening remarks.
“Tyranny is once again awakening from its slumber,” Rasmussen said in his opening remarks, echoing Albright.
After the hearing, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said Russian efforts to interfere in elections were continuing, the New York Times adds.
“There is a prioritized part of the Russian agenda to not just interfere in our democracy but interfere in democracies in Europe,” he said. “They are pushing their authoritarian model to undermine institutions that reinforce democracy.”
The resurgence of authoritarianism makes clear the spread of democracy is not assured, and the fight for freedom must be carried anew by each generation, said Schiff.
“This is the most trying time for democracy since the 1930s when fascism spread across much of Europe,” said Kendall-Taylor. “If current trends persist, authoritarianism will soon become the most common way that democracies crumble and autocracies emerge.”
“Democracy is being dismantled by leaders coming to power through free and fair elections,” she added. “Russia and China have long sought to undermine democracy promotion. China’s rise, especially combined with its deepening relationship with Russia, will undermine democracies.”
Biao said Beijing “utilizes its leading technology of artificial intelligence to tighten its total control of the Chinese society,” said Biao, recipient of the NED’s 2008 Democracy Award.
“The Internet has been used by [the Communist Party of China] as an effective tool for censorship, propaganda and brainwashing,” Biao said. “People have been jailed for posting a picture on social media or criticizing leaders in private online conversations.”
“I think we thought that when the Cold War is over, we thought we’d won it…. I think we forget that we’re dealing with a KGB agent, and I think he’s played a weak hand very well,” Albright said of Putin. “And I personally owe an apology to now-Senator Romney, because I think we underestimated what was going on in Russia…. Putin has put them back on the scene.”