The United States has been the modern world’s most influential country and has promoted democracy passively by serving as a model and actively through its diplomatic efforts, aid, and even military and covert action practices, according to analysts Joshua Muravchik and Jeffrey Gedmin. But the failure of the Arab Spring, democratic disappointments in formerly Communist Central and Eastern Europe, authoritarian resurgence and the emergence of illiberal democracy and virulent new forms of populism are challenging liberal democracy like never before, they write for the Washington Post.
It is in Europe that the dangers of a democratic crash weigh most heavily, they contend:
The countries of Western Europe have not only been America’s principal allies in the Cold War and the war against terrorism, they also, as stable, advanced and successful countries, constitute the other main cornerstone of the democratic world. The young democracies of Central and Eastern Europe were seen two decades ago as a source of inspiration for the older, more established West. Today, there is reason to fear for the solidity of Europe’s democracies (both East and West)…..The sky is not falling yet. But were today’s E.U. to break apart, expect a surge of protectionism, illiberal nationalism and anti-American sentiment in pockets across the continent. Count on even greater Russian assertiveness in Europe in backing anti-democratic forces. Moscow is the source of none of these unfortunate trends, but it has shown itself eager to support and promote all of them.
It is the political trajectory of “the Visegrad Four,” as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are known, that could prove the European Union’s undoing, notes one observer:
“Once the paradigmatic example of transition to liberal democracy and market economies,” James Kirchick writes in his just-published book, The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age, “the Visegrad Four are slowly becoming models of regression to illiberal democracy and economic autarky.”