The tide of global democratic change, which at the start of the new millennium looked like an unstoppable force of nature, has been turned back over the last decade. How serious and prolonged this reversal turns out to be is open to question. What cannot be doubted is the direction of travel, writes David Clark, chair of the UK-based Russia Foundation:
Perhaps the most vivid and significant example of this trend is the sight of a young, imperfect democracy – Ukraine – being brutalised by its large, authoritarian neighbour as the democratic world stands frozen on the sidelines. It isn’t a coincidence that Freedom House began to note the drift away from democracy a year after it downgraded Russia’s ranking from ‘partly free’ to ‘not free’.
The framework principle for thinking about a strategic response should be democratic internationalism, Clark writes for the FT’s beyondbrics blog:
Liberal democracies should see each other as their most important partners, privileging inter-democracy relations and seeking new and deeper forms of institutional co-operation. Membership of the group should bring economic and political benefits, including preferential trade access, economic support, diplomatic solidarity and collective security guarantees. The goal should be to create within the international community a democratic block strong and successful enough to act as a pole of attraction for emerging nations.
“What Larry Diamond has called the democratic recession has its origins in the loss of confidence and political cohesion that followed the war on terror and the global financial crisis,” Clark contends. “It will continue until the west and like-minded nations around the globe are once again able to prove by example that democracy holds the key to success in the modern world. It is a task of renewal that has barely started.”