Russia ‘trying to collapse’ liberal order, Biden tells Davos


Russia is undermining the liberal world order in its quest for influence, Vice President Biden said Wednesday in his last major speech before leaving office:

Biden cited Iran and China among “the greatest threats” to the democracies built in Europe and the United States, but, he said, “I will not mince words. This movement is principally led by Russia.”

“Under President (Vladimir) Putin, Russia is working with every tool available to them to whittle away at the edges of the European project, test the fault lines of Western nations, and return to a politics defined by spheres of influence,” Biden told an audience of CEOs, world leaders and media gather for the World Economic Forum.

“We see it in their aggression against their neighbors… we see it in their worldwide use of propaganda and false information campaigns,” he added. “With many countries in Europe slated to hold elections this year, we should expect further attempts by Russia to meddle in the democratic process. It will occur again, I promise you.”

“And again the purpose is clear: to collapse the liberal international order.”

His comments came a day after similar warnings from President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the UN. The international community must do everything it can to stop a Russian assault on the world order, according to Samantha Power (above):

Outlining Russian actions like the annexation of Crimea, the bombing of civilians in Syria, and a hacking of America’s election, Power drew a picture of a state whose primary aim is to sow chaos and wreak havoc on the “rules-based” world order that is girded by international law and run in bodies like the United Nations.

“Russia’s actions are not standing up a new world order, they are tearing down the one that exists, and this is what we are fighting against,” she said in a speech at the Atlantic Council think tank (above).

“Having defeated the forces of fascism and communism, we now confront the forces of authoritarianism and nihilism,” she added in a speech which some commentators considered strong on analysis but weak on prescription.

“Russia’s actions are not standing up a new world order,” she said. “They are tearing down the one that exists and this is what we are fighting against. Having defeated the forces of fascism and communism we now confront the forces of authoritarianism and nihilism.”

Power (left) warned against ‘historical amnesia’, suggesting that attempts at re-setting US-Russia relations would be fruitless.

“Similarly flawed is the argument that the United States should put recent transgressions aside and announce another reset with Russia,” she said. “Yes, the Obama administration tried this approach in our first term. But 2017 is not 2009.”

We cannot let America’s relationship with a nation of more than 140 million people – people who have made remarkable contributions to the world, who have a proud, rich history and culture, and whom we fervently wish to see prosper – be defined solely by the nefarious actions of a tiny subset in their Government. And yet we have less contact with ordinary Russians than at any time in decades, Power added:

This is no accident; in the past few years, the Russian Government has closed 28 U.S. Government-funded “American Corners,” which offered free libraries, language training, and events about American culture to Russian citizens, and shuttered the American Center in Moscow, which hosted over 50,000 Russian visitors per year. It has also expelled U.S. Government-supported and independent non-profits, such as the National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Foundation, which had spent decades fostering civil society and the rule of law in Russia.

That the U.S.-Russia relationship has lately yielded to acrimony and division does not mean the policies were wrong, argues Columbia University’s Stephen Sestanovich, the author of “Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama.” He echoed Power’s argument that the West should not lift sanctions on Russia but rather consolidate alliances between democracies to counter the authoritarian threat.

“The other guys are going to eat your lunch if you have let American alliance ties wither,” said Sestanovich, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

“The biggest lever we have with the Chinese is our network of alliances, similarly with the Russians,” he added.

A Russian nongovernmental election monitoring organization called the Golos (Voice) movement has received the 2017 international Democracy Defender Award from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), RFE/RL adds:

A ceremony for the formal presentation of the award was held on January 18 in Vienna, Austria where the OSCE headquarters are located. Golos said on its website that that it had received the award for what the OSCE described as an “exclusive contribution to promote democracy and human rights.”

In the current landscape of the shadow war, the Kremlin just notched a significant victory because it advanced Russia’s strategic objective of weakening our belief in our democracy and our values, and deepening the information divide, notes analyst Molly K. McKew.

But in winning this battle, the Kremlin has also exposed itself. And that means it hasn’t won the war,” she adds. “Putin’s mistake is in underestimating Americans, and how much we believe that our sacrifice has forged a better world, and how much we believe in the values we represent.”

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