09 October 2010

Article: Russia's Machiavellian support for democracy

The Madrid-based "European think tank for global action" Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE) has released its latest "Policy Brief", "Russia's Machiavellian support for democracy" (no. 56, October 2010), authored by FRIDE researchers Natalia Shapovalova and Kateryna Zarembo.

The article can be downloaded free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Russia has been labelled as an 'autocracy promoter' in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region. Colliding with EU and US democracy promotion efforts, Russia has supported anti-democratic regimes among the CIS countries. Yet it is also showing another, curious face as an avid democracy promoter. Russia has contributed to the subversion of pro-Western regimes in Georgia and Ukraine and supported authoritarian Belarus for years. However, Russia does not only show its discontent with democratic leaders. Undemocratic ones do not gain its approval either, if their policies are not in line with Russian interests and demands. [...] Russian policies in the neighbourhood adopt democracy promotion rhetoric when it is deemed effective for geopolitical reasons. [...] This does not mean that Russia is heading towards democratisation; rather, it points to its ability to employ different tactics, from promoting autocracy to supporting democracy [...]. The democratisation agenda can become a pernicious weapon in the hands of an autocracy. [...]

"Russia's democracy promotion toolbox varies, just as Western aid to democracy does. Russia alternately withdraws financial aid; imposes trade sanctions; supports opposition or pro-democracy NGOs; launches a media campaign against authoritarian rulers; and calls for democratic elections. [...] The pattern of Russia's strategy towards its neighbourhood is clear: the West's democratisation discourse and agenda are deployed in order to change leaders that are strong but disloyal to Russia [...]. The Kremlin tries to make sure that competition among domestic leaders is as fierce as possible, thus disuniting the elites and securing an easy grip on power and assets for itself. In addition, Russia is cast in a favourable light by being seen to cooperate with the West [...]. Such democracy promotion by Russia can also be viewed as part of Russia's strategy of redefining the notion of democracy. Both at home and abroad, Russia does not deny the imperative of democracy as such. Rather, it insists on its own interpretation of democracy and selectively criticises the democratic credentials of others, mainly in order to divert external criticism away from itself or to put pressure on unfriendly political regimes."

Albeit a policy brief, the article is sorely lacking in supporting references.

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