From Washington to Minsk, democracy is under siege … and the battle is lost | Opinions

iIt would be reassuring to think that if Russia entered the military militarily in Belarus – as it did in Ukraine and Georgia – the EU, the US and NATO would eventually draw a line. Vladimir Putin would be told, “Not again. Enough of your public aggression, covert operations, ‘little green men’, cyber attacks, questioning and murder. If you really want a new Cold War with the West, then we’re ready – and just like last time, Russia will lose. ”

Trustworthy, but unrealistic. As last week’s EU response to the popular uprising in Belarus made clear, a primary concern of Europe’s leaders is to antagonize Russia’s president. True, they told Putin not to be interested. But in return they promised not to interest themselves. “The EU stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus,” they said. Solidarity proved to mean limited sanctions and support for a ‘national dialogue’ that had already been rejected by the regime.

For courageous Protestants in Minsk who want an end to dictatorship, Europe’s caution must surely be a great disappointment. It is often said that most Belarusians are content to hang out close to Russia. This statement warns for closer investigation. A 2019 survey found that 89% of respondents have a positive or neutral opinion of the EU. Confidence levels are high. This month’s stolen elections were not a vote to take part in Europe. But it was a vote for the values ​​of Europe.

European pressure on site, Putin has good reasons to hold back, not least the calculation, now apparently confirmed, that a weakened and therefore happier Alexander Lukashenko would continue as president. Predictions that Belarus’ “people’s power” could switch copycat conversions in Russia before next month’s regional polls also seem overcooked. It is beginning to look like another win for the Kremlin – and another defeat for the forces of democratic reform.

Maybe one day there will be an account with Putin. But not yet. Europe scares him, Donald Trump protects him, and China makes him friends. His sense of impunity is powerful. Last week’s non-accidental poisoning of Russia’s leading opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, who ran Saffea uneasily, is a horribly trusted crime. Who can doubt where ultimate responsibility lies? The Kremlin’s message – for domestic and foreign consumption – is deadly and compromising.

Countering the revolution of Belarus, if that is what happens, comes at a momentous moment in an ever-intensifying, global struggle for democratic rights. In one camp sit broadly, the forces of reaction – autocrats, authoritarian nationalists, populists and racists who rule by division, violence and fear. In the opposite camp, liberals and progressives adhere to ideas of universal, law-based human rights and values.

This worldwide struggle has been evolving since the late 1990s. It has exploded myths about the “end of history” and the triumph of the west. And it’s being fought everywhere. “What we do these next 76 days will be echoed by future generations,” Barack Obama warned last week as Democrats prepared for the US election. He talks about the threat to American democracy. In truth, the threat only exists. And too often the fight is lost.

Just look around. In Hong Kong, China’s new security law is strange about what is left of open, representative government, as Britain and its allies flutter impotence. Intimidation and censorship spread like blight. In Thailand, pro-democracy culminated in the junta-run government of tinpot general Prayuth Chan-ocha last week in the arrest of activists on false accusers.

In Lebanon, shocked by the devastating explosion in Beirut, hopes that the old political order could also be inflated seem to sink into a sea of ​​hunger and poverty like the same self-serving elites who abused the country for power. In Mali, once praised as a paradigm of modern African democracy, military coups carried out regional opinion, ousted an elected president and promised new elections, if and when they saw fit.

These distinct cases share a common root: the way in which the most influential leaders of the world distort, ignore, or reject the supposed democratic consensus after 1989. In China, Xi Jinping has created an imperial presidency, which has shocked critics in silence. Cai Xia, a staunch former professor of Communist Party University, was an honorary exception last week. In Brazil, Egypt and Turkey, as in Russia, elected dictators give democracy a bad name. In India, Narendra Modi establishes an intolerant new raj.

Yet it is in the US that the false democratic imperative feels the most. A two-party inquiry into the House of Representatives last week confirmed the findings of the Mueller report: that Trump’s campaign worked with Russian officials to turn down the 2016 elections. In fact, the First Chamber was even more damned. It said, in effect, that Trump left when he denied knowledge of Russia’s theft from Democratic Party emails, later published by WikiLeaks.

Let us be clear: what is being committed is criminal behavior, for which Trump could once get jailed. He was involved in “a plot against American democracy”, the New York Times thunder. Trump, Obama said, “will destroy our democracy if that is what it takes to win”. They do not exaggerate. Whether it is an obstacle to justice, the Ukraine scam, sabotaged postal votes, cronyism, abuse of power, daily lies or “fake news”, Trump is the foremost enemy of democracy.

This is the dark example that the unworthy heir of Roosevelt’s “arsenal of democracy” now sets before the world. Little miracle dictators, autocrats and authoritarians think they are winning. This contagious plague of incompatibility, arrogance and dictation also infects the Britain of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, and Europe is not immune either. Belarus is but the last failure of the democratic ideal. If Trump wins again, so will all bad guys.