WARSAW, 27 February 2016 - On Saturday over 150 thousand people from all over Poland joined in demonstrations against the current government. © Jaap Arriens | Flickr
EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

The Illiberal International

Stalin, in the first decade of Soviet power, backed the idea of “socialism in one country,” meaning that, until conditions ripened, socialism was for the USSR alone. When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared, in July 2014, his intention to build an “illiberal democracy,” it was widely assumed that he was creating “illiberalism in one country.” Now, Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and puppet-master of the country’s government (though he holds no office) have proclaimed a counter-revolution aimed at turning the European Union into an illiberal project. …

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Vladimir Putin aboard battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy © kremlin.ru | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Russia’s Game in Syria

Security, geopolitics, and a balance of powers

On Wednesday September 30, the Russian Federation started a bombing campaign in Syria with one objective in mind: the stabilization of the country and the survival of Assad’s regime. This action is very relevant for many reasons, but among them is the fact that it is historical. This presents Russia’s first military action on a foreign country, a majority of whose …

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Vilnius Gediminas Tower pictured in spring © Mantas
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Vilnius and Warsaw: Our Common Cause

Upon receipt of the Freedom Prize

Mrs. President, Mrs. Chair of the Parliament, Mr. Prime Minister,

I am moved and embarrassed by this honor bestowed by the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania on a Pole — a Polish journalist and editor of Gazeta Wyborcza. I treat it as a sign of recognition for my friends and colleagues who supported Lithuanian strivings for independence and democracy from the very beginning — and this includes people from the era of democratic opposition and those who later came together around “Gazeta.” The Polish democratic opposition always wanted a sovereign and democratic Lithuania to be a friendly neighbor of a sovereign and democratic Poland. …

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"Masquerade" by Aubrey Beardsley (1872 - 1898) © Public Domain |masterpieceart.net/aubrey-beardsley
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia & Publics

We Say No to the “Sacred Union”

In the aftermath of the killings at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, critical voices have largely been drowned in the general sea of undifferentiated outrage. But this statement by French colleagues, which recently appeared in Le Monde, is a major intervention and a welcome exception.

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Anti-government protest in Kiev, Dec. 29, 2013, showing flags of The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" parties © maksymenko oleksandr | Fickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

The War on Fascism

By my title,“The War on Fascism,” I do not mean the war between the US, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, on the one hand, and Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and imperial Japan on the other, the war that took place between 1939 and 1945. Rather I mean an unspoken war on the concept of fascism that increasingly characterizes our understanding of World War Two and informs discussion of contemporary problems, such as Ukraine. Although the term “fascism” is still in use today, it generally refers to real or supposed dictatorships, such as those of Saddam Hussein or Vladimir Putin, and has lost its original connotation, that of an authoritarian but still capitalist state. Because the original meaning of “fascism” was aimed not at dictatorship, but at the relation between dictatorship and private property and market power, the term had a critical or self-reflective character. Understanding the loss of this character can help us understand the history by which present political discussions, for example those concerning Putin, have become impoverished. …

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin meeting in Novo Ogaryovo near Moscow, 2008 © Vladimir Rodionov | RIA Novosti archive
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Solidarity with Ukraine against Putin’s Reality

We should not be surprised by differences about how to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Understanding reasons for those differences is one critical step toward formulating an effective response. Recognizing both real policy options and the equal importance of political signals is the second. Moving too fast is dangerous in the short run, but not moving at all is the most dangerous in the long run. And that’s what Germany’s leadership promises.

We should not be surprised that the authorities of Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain explicitly resist calls for trade sanctions. Leaderships in Austria and Hungary are likely with them. London seems more concerned with its financial prospects than European well-being. Putin has been pursuing a policy of diplomatic divide and conquer within the EU, sweetened with economic deals powered by the energy business. …

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Map of Ukraine showing Crimea in red © Sven Teschke | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Preaching to the Choir: The Crimea and Putin’s Domestic Audience

On February 28th, the Federal Council, Russia’s upper house, granted Vladimir Putin’s request to use military force in Ukraine. By that time, Russian troops stationed at the Black Sea Naval Base in Crimea had already left their garrisons and secured the area. Russian forces now effectively occupy the Crimea, which is a semi-autonomous and self-governing region of Ukraine with a majority ethnically Russian population.

In response, the U.K., France, the U.S. and Canada have announced that they are suspending their preparatory meetings for the G8 summit due to take place in Sochi this summer. On March 1st, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the crisis in Ukraine. President Barack Obama has warned that Russia’s actions will have “costs.” As several academic and media sources have noted, Russia is potentially in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, which guaranteed the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine in exchange the country’s denuclearization. …

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