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Defend democracy to defend America

From an editorial in Foreign Policy:

Russia views western democracies as a threat to its security. Its answer? Weaken democratic practice in them. Hence Moscow’s combination of election meddling, propaganda, fake news, trolling, and other forms of subversion that polarize politics by pitting citizens against each other. Russia lacks the power to challenge NATO directly, but it has succeeded in sowing allied disunity. It was an early mover on this plane of competition against the United States.

Similarly, China now meddles in the domestic political affairs of countries as disparate as Australia, Greece, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. China’s Belt and Road investment scheme has imported corrupt and opaque deals to a host of countries, and its influence operations in countries including New Zealand and Singapore have prompted domestic outrage. Beijing’s political support for autocratic leaders in Africa has elicited local charges of a new colonialism. …

How countries are governed, and how that governance impacts their strength and their geopolitical alignments, matters — particularly in an era when America’s rivals are sowing discord aimed at weakening nations friendly to the United States and edge them away from partnerships with it. Strong democracies are far less likely to be coopted by China or Russia than are one-party states whose leaders are too often tempted to privilege personal gain over national interest. And as the United States competes for allies and friends, the strength of those partners will turn in large measure on the resiliency of their political institutions. It is precisely this fortitude that China and Russia are undermining.

The United States leaves the field uncontested at its peril. With Beijing and Moscow active, and amid what Freedom House describes as a 12-year decline in freedom around the world, it is time for Washington to renew its support for democracy abroad.

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