16.07.2021 – 08:31
High carbon steel is strong but brittle, super strong but subject to breakage under sudden impact. Mild or mild steel is mild, prone to bending, but less likely to break.
Both metals are a useful metaphor for the opposite properties of democratic and authoritarian governments.
The world’s rich democracies have been out of shape recently.
America still bears the distortions of Donald Trump’s presidency. In Europe, populists have launched countless attacks on pluralist values and norms. And yet, as they may have been distorted, the institutions of democracy have proved quite agile.
As for the autocrats, Vladimir Putin remains in the Kremlin; Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan still occupies his palace in Ankara; and in Beijing empire throughout but the name Xi Jinping has become increasingly confrontational in his attempt to destroy the internationally designed international order.
Nationalist autocrats need foreign enemies to justify political oppression in the country, and the Russian president has long found it in the west.
So a besieged Russia is surrounded by a hostile US and its NATO allies.
Enemy forces – some, including the US, now officially designated “unfriendly states” – are moving their armies closer to the nation’s border. Western economic sanctions are an integral part of this long-standing attack on Russia’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The threat, the document continues, extends beyond military and economic. The attack is cultural and civilizing.
Westerners are spreading social and moral attitudes that “contradict the traditions, beliefs and beliefs of the peoples of the Russian Federation.”
The country must be defended against foreign ideologies and values.
If confirmation were needed, this is not the analysis of a Russian leader who now demands a fundamental change in relations with the West.
His recent meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva may have reformatted relations with Washington, but he did not recreate it.
The temptation is to think we can be back in the 1980s – that divisions will expand into cracks that will one day collapse the current system. In my opinion this is premature.
Putin’s only concern is maintaining his power.
He will gladly steal Russia’s future to maintain his position.
This is what he is doing by drawing lots for his part with China Xi – he will be gone before Russia pays the price.
The equal and opposite error, however, is to believe that the trajectory of the authoritarian states of the world is fixed.
The autocrats, with their façades, understand well the fragility of their rule.
The big question is that of time. Like high carbon steel, these modes will retain their shape until they break.
Translated and adapted by Financial Times / konica.al