The West’s leaders agree that democracy is under attack. How they can defend it is less obvious

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Lukashenko denies condemnation by the G7 grouping of the world’s wealthiest democracies that he is planning “irregular migration” in an “aggressive and exploitative” campaign – just as he rejects allegations from the European Union that in the past year his re-election as President, his sixth consecutive five-year term, was a sham.

For much of this month, the world watched as weary migrants, some with young children and mainly from the Middle East, were forced into freezing conditions at the forest border with the European Union. His growing anger at not being allowed to cross broke out several times as he threw rocks at the Polish border guards, who eventually fired a water cannon at them.

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In a revealing interview with Granthshala last week, Lukashenko’s foreign minister, Vladimir Makey, revealed the psychology behind his boss’s decision to launch a frontal assault on Europe’s borders. “Belarus has shown the dark side of European democracy,” he claimed.

US President Joe Biden made it an early theme of his term that democracy was under attack. “We are at an inflection point,” he told an audience in Germany in February. “We must demonstrate that democracy can still do anything for our people in this changed world. In my view, this is our galvanizing mission.”

But how to carry out that mission is something that has yet to be mastered. Biden promised a “peak of democracy” early on in his presidency, though it is due next month. details are sketchy,

Biden’s gains among allies are being eroded by diplomatic missteps, such as a dirty withdrawal from Afghanistan and the AUKUS security deal with Australia and Britain, which marginalized France. Meanwhile, autocrats like Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to be taking advantage of the opportunity to divide, demoralize and sow dissent in the democracies closest to them in Europe.

When Belarusian Foreign Minister Meki told Granthshala that: “Poland has violated all possible international legal laws and democratic values,” he turned the argument on its head by ignoring Lukashenko’s autocratic practices, such as the one that some governments have adopted. Condemned as illegal “kidnapping”. The commercial airliner that was diverted to Minsk, and arrested a Belarus opposition activist who was on board.

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The whimsical weeping wolf, while deliberately ignoring its own contraptions, is a feature that despots regularly use to cover their tracks.

On the face of it, how can the EU turn its back on migrants to champion human rights, yet still turn water cannons at them? Human rights groups have criticized Poland for blocking journalists from entering the border area and for allegedly pushing migrants who successfully made it back across a razor-wire fence into Belarus.

It is the caring side of a democracy that values ​​human rights and decency that Biden and others fear exploiting autocracy. At one point last week, Lukashenko’s government proposed that Germany should take in 2,000 migrants and that Belarus would handle the rest.

According to Lukashenko’s foreign minister, both his boss and Putin were pushing Merkel into some sort of deal. “It was President Putin who tried to contribute to the solution of this crisis. He had talks with Chancellor Merkel, he had talks with President Lukashenko and as a result of these conversations, phone calls were organized between Merkel and Lukashenko. it was done.”

Tensions are rising along the Poland-Belarus border.  here's what you need to know

Whatever the details of those conversations, Merkel and her EU allies saw through the trick and refused to play ball. Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer later asserted: “We will not take refugees. We will not succumb to pressure and say: ‘We are taking refugees to European countries,’ because it means the basis of this fraudulent strategy. will have to be implemented.”

This, it turns out, is not the “dark side of European democracy”, as Mackie claims, but the EU reality check of what it sees as Lukashenko’s lies.

But will it matter to Lukashenko and Putin? Not at all They thrive in a hybrid of arrogance and delusion where doubt replaces certainty, and defaming the moral purpose of democracy is a victory in itself.

exploitation of democracy

While the fabricated crisis – so far – has failed to divide the EU, what has happened is a waste for the two autocrats, in that it helps further their own illegitimate rule.

For its domestic audience, the taunting of half-truths about alleged abuse by border guards and their water cannons is enough to make some believe the other side is no better than them.

Lukashenko is exploiting a core value of democracy – compassion – by weaponizing migrant trauma to turn the EU’s moral power into vulnerability. The real weakness of Europe, which it appears to assess, is not its physical limits but its principles.

But the real fatal blow of Lukashenko’s moves is inflicted on the very heart of democracy. To fight its attack on democracy, the EU has been forced to take a tough stand and reject 2,000 migrants. It is logical, but only borderline ethical. It leans towards Lukashenko’s level and treats those desperate people as pawns.

This is an often complex issue that Biden wants us to address by highlighting what is at stake in the fight ahead for democracy.

Inside the EU, the main effect of Lukashenko’s move will be the risk of increasing the ghosting of migrants at the border beyond the already horrifying reality – a situation that has already fueled populist nationalism.

In his inaugural speech, Biden used the word democracy five times in his introduction, and 11 times throughout his speech. It was at the fore of his mind when he spoke at the place where, two weeks earlier, the United States’ first coup had taken place.

Watching Washington’s flagged malls, his words broadcast to millions of living rooms and autocratic offices around the world, Biden warned: “We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile.”

Since then it has become even more clear that the tests of democracy in the United States and around the world are not yet over. Now leaders should convert their noble words into action.


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