Monday, May 08, 2006
Democracy and Foreign Policy
That is true in some circumstances and under the right set of conditions. For a country like Poland, with a menacing neighbor to its east, the pattern has been that greater democratization in Poland over the last 15 years has led to an alignment with the United States.
It is not true for other states. A more democratic Pakistan, for example, would not be as close of an ally in the war on terror.
This belief is now being used as the basis for U.S. policy toward Russia as well.
There is a clear authoritarian trend in Russia. Whether a less authoritarian Russia, however, would be more supportive of the U.S. on Iran and other issues, is highly questionable. The U.S. may be concerned about shrinking pluralism, transparency and competition in Russia for very valid reasons--but I think it is a real stretch to argue that if Mikhail Khodorkovsky were to be released and all charges dropped against him, or a BBC-style charter of governance created for State Channel 1, that this in and of itself would produce a closer U.S.-Russia alignment.
Certainly, if opinion polls are any guide, a more responsive Russian government would have no incentive to move closer to U.S. positions. And unless the U.S. were to offer some very lucrative economic concessions, it is difficult to see why Russia would want to change its economic behavior to suit our preferences.
So the argument that promoting more pluralism in Russia advances the U.S. foreign policy agenda--that is not clear. We have good incentives for a more pluralistic Russia--among them greater transparency in decision-making--but in terms of getting support for matters like Iran we will have to appeal to Russian interests--and that is a separate matter.
(My thoughts on the vice-president's speech in Vilnius can be found at National Review.)
If we encourage democratic regimes to come into existence but do not offer them treaties of mutual defense, we are signaling that our support for democracy has limits. We should not be surprised if people in new democracies then feel the same way.
Prior to 1914, one had the US-Canadian War, the US-Mexican War, the Civil War; all among so-called democracies.
This line of thinking (democracies do not fight with each other) is just the latest kistsch in US. It has nothing to do with the real world of power politics. It also encourages intellectual laziness and lulls people into a false sense of security.
And it's working. There used to be 51 million Ukrainians. There are now 46 million, and deaths exceed virths there by ~350,000/year.
OTOH, Belarus has maintained close ties to Russia, and it shows. There used to be 10 million people in Belarus.
And there still are.