How realpolitik and the predictability of the West’s weaknesses helps autocrats legitimise their foreign policies

This policy brief from the UK think tank the Foreign Policy Centre looks at the relationship between realpolitik, the predictability of the West’s weaknesses and autocrats’ foreign policies.

With democracy and liberalism in decline, and pro-active autocrats dominating the international community, the resilience of the political models based on democratic principles, human rights and freedoms is increasingly being tested. The external threats posed by powers like Russia, coupled with domestic political trends of xenophobia and illiberalism manifesting in growing far right movements, are threatening democratic institutions and values, such as freedom of expression. Instead of being met with unity these challenges are faced with fractious responses from the Euro-Atlantic states, with Brexit being a prime example of this fault lined response.

These responses are leading many democratic sceptics and passive conformists with autocratic regimes to justify their positions by asking: if, in this current international landscape, there is a difference between Russia and the Western powers when it comes to their foreign policies? Between the recent foreign policy actions of Europe and the United States (US) and the news shared about them, ‘true’ and ‘fake’, on the digital informational space, including social networks, how can the Euro-Atlantic states preserve their democratic political models? And, whilst doing so, also delegitimise autocrats’ foreign policies?

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