Eurasia: the retreat of freedom

What is Eurasia? – Stephen Kotkin

Eurasia: the retreat of freedom

Freedom House: four out of every five residents of Eurasia live in states with authoritarian rule

The human rights organization Freedom House has published its annual report “Countries in Transition 2015”, which analyzes the situation in 29 states of the giant region – from Central Europe to Central Asia.

For the first time such a report was published 20 years ago. At that time, only three states of Eurasia – Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – were recognized as “consolidated authoritarian regimes.” However, since then the situation has changed for the worse: the number of such regimes has more than doubled. Today in Eurasia – 13 democracies, 6 – transitional regimes, and 10 – authoritarian.

Freedom House assesses the situation in each specific country based on seven key indicators (the state of the electoral process, the position of civil society, the degree of media independence, the level of corruption, the quality of governance, etc.). Evaluation is carried out on a seven-point scale, where 7 is the worst score. For twenty years, the aggregate rating of the states of the region fell from 5.4 points to 6.03. A particularly significant setback has occurred in the last decade.

According to the report, the current rating of Estonia is 1.96 points, Latvia – 2.07, Lithuania – 2.36, Georgia – 4.64 (slight progress in local self-government), Ukraine – 4.75 (there were improvements in four areas ) Moldova – 4.86, Armenia – 5.36, Kyrgyzstan – 5.93 (the situation with civil society worsened), Tajikistan – 6.39 (regression in two regions), Russia – 6.46 (negative processes occurred in four regions ), Kazakhstan – 6.61, Belarus – 6.71, Azerbaijan – 6.75 (deterioration in the situation of civil society and the judiciary), Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – 6.93 points each.

As the report notes, “authoritarian leaders who pay lip service to democratic reform have systematized their repressive tactics and have largely abandoned inclusive policies.”.

Eurasia: the retreat of freedom

In 2014, Russia’s rating was downgraded by record levels, “reflecting the fact that Moscow’s external aggression is closely linked to the struggle of the Putin regime for survival within the country.” The authors of the document emphasize that the Kremlin, on the one hand, is trying to destabilize the new democratic government of Ukraine, and, on the other, is intensifying repression within the country, using a wide range of methods..

The report notes that the greatest concern is the interconnectedness of negative processes taking place in Eurasia.

Russia is using military force and an aggressive propaganda campaign, which in turn threatens the right to free speech and other civil liberties in other states: “Across Europe, Russian money and calls are promoting xenophobic and illiberal political movements that can destroy European unity by the most important issues of human rights protection and foreign policy. The rich autocracies of Eurasia (…) exert a corrupt influence on European politicians and businessmen, which helps to weaken criticism of such regimes, prevent the use of sanctions against them, weaken institutional guarantees in their own countries “.

The authors of the report summarize: “Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine should bury any illusion that the Putin regime is a strategic partner of the EU and EU-friendly states. (…) This regime is not an eccentric and demanding ally, it is an enemy of peace and human dignity, a preacher of a system of power that destroys fundamental human rights, even outside of war. “.

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