Staunton, December 24 – Ever more commentators are suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic has undermined democratic freedoms and intensified authoritarianism everywhere, Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but there is a fundamental difference between what has been taking place in liberal democratic states of the West and authoritarian countries like Russia and China.
Liberal democratic states like the US and the EU showed their concern for the security of their citizens and sought not to touch the basic rights of the population, the Russian analyst says. “If the state limited economic freedoms, then it provided quite adequate compensate, viewing the problems not as the result of the pandemic abut of its own actions and thus its responsibility” (https://snob.ru/entry/201770/).
“Nowhere in developed countries were to be found in any massive way the limitation of civil rights and political freedoms,” Inozemtsev says. “On the contrary, by the end of the year, many of them have even widened” with greater political participation in the US than before and citizens using their freedoms to make more demands on the government.
In non-democratic states like China and Russia, however, the regimes made use of the struggle against the pandemic to further restrict the rights and freedoms of their peoples. “Russia in this regard represents the most pathetic example of a country whose rulers couldn’t cope with the pandemic … but used its spread to impose a mass of measures restricting freedom.”
During the pandemic, Moscow adopted dozens of laws and issued hundreds of orders “which are clear violations of civil freedoms and rights,” he continues. And at the same time, “the Russian leadership violated hundreds of norms and freedoms of an economic character, closing businesses without compensation being only one of them.”
In democratic states, the restrictions related to the pandemic were applied across the board; but in authoritarian Russia, they were applied selectively, imposed on the opponents of the regime or on those unable to object and not imposed on the regime’s allies or on those the Kremlin thought might cause problems.
And while the pandemic sparked political mobilization in democratic countries like the US, in Russia, “the pressure of the powers that be on society gave rise to despondency and apathy and even the most significant event of the fall, the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny, passed almost unnoticed in the country.”
Because of this difference, Inozemtsev argues, there is no good reason to speak about any equivalence between the response of democratic and authoritarian states or to suggest that they both are responded as the UK and the USSR did during World War II when neither country had elections while the fighting proceeded.
It needs to be remembered that “after the signing of the capitulation of the enemy, power in Britain was changed by democratic means in only 54 days; but in the USSR, this happened only after 45 years. Approximately the same will be the successes of democracy in the post-covid era.”