Authoritarian states have always sought to control information and manipulate the message. Historically, they relied on the blunt instruments of censorship and propaganda. Modern authoritarians still imprison journalists and close…
Dr David Lewis
Dr David Lewis is Senior Lecturer & Director of Education at the University of Exeter. David has a broad range of research interests in international relations and peace and conflict studies, with an additional strand of research focusing on the politics of authoritarian states. In regional terms, most of his research has explored post-Soviet politics, notably in Central Asia and the Caucasus, but he retains a strong interest in the politics of Sri Lanka. He teaches modules on post-Soviet politics and on the role of 'Rising Powers' in peace, conflict and security. From 2012-16 he was co-investigator on an ESRC-funded research project entitled 'Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia'. The project explored divergent approaches to conflict among major powers and actors in the Central Asian region (notably the US, the EU, Russia and China) and investigated diverse policy responses to outbreaks of armed violence in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in 2005-2012. Before joining the University of Exeter in September 2013 he was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford. He completed his PhD in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, and subsequently worked in political risk analysis in the private sector. He also spent several years working for the Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, in their research programmes in Central Asia and in South Asia.
- a view of political order that is essentially Hobbesian, promoting a strong state and hierarchical political elite as a bulwark against chaos, and subordinating all other actors to the political regime;
- a profound suspicion of Western influence, combined with a constant search for international respect, status and acceptance;
- a view – shared with Machiavelli – of the masses, as ‘ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous’, prone to manipulation by Western intelligence agencies or unscrupulous opposition leaders;
- a commitment to the mantras of economic growth and structural reform, and full integration into a global financial elite, while refusing to allow a genuine market economy to develop at home.
- They use offshore zones and foreign jurisdictions to store their funds and invest their profits. Oliver Bullough has termed Russian elites ‘offshore bandits’, extracting resources from rents, not to invest at home, but to stash overseas. Western lawyers and bankers have been only too willing to lend a hand. Not surprisingly, officials and businesspeople from the region have featured heavily in recent revelations from the so-called ‘Panama Papers’.
- Despite the dominant anti-Western discourse that forms such a central element of the Moscow Consensus, the children of post-Soviet elites are still predominantly educated in Western schools and universities. Their cultural and leisure activities take place primarily outside their own borders, in the clichéd spaces of the global rich. This new privileged elite is more at home in Geneva, London and New York than in their own countries.
- Having suppressed political opposition at home, post-Soviet regimes have been targeting opponents outside the country.
- The Russian government has been accused of complicity in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London, and of misusing the Interpol system to target dissidents;
- Swedish prosecutors have accused the Uzbek regime of involvement in an assassination attempt against Uzbek cleric Obidkhon Nazarov in Sweden;
- Tajikistan has been accused of pursuing political opponents in exile, including forced renditions and alleged physical attacks and assassinations.
- Authoritarian regimes regularly misuse Interpol and other criminal cooperation mechanisms to target political opponents. Kazakhstan is reported to have used private intelligence companies to track and surveil opponents and to have relied on diplomatic and political pressure to accelerate extradition claims.
For the past decade, the annual report from Freedom House on political and civil liberties has made for sombre reading. Every year for the past 12 years it has marked…Article by Dr David Lewis