The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2018 29 ness to Moscow. Similarly, the E.U. seems feckless in the face of backsliding among member-states like Poland and Hungary. And the only reaction to Erdogan’s crackdown in Turkey has been to delay further talks on possible membership, a goal many in Turkey have already given up. Leaders on the continent have become too removed from the needs of their voters, and the refugee crisis of 2015-2016 exacerbated the rise of xenophobic forces there. The need to pay more attention to constituents should not translate into doubts about the democratic system of government, however. Europeans should remember the words of Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Failure to defend their democracies plays right into the hands of Putin. Corruption Putin also exploits European weakness through corruption, his greatest export. But for Putin to export corruption, the West, including the United States, must agree to import it. That Marine Le Pen’s party openly took roughly $10 million from a Russian bank for the campaign last year should be a source of shame, not pride. Moreover, it should be illegal to accept foreign funds, as it is in the United States. Making foreign funding of elections, par- ties and candidates illegal would go a long way toward limiting Putin’s corrupting influence. Transparency in funding for think-tanks and research insti- tutes is also necessary to ensure they are not fronts for the Krem- lin, their cronies or others like the Aliyev regime. There should also be greater transparency in high-end purchases of real estate, companies and other assets. The derisive nickname “London- grad” refers to the Russian, Azerbaijani and other money, much of it ill-gotten, flowing through London’s banks and real estate market. Going after corrupt Russian and other money should be a top priority for Western governments. Continued dependence on Russia for energy also contributes to corruption in Europe. Putin uses oil and gas as tools against others, and projects like Nord Stream II, a pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, should be viewed through this lens. This pipeline would eliminate Ukraine as a transit country, causing serious harm to that country’s econ- omy. Moreover, the pipeline is not commercially viable, since Nord Stream I, along which Nord Stream II would run, is not near full capacity. It instead would entrench German-Russian energy ties at a time when such reliance is prone to manipula- tion and pressure from the Kremlin. Ukraine’s past dependence on Russian energy left it vulnerable when Moscow decided to turn off the taps to Ukraine in the height The refugee crisis of 2015-2016 exacerbated the rise of xenophobic forces on the continent. of winter. The energy sector in Ukraine has been thoroughly cor- rupt for years, but the reduction of Ukraine’s reliance on Russian supplies for its own domestic consumption and development of alternative energy sources, along with an end to wasteful subsidies for heating, have helped Ukraine address this vulnerability. Still, Ukrainians worry that the tremendous sacrifices they made during and since the Euro-Maidan Revolution in early 2014 are being forgotten amid massive corruption that threatens their country’s future as much as Russia’s military aggression does. To be sure, even without Russian influence, the West has had corruption problems; but Putin makes the problems significantly worse. Working together, Europe and the United States need to clean up their own house and deprive Putin of openings to exploit. They should impose sanctions, as permitted under the Global Magnitsky Act, for corruption originating from places like Russia and Azerbaijan. If those who engage in illicit activities cannot enjoy the fruits of their ill-gotten gains, they might be less likely to engage in such activity in the first place. What to Do? If current trends continue, we will see weakened democ- racy across the continent, an emboldened Putin and increased corruption—a dire outlook. Questions these days about the United States’ commitment to democracy do not help. European governments need to aggressively defend and promote democ- racy and freedom throughout the continent. They must not assume that countries that seem to have made the transition to democracy successfully are finished with their work. We in the West must restore confidence that democracy, while not perfect, is the best system of government we have. We must push back against the authoritarian challenge and recognize Putin for the threat that he is. We should pass and enforce legislation and sanctions policies that put authoritarian leaders and their accomplices on the defense. It is time, in other words, for Europe and the United States to seize the initiative, securing gains and victories for democracy and freedom on the scoreboard. n