Beyond NATO, new alliances could defend democracy and counter Putin

NATO has struggled to remain unified in recent years. (NATO via Flickr)

Russian aggression toward Ukraine continues. The nations of the world, and their current alliances, have so far proved ineffective at curbing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions.

Right now at the United Nations, dictators and theocratic rulers get an equal voice with democratically elected governments. For almost anything urgent or relating to international security to get accomplished, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and the U.S. must all agree. Imagine the U.N. without them, and the NATO military alliance expanded across the globe, not dependent on one or two powerful nations to effectively prevent war and build democracy.

How the global community responds to its new challenges may well decide the future of democracy and the cause of human rights in the 21st century. After years analyzing Putin’s rise and the existential threat he poses, former Russian chess grandmaster and human rights advocate Garry Kasparov summed up the situation this way in late 2021: “We can either be the generation that renews democracy, or loses it forever.”

My research finds that new alliances may be needed to replace, or at least expand and support, the familiar ones built to keep global peace in the wake of World War II, when global politics were very different.

That is why in my 2018 book, I suggested that the leading democratic nations all across the world join their economic, military, technological and moral power into “A League of Democracies.” This concept built on ideas from U.S. Sen. John McCain and others such as foreign policy experts Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay.

Developed democracies could work together to effectively counter not only the influence of Russia and China, but also creeping despotism and mass atrocities. This group could discourage military coups, support protest movements demanding democratic rights, prevent new arms races and help developing democracies strengthen their civil services.

Beyond my own proposal, below are three promising new ideas for alliances that have recently emerged to meet the growing power of dictatorships. Imagine, for instance, that more than 40 democratic countries with more than 70% of the world’s economic activity issued a total trade blockade of Russia after Putin invaded Ukraine.

Copenhagen Charter

The Copenhagen Charter was created in 2018 by the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former Prime Minister of Denmark and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. It is not yet a formal international treaty, but the goal is to create a powerful economic alliance similar to the military alliance that is NATO.

Its members would coordinate international sanctions and aid, using their trade and financial power in the global economy. For instance, its members could collectively respond with tariffs or boycotts if Russia became too dominant in supplying natural gas to Europe, or if China tried to silence Australian critics by cutting off its imports from Australia.

Coalition for a World Security Community

Also founded in 2018, the Coalition for a World Security Community proposes a global military alliance to protect democratic nations from autocratic forces. It would include Asian democracies like South Korea, Australia and India that are not yet part of any major multinational security agreements.

One step in this direction is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the U.S., Japan, India and South Korea. It was established in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in response to China’s economic and military rise, and could help deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

An Alliance of Free Nations

The Copenhagen Charter and the World Security Community ideas have been combined by political scientists Ash Jain and Matthew Kroenig at the Atlantic Council, a nonprofit policy think tank in Washington. They propose extending mutual protection among democracies through an “Alliance of Free Nations.”

This group would be a formal institution linking Western democracies with democratic allies in South America and Asia. It would replace temporary coalitions that gather only to deal with a single crisis, such as the Western nations that tried to negotiate with Putin before his invasion of Ukraine.

Jain and Kroenig suggest starting this alliance by adding to the seven major industrialized democracies, who now meet as the Group of Seven, often called the “G-7.” Adding South Korea, India and Australia could turn this group into a “Democratic 10,” perhaps with the Philippines and Brazil as guests or observers at meetings. Ultimately, this group would be open to all the nations who support key democratic principles, like basic human rights, independent courts and free multi-party elections.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy in December 2021 invited those nations and others to support democratic systems around the world. A second summit is expected in late 2022.

[More than 150,000 readers get one of The Conversation’s informative newsletters. Join the list today.]The Conversation

John Davenport, Professor of Philosophy and Peace & Justice Studies, Fordham University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Piberman February 27, 2022 at 2:58 am

Articles in Foreign Affairs and in the Washington Post on how the President’s team handled the Ukraine challenge suggest there was no plan to send Ukraine modern weapons when Russia assembled 150,000 on the border. Nor any plan to send weapons when the Russians invaded. Only after substantial criticism as the US joined Germany and some other NATO/Baltic nations sending weapons. The President according to these reports was counting on the threat of sanctions to be an effective deterrent even though they had not been effective previously.

The cautious response to the Ukraine crisis coming on the heels of the widely noted Afghanistan withdrawal embarrassment raises questions on how well positioned the President and his team of advisors are in confronting Russia and China. Future historians are likely to fault the President as being overly cautious in the Ukraine imbroglio. And with China threatening Taiwan there are tough days ahead.

Piberman February 27, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Lets remember here in CT with our 3 major league defense firms with roots going back generations – Electric Boat, Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky – not a single Congressman urged the US send arms to the Ukrainians when the Russians amassed 150,000 troops on their borders. Not single one. It took the Europeans in NATO to send arms sending a wake up to call to our government. Our national leadership recalls the dithering and hesitation up to the German invasion of Poland. Only when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor did our government “get the message”. Why is it so difficult to secure the leadership we need when critical times face our nation ?

Mitch Adis February 27, 2022 at 6:33 pm

Open the spigots of American oil and drive the price down to $25 a barrel. This will cripple Russias ability to finance any war now and in the future!

Piberman February 28, 2022 at 12:00 am

The reality is the European democracies and the US face the formidable Chinese/Russian autocracies with nearly 1/3rd the world’s population while Africa, South America and the rest of Asia fall in between. China and Russia – two formidable nuclear powers – have twice the population of the USA/European democracies. And no major realignments lie in our foreseeable future. As China becomes the foremost economic power by end of the decade the western democracies – Europe and America – will be increasingly challenged. There are no major nations likely to emerge as conventional democracies. So for the foreseeable future the majority of the world’s population will live under varying degrees of autocratic regimes while the US and most of Europe function as democracies. After 2 major World Wars the majority of earth’s population will continue to live under various forms of autocratic regimes.
Those familiar with China’s 5000 year history and that of the Russian Empire know there are no reasonable prospects for either adopting democratic rule.

Piberman March 3, 2022 at 12:13 pm

How many Americans are proud of their leaders actions aiding the Ukraine as that nation is being systematically destroyed ? Are we doing much better than when the Germans and Russians invaded and destroyed Poland in 1938 killing some 6 million Poles ?

How many Americans are proud of our “leadership” when both China and India – representing half the world’s population are “sitting out” the Ukraine War. Along with South America and Africa.

What happened to the “leadership of the free world” ? Went soft ? Most of the world’s population is “sitting out” the destruction of a sizeable Democracy. Augurs poorly for our future. Especially with China on the rise to dominate our earth. If the Ukraine War illustrates anything its that “leadership matters”.

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