The attitude of Russian population towards democracy is ambivalent. On the hand it is defined by negative connotations with the beginning of system transformation. On the other, Russians enviously watch the success of Central and Eastern countries that have chosen a free democratic development.
At the moment, the US administration can’t influence and provoke substantial changes in Russian political and social systems, therefore it should build good cooperation in non-proliferation fields with Russian government, although security issues and Russia’s connections with Iran and other similar partners should be watched closely.
Opportunities of US democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa
Middle East and North Africa are vital for the US national interests, in general it’s not a democratic region, although the last events, a number of revolutions in these countries, that started in the beginning of 2011, have demonstrated a hope for democratic changes in these countries.
The promotion of democracy in the Middle East is the US national security priority, therefore, the administration hopes for freedom that can win over the influence of Islamic radicalism.
But the policy has been subjected to increasing scrutiny, due to firmly entrenched in power Iraq and Arab regimes and continuous violence.
A lot of questions were addressed to the practicality of this approach and of course to the United States ability to fasten the forces of modernization and speed up the social change in a very diverse region.
Islamist influences should be definitely taken into account when answering this question.
There is also a popular thought that Islamist political parties and organizations confront major aspects of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East (like Iraq’s occupation or support for Israel, and also U.S. military presence in the region).
The United States may also inadvertently strengthen Islamist opposition movements (especially military politic groups). It becomes even more complicated if we’re talking about the possible participation of non-violent Islamist groups existing in “so called gray zone (gray zone means that their politic activities are allowed but limited)”¯.
The American efforts in promoting Arab democracy are logical because these “moderate”¯ Islamist groups have refused from violence and do not approve the terrorist actions. The US needs to support the obtaining of rights for all legitimate politic groups, including Islamists.
Nevertheless, democracy promotion across the Arab world is a complex issue featuring with many outstanding questions. And also we need to mention the various circumstances and a number of different political influences in the Middle East.
For example, the balance between need for political and social reform and the intent to form the state that is managed in accordance with Islamic principles; this is the main idea of a group called “Moderate Islamists”¯.
In another case, in opinion of radical Islamists, elections may be used as a tool to gain the power and create stricter Islamic rule.
On the opposite, the support of non-Islamist reformers is gathered from secular intellectuals, women’s rights activists and minority religious and ethnic communities. These members of some minority groups of Islamic word have traditionally been relegated to second-class status, because they usually have democratic views close to American or European traditions.
The US foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa in general encourages governmental and non-governmental organizations to develop and participate in political reforms that consequently will lead to democracy. For example, it has recently happened to Egypt and Tunis.
Among the democratic countries of this region only Israel can be named, and such countries as Lebanon, Iraq, Palestinian National Authority and Turkey are semi-democratic states.
American government has a constant and growing interest in this region, aiming to provide the regional stability and international security. The interest has specifically increased after events of September 11, 2001.
There are two kinds of strategies that are used by the US towards the Middle East and North Africa governments. The first is top-down democratization strategy (this strategy is provided by pressure on regimes and demanding reforms, otherwise the American military engagement can me involved, as it has happened with Iraq in 2003.
The second strategy towards the Middle East and North Africa governments is called bottom-up democratization strategy and it’s definitely more popular and peaceful option of democratization process. This strategy involves funding of international organizations that operate in these countries in order to strengthen the democratic transition. I must note that both mentioned above approaches of the US democracy promotion in Middle East and North Africa have been heavily criticized by the general public.
There are a number of reasons for external democratic support for the Middle East countries can me named.
First of all, the democratization dilemma of Middle East region defined by its strong authoritarian regimes and weak civil society, therefore any proper democratic leaders can’t appear in this strong civil society, but they need a democratic environment for it.
The second challenge is that political competition should be expanded by taking away the government control.
Previously, dilemma of Islamism had rather an academic importance, than an immediate practical policy challenge. At that time, regional democratization and Islamist extremism haven’t been paid too much attention and it wasn’t a U.S. national security main priority or a real threat.
The recent believe of the U.S. government was that if Islamist groups come to power, they would choose to follow the substantially confrontational foreign policy approach towards the United States. They would focus on the further Islamization of the region and become the partners of such countries as Iran. Government was confident that strategic interests of the United States as a global superpower will definitely suffer in this case. In their opinion it also would cause the limitation to access to oil reserves and decrease of military cooperation, further complication for the situation in Israel, etc.
Some experts absolutely sure, that Islamists are suspect, no matter if they prefer peaceful or violent means of gaining power. Islamists are perceived as fundamentalists with anti-democratic and anti-Western views.
Others support the previous opinion by saying that non-violent Islamism is a myth. The reason is that Islamic society often fails in terrorist acts disapproval, although the society members mostly do not belong to any violent or conservative group.
These is also a belief that regional democratization will definitely be set back due to women and religious minorities rights restrictions. Therefore in order to prevent this outcome, the US needs to work for regional democracy promotion and for improvements in the rule of law.
Besides it, a close attention should be drawn to division of different powers, building of civil society, creating the middle class, and finally supporting alternative politic movements.
The political liberalization, market economy development and globalization preferences should not be promoted the United States in accordance with American and Arab experts’ opinion.
While the American policy in the Arab countries is quite vague, many members of general public are sure that their country should choose a pragmatic approach toward Middle East democratization.
The flexibility of the U.S foreign policy allows it to be used in specific circumstances of a certain country and in a specific case, due to the fact that political conditions for political minorities in one country may totally differ from another.
Despite that the Arab population and world community has criticized democracy promotion efforts, anyway, its widely recognized that recent US governments have made the regional reforming chase a crucial issue and that additional resources for its implementation have been provided.
A different mix of diplomatic tools and also various policy instruments are used by the United States in order to promote democracy in the Middle East.
Analysts consider bilateral diplomacy as one the most effective means of supporting the democratic changes while promoting democracy in the Arab world.
The funding of the US democracy promotion in the Arab world was increased in substantial way since terrorist attacks in 2001 and when its effectiveness is measured, it is very difficult to accomplish, because democracy should not be estimated in the way traditional foreign policies are estimated.
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