The Authoritarian Threat: Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion

Issue Date January 2016
Volume 27
Issue 1
Page Numbers 64-75
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As the international balance of power has shifted away from established democracies, autocrats have begun to assert themselves on the world stage. Once the passive targets of democracy promotion, dictators now actively defend their power abroad, often seeking to undermine democracy in the process. Such deliberate efforts to promote authoritarian rule present a potentially serious threat to democracy in the world today. Yet a closer examination of the actual impact of “autocracy promotion” suggests that it so far presents a less serious challenge than is often assumed. The influence of autocracy promotion is limited, above all, by the fact that authoritarian powers tend to be concerned less with promoting authoritarianism as such than with furthering their own countries’ more narrow economic and geopolitical interests. As a result, authoritarian interventions often have contradictory effects and may in some cases even foster greater pluralism.