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How Can the United States Support Democracies in the Former USSR

Kenneth Yalowitz, William Courtney

Sustained public protests in Moscow despite police violence, and embarrassing losses by the Kremlin-backed ruling party in city council elections on September 8, are indicative of rising challenges to the authoritarian model in some of the post-Soviet space. Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine and Georgia have made notable democratic gains. A popular uprising last year in Armenia has increased reform momentum, and a new coalition government in Moldova is making reform progress. Democratic development in Eurasia must be organic, but targeted Western support for reforms could be most productive in these four countries.

The developments in Russia are striking. The largest public protests in Moscow in seven years come amid declining personal incomes, unpopular increases in retirement ages and dissembling about two military disasters. Putin’s popularity has ebbed, although remains in the mid-60th percentile, but public trust in him has plummeted to just over 30 percent. Anti-government protests in Hong Kong could be helping to encourage those in Moscow.

In several other post-Soviet countries democratic strivings are gaining more traction.

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