What Orbán’s Third Win Could Mean for Europe
With his strong election victory on Sunday, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán exceeded all expectations. What will the party’s third win mean for Europe?
It’s about Russia, not God
The Russian Orthodox Church, which sees the Kiev patriarchate as a rival, cannot afford to alienate the 75% of the Ukrainian population who remain faithful to it: this is one of the few cases in which Moscow has not been able to count on the support of the Church.
Most Cossacks approve of the synergy between Church and state, which normally runs smoothly. But a few see it as a sign that the lessons of the past have been forgotten, something close to a betrayal. One young man showed me photographs of his great-great-grandparents, who were killed or died in exile after the Soviet authorities deported them in the 1920s.
Alexey Lebedev, a Cossack and priest of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, was just as angry: ‘When someone tells you that anyone who believes in Orthodoxy has a duty to defend the state, he is repeating the religious line dictated by Vladimir Putin. Patriarch Kirill’s Church isn’t really a religious organisation, it’s just a department of the Kremlin in charge of Orthodox affairs.’
A number of commentators have dubbed Russia a “mafia state”. It is certainly a catchy epithet, but what does it actually mean?
The Kremlin does not control organised crime in Russia, nor is it controlled by it. Rather, organised crime prospers under Putin, because it can go with the grain of his system.
There is a very high level of corruption in Russia, which provides a conducive environment for organised crime. It is not just professional criminals who are exploiting the opportunities provided by Russia’s cannibalistic capitalism – state agents, too, are exploiting their own criminal opportunities in an increasingly organised way. In 2016, the police raided the apartment of Col Dmitry Zakharchenko, the acting head of a department within the police force’s anti-corruption division. There they found $123m (£87m) in cash
The connection between the elite and the gangsters usually revolves around mutually profitable relationships – but these relationships can also fall apart in spectacular ways.
The modern Russian state is a much stronger force than it was in the 1990s, and jealous of its political authority. The gangs that prosper in modern Russia tend to do so by working with rather than against the state. In other words: do well by the Kremlin, and the Kremlin will turn a blind eye. If not, you will be reminded that the state is the biggest gang in town.
Just as the Russian language has become colonised by many borrowings from criminal slang, so too have regular Russian business practices become suffused with underworld habits and methods. Corporate espionage, bribery, and the use of political influence to swing contracts and stymie rivals remain commonplace, and continue to connect the worlds of crime and business. Likewise, the new generation of crime bosses are more likely than ever also to be active within the realms of legitimate and “grey” business.
The increasing sophistication of criminal operations, especially their shift towards white-collar crime, has created a need for financial specialists, to manage their own funds and also their economic crimes.
A vor I once spoke to bitterly complained that “we have been infected by the rest of you and we are dying”, but the infection has passed both ways. Many of the organising and operating principles of modern Russia follow the lead of the underworld. Maybe it is not that the vory have disappeared so much as that everyone is now a vor, and that the vorovskoi mir – the world of the thieves – ultimately won.
February 24, 20183:51 PM ET JOANNA KAKISSIS
The EU told Serbia it can join by 2025 — but only if it carries out reforms and works out its differences with Kosovo. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he supports Serbia’s candidacy only if it recognizes Kosovo and deals with “nonfunctional” northern Kosovo.
Kosovo’s current leaders — Thaci and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj — are throwbacks to the 1990s, both former Kosovo Liberation Army officers who fought the Serbian Army. Serbia wants to extradite Haradinaj to be tried for war crimes. Thaci has been accused of involvement in an organ-trafficking ring. (He denies the allegations.) Their supporters recently angered the United States and the EU by trying to scrap a special court to try former KLA fighters for wartime and postwar crimes.
Unemployment hovers between 30-35 percent, rising to nearly 60 percent among young people. More than half of Kosovo’s population is under age 25.
Some are lured by crime and even terrorism. At least 315 Kosovars joined the Islamic State in recent years.
February 6, 20184:57 AM ET STEVE INSKEEP
And so I really think, no matter what obstacle we put at the border, it’s going to be subverted. People are going to find a way up, over, under or around it.”
Of 15 Eastern European countries, populist parties currently hold power in seven, belong to the ruling coalition in two more, and are the main opposition force in three.
Aside from hard data, we need to consider the underlying social and political factors that have made populism so much stronger in Eastern Europe. For starters, Eastern Europe lacks the tradition of checks and balances that has long safeguarded Western democracy. Unlike PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s de facto ruler, Trump does not ignore judicial decisions or sic the security services on the opposition.
Another major difference is that Eastern Europeans tend to hold more materialist attitudes than Westerners, who have moved beyond concerns about physical security to embrace what sociologist Ronald Inglehart calls post-materialist values. One aspect of this difference is that Eastern European societies are more vulnerable to attacks on abstract liberal institutions such as freedom of speech and judicial independence.
This shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, liberalism in Eastern Europe is a Western import. Notwithstanding the Trump and Brexit phenomena, the US and the UK have deeply embedded cultures of political and social liberalism. In Eastern Europe, civil society is not just weaker; it is also more focused on areas such as charity, religion, leisure, and politics, rather than social issues.
Another major difference between Eastern and Western European populists is that the former can count on support not only from the working class, but also from the middle class.
MATTHEW BRUNWASSER datetime=”2017-11-24T14:53:57-05:00″>NOV. 23, 2017
Observers also note the return of the political language of the 1990s by some senior Serbian government officials as they attack dissenters as traitors, spies and enemies.
The European Union warned against letting a war criminal give a lecture to the academy, but the general received high praise from the defense minister, Mr. Vulin, a former close political ally of Mr. Milosevic’s widow, Mirjana Markovic.
The public support for a war criminal appalled human rights activists and Western officials.
Russian propaganda had influenced how the Serbian government portrays the difficult democratic reforms required by the bloc: they are cast as “pressure” from Brussels, enabling Serbian politicians to present resistance as patriotism.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI November 8, 20175:03 AM ET