Ideology debate: Putin says 'liberalism obsolete', Tusk says 'authoritarianism obsolete'

Ideology debate: Putin says 'liberalism obsolete', Tusk says 'authoritarianism obsolete'
Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Pascale Davies
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The Russian president and EU Council president have entered into a battle of ideologies.


Russian President Vladimir Putin and EU Council President Donald Tusk have clashed in a philosophical debate over liberal and authoritarian values.

Putin fired the first shot by saying “the liberal idea has become obsolete" and that the ideology has "outlived its purpose". The president made the comments in an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday ahead of his departure to the G20 summit in Japan.

The president justified his comment by saying liberals "cannot simply dictate anything to anyone".

He took aim at the German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing a million refugees to enter the country in 2015 during the height of the migrant crisis.

The Russian premier said liberalism “presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

Authoritarianism obsolete says Tusk

EU Council leader Donald Tusk lashed out against Putin's comments by saying it was, in fact, authoritarianism that was obsolete. He made the comments at the G20 summit where world leaders are meeting.

"Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete," Tusk said.

"What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs, even if sometimes they may seem effective," he added.

What is the difference between liberalism and authoritarianism?

In the political sphere, authoritarianism concentrates power in a leader or small elite that is not constitutionally accountable to citizens. Authoritarian leaders can exercise their power without regard to existing laws and normally cannot be replaced by people choosing a different leader in elections. Opposition parties are also non-existent or limited.

A surge in populist parties and the changing face of world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Hungary's Viktor Orban, Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Germany's far-right AFD party entering politics for the first time, this could indicate the tide is turning away from more liberal parties.

Liberalism, on the other hand, aims to protect and enhance the freedom of individuals by using a democratically elected government, multiple candidates in elections, with the aim of reducing economic inequalities and helping the poor.

It also invokes the rights to argue against tyranny and oppression, which Putin has been lambasted for in the past by critic Alexi Navalny.

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