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Embracing Autocrats to Help Ukraine Is a Losing Proposition

Kenneth Roth urges governments to not cast aside the values of human rights and democracy when attempting to cooperate with autocratic regimes in response to Russia's unjust invasion of Ukraine. He notes the myriad drawbacks that came with such an approach in the past, such as with the War on Terror and the Cold War, and points to the risky areas in which this approach may be re-emerging. Roth states that "downplaying human rights in the name of building an alliance to oppose Russia's invasion risks strengthening the global autocratic threat", cautioning against decisions that may be taken in US relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, and the EU's relations with Azerbaijan, Algeria, Poland, Hungary and Turkey. Both the US and EU should be similarly cautious in cooperating with China at the expense of its severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The author further argues that a democracy and human rights-centric approach will help to support divisions and support for democracy in Russia, as Russian citizens are increasingly learning the truth about the war in Ukraine, and a global alliance that ignores human rights will be more easily portrayed as anti-Russian, rather than pro-democracy.

Read the full piece here in Just Security.