Part of Transatlantic Security

Confronting Threats to Democracy

As the United States and Europe grapple with the security implications of Russia’s war in Ukraine and broader global challenges, they also face fundamental threats to democracy at home. Economic hardship, migration, and intensifying polarization are giving rise to leaders willing and able to undermine democratic norms and practices. This democratic erosion is sowing division between countries, making consensus in Europe’s consensus-based institutions such as the European Union and NATO difficult to reach.

The rise of far-right parties across Europe threatens Western unity toward Ukraine, and complicates the democratic functioning of key European institutions. Even outside of governing coalitions, illiberal views are seeping into the political mainstream and public discourse, where they polarize and fragment politics and public opinion. These cleavages raise the risk of political dysfunction and increase the vulnerability of democratic governments to Russian and Chinese influence.

The Transatlantic Security Program confronts these dangers to democracy in the United States and Europe—analyzing the threats to democracy that stem from the growing personalization of democracies and a coalescing illiberal axis. This work aims to identify policies and approaches that U.S. and European officials, the media, and civil society actors can use to counter illiberalism and renew and safeguard the democratic foundations that underpin U.S. and European influence and security.

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