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Andrei Illarionov, Former Adviser for the President of Russian Federation
War for Freedom and Democracy
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
And Distinguished Guests,
The topic of this year’s Summit is Common Vision for Common Neighborhood, Spreading Democracy, Expanding Freedom.
As President Adamkus has rightly said: “Our goal is more democracy, not less.”
This goal is noble, indeed. But in our today life, in some countries, some of us do deal not so much with expanding freedom and spreading democracy, but with contracting freedom, with retreating democracy.
As President Saakashvili has rightly said: “freedom nowadays is under threat”.
In our defense of freedom we have to admit – we are not always successful. But we should not surrender to this fact and should not surrender to non-freedom. We have to search for the best ways to defend freedom. We must find the best, the most effective ways to expand freedom and promote democracy.
Why freedom? Why democracy?
Freedom is not a luxury. Freedom is a very powerful instrument, without which no country in the world would have sustained prosperity, security, development, and international respect.
Free countries are more prosperous than non-free countries. International experience provide overwhelming evidence that free – both economically free and politically free – countries are much richer than non-free countries. Nowadays the difference in their living standards is closer to 7: 1.
The economies of free countries grow much faster than economies of non-free countries. In the last part of the century politically completely free countries have doubled their per capita income. Politically partially free countries have increased it on average by 40%. While non-free countries have reduced it by roughly one third.
The transition from complete political freedom to complete political non-freedom leads to economic degradation. The transition from complete political non-freedom to complete political freedom speeds up economic growth in all countries. And they now have GDP per capita growth rates much higher than the world average.
Freedom provides security. It is very true that economically and politically free countries usually do not fight each other. They do usually have much lower mortality rate from violent crime, originated both from criminal gangs and/or their own governments than non-free countries.
Freedom gives strength – economic, political, military. Freedom gives respect and recognition. Which countries – free or repressed – are more attractive and more respected in the world? Where do people like to stay or even migrate to?
The lack of freedom creates an insurmountable barrier to economic growth, to social development and to security of individuals, country and state. There is no example in today’s world that a non-free country is able to overcome barrier of GDP per capita of 12 thousand dollars by purchasing power parities on sustainable basis. And even those countries that had happened to be rich before, but later destroyed their freedom – became non-free and poor. The lack of freedom is destroying wealth, even when it has been achieved earlier.
Freedom is indivisible. The failure of freedom in one particular sphere makes harder to defend freedom in other areas. The fall of freedom in one country is a blow to the world freedom. Inability to defend freedom yesterday will come back to us with great price today – and even greater price tomorrow.
The story of the destruction of freedom in my own country, Russia, is sad. But this story should be told, should be known, and should be remembered – in order not to be repeated and to be reversed.
First, there was an assault on people in Chechnya. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend freedom of people over there.
Then there was an assault on mass media. And many people thought that it was not their business to defense freedom of mass media.
Then there was an assault on private business. And many people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of private business.
Then there was an assault on independence of political parties. And some people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of political powers.
Then there was an assault on independence of courts and judiciary. And many people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of judiciary.
Then there was an assault on independence of regional governors. And many people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of regional governors.
Then there was an assault on independence of NGO. And many people thought that it was not there business to defend the freedom of NGO.
Then came the turn of religious organizations and beginning of the censorship of Internet.
And now even those who would want to resist, do have neither resources nor institutions to fight back.
Non-freedom is a monopoly of political, economic, and information power. Non-freedom is the taboo on the discussions of topics of national and international importance. It is the prohibition of discussions – what people need to discuss. And it is exclusion and expulsion of topics, of people, of companies, and groups from public life. It is the breakdowns of morals and degradation of national consciousness.
Non-freedom is social regression and economic degradation. It is a destruction of basic institutions of civil society, and it is high risk of unprovoked aggression against neighbors. And it is a real aggression of such a government against own people.
What do non-free countries have in common? What does unite such distant countries like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Russia?
Only one thing – that is civil war, whether it is open or undeclared, whether it is hot or cold. That is war, in which governments are taken away property and destroying society, sending people to jails and camps, and killing its fellow-citizens only because they have a different perception of the world, of faith, of law, and of their homeland.
Non-freedom means war, the war of governments against civic society, against the country, against own people. Non-freedom needs to incite hatred, social and ethnic, internal and external, against the democrats and business, against liberals and the Orange forces, against of unipolar world or some particular state. Only through hatred, fear and electoral violence can they attempt to hold on to what is darer to them than anything else – monopoly power.
Let me conclude with the words that were said by Winston Churchill 66 years ago about another great war: “I have nothing to offer to you but blood, toil, tears and sweat. But I have before us an ideal of most grievous kind. I have before us many years of struggle and sufferings. But this war – for freedom everywhere, in any area, in any sphere, in any country, since freedom is indivisible. And in this war we fight with all our might, in all our strength God has given to us, because it is the most monstrous tyranny of non-freedom”.
But this war can be won and will be won. Since history is on a side of freedom and democracy.
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