The Revenge of Power: How to Defeat the Autocrats Who Are Reinventing 21st Century Politics

April 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Naím, M. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Date: 19 April 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Moisés Naím (Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) and moderator Dr. Nicholas Wright (Intelligent Biology, University College London, New America, and Georgetown University) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series.

While discussing his new book “The Revenge of Power,” Dr. Naím commented that political power is easier to attain, harder to use, and easier to lose than it was 10 years ago. Several global factors—including the 2008 financial collapse and the Covid-19 pandemic—have led to a decrease in the global democracy. This global shift toward autocracy is allowing leaders who are relying on populism, polarization, and post-truths to attain political power. This is also allowing some authoritarian governments—including Russia—to act as a kleptocracy and mirror mafia-style organizations. However, recent Western sanctions are exposing Russia’s small and non-diverse economy. These sanctions will force a long recovery for Russia’s economy because European countries are already finding alternative sources for resources. This long recovery will have long lasting ramifications for average Russians’ socioeconomic well-being.

Even though the US does not regularly support populist or polarizing political figures, there are times when it will cooperate with autocracies. China is an example of a nation being led by an authoritarian leader which the US also cooperates with on national security and climate change issues. The US also can take steps to promote a future democratic world order. These steps include exposing autocrats who are masquerading as democratic leaders and educating populations on the potential ramifications of living in an authoritarian state. Dr. Naím optimistically stated that no problem has ever been solved without being first noticed. Furthermore, Ukraine has recently shown that a democratic country can stand up and protect itself from an imposing authoritarian state. The events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also shown countries in Europe that the EU can be a major world power if it acts cohesively.

Speaker Session Recording

Please email Ms. Nicole Omundson ( for access to the recording of this event. Note that you must be a member of the SMA community to receive this recording.

Briefing Materials


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