The Great Populists
The rise of a new kind of political leader – as seen in Russia, Turkey, Hungary, and Poland – constitutes a new threat to the global order. If this type, in the form of US presidential candidate Donald Trump and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, wins in the heart of the West, the risks to stability will rise sharply.
WARSAW – The first challenge to the Western hegemony that followed the collapse of Communism in Europe was the emergence of the so-called BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – in the 2000s. Rapidly growing and collectively accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, the rise of the BRICS seemed set to tip the balance of power away from the United States and Western Europe.
Today, the BRICS look like less of a geopolitical threat to the West. Russia, Brazil, and South Africa are in severe economic straits, and China is wobbling. Only India maintains its luster. And yet the West is coming under pressure again, including in its own backyard. This time, the challenge is political, not economic: the rise of politicians who relish conflict and disdain national and international law and democratic norms.
I call such leaders “PEKOs,” after the four most prominent examples of their kind: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdoğan, the Polish politician Jarosław Kaczyński, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.