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Does the West Need Autocrats to Fight Putin?

By embracing Poland's quasi-authoritarian regime in the interest of using the Polish border as an access point to Ukraine, Western powers have struck yet another Faustian bargain that they will come to regret. The lessons from the deal made with Turkey during the 2015 refugee crisis have been forgotten – or simply ignored.

VIENNA – In their scramble to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s murderous revanchism, Western leaders seem increasingly open to striking Faustian bargains with other authoritarian regimes. Hence, on March 16, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – making him one of the few Western leaders to do so since the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

With its focus on finding alternatives to Russian oil, Johnson’s trip resembled an earlier one by the US National Security Council’s top Latin America official, Juan Gonzalez, who visited Venezuela to hold talks with Nicolás Maduro’s regime. The United States has also given its blessing to Turkey, a NATO member with a dismal democratic record, as that country mediates talks between Ukraine and Russia.

Most startling of all has been the willingness of the European Union and NATO to grant an outsize role to Poland’s illiberal government. Poland’s de facto leader, Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, recently captured global headlines as part of a delegation of government leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia to war-torn Kyiv, where his “courageous gesture” was praised by the Western press.

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