One of the characteristics of the anti-democracy backlash is that while some states are openly repressive towards independent NGOs, others maintain a more ambiguous position, allowing civil society groups to operate under restrictions and the threat of arbitrary interference or dissolution. Regimes are also being more proactive, forming tame, government-organized NGOs or GONGOs.
A new breed of authoritarian capitalist states is in the forefront of such practices, argues Joshua Kurlantzick:
A few of the state capitalists have not been afraid to use their war chests to push back against unwelcome democracy promotion: Russia, for example, now funds political consulting organizations and NGOs operating in Central Asia and the Caucuses. These NGOs appear modeled on the democracy promotion organizations of the US, like the National Endowment for Democracy; in reality, they work with established leaders to constrain and shutter local civil society.
He cites Azar Gat’s assertion that, given the return of authoritarian great powers, the US “remains the greatest guarantee that liberal democracy will not be thrown on the defensive and relegated to a vulnerable position on the periphery of the international system.”