2014 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award: Call for Nominations

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars welcomes nominations for the 2014 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award. The purpose of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award (IRDA) is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas, ideals and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The event expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide.

Ion Ratiu (1917-2000) was one of the most outspoken and consistent voices of opposition to Nicolae Ceausescu, whose regime he opposed for years from London as the democratically elected leader of the World Union of Free Romanians. After fifty years in exile he returned to his homeland in 1990 to contest the presidency, became a member of the Romanian Parliament, and later served as both Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies as well as Romania’s roving ambassador to NATO.

The Ion Ratiu Democracy Award was established in 2005 as a way to recognize the importance of the work carried out by democracy activists around the world. Since 2006, the Award ceremony has been hosted at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Previous awardees include Angela Kocze (Hungary, 2013), Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar, 2012), Nabeel Rajab (Bahrain, 2011), Oleg Kozlovsky (Russia, 2010), Adam Michnik (Poland, 2009), Eleonora Cercavschi (Moldova, 2008), Anatoli Mikhailov (Belarus, 2007), Saad Ibrahim (Egypt, 2006), and Sergio Aguayo (Mexico, 2005).

Ideal candidates will be thoughtful practitioners and engaged thinkers, with the primary focus being on civil society leaders who are either established or emerging, though current or former government officials will be considered.

The recipient of the award will be hosted in Washington, D.C., by the Wilson Center for up to one month to allow for broad and in-depth interaction with representatives of Washington’s policy, NGO and academic communities. The awardee will present the results of his/her experience at a workshop at the Wilson Center. The award workshop will take place in early December 2014. The Center plans to publish the proceedings.

The awardee will receive a stipend to cover travel, housing and living expenses, as well as local travel and book allowance.

Nominations should be sent via e-mail to ionratiu-award@wilsoncenter.org or via mail to Christian Ostermann, Chair, Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, D.C., 20004, USA. Self-nominations are permitted. All nominations must include a cover letter and a curriculum vitae. Supporting materials, such as press articles highlighting the activity of the nominee, are highly encouraged. In the case of self-nomination, one letter of recommendation is required. The deadline for submission is June 1, 2014.

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent Advisory Board comprised of prominent democracy activists and scholars. The appointment is made by the Center’s president at the recommendation of the Advisory Board. The result will be announced by the Wilson Center in July 2014.

The Award is generously supported by the Ratiu Family Foundation (London), established in 1979 by Ion Ratiu and his wife Elisabeth Ratiu, in partnership with the Ratiu Democracy Center (Turda, Romania, Ion Ratiu’s birthplace). The goals of the Foundation are to further education and research in the culture and history of Romania in particular, and also to stimulate and support civil society in its understanding and application of democracy and democratic principles the world over. Details can be found on www.ratiufamilyfoundation.com andwww.ratiudemocracycenter.org.  

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the living national memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, was established by Congress in 1968 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds, engaged in the study of national and world affairs. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue of ideas.

For more information, please visit the IRDA website 

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Orbán ‘far from reassuring’ on Hungary’s democracy

Hungaryorban_full_380A few weeks before last Sunday’s elections in Hungary, the government there sent out a fact sheet meant to answer critics who have claimed that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his conservative Fidesz party pushed through a series of constitutional changes with the aim of insulating themselves against electoral defeat, writes Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research at Freedom House.

The fact sheet listed various “myths” about Fidesz policies, followed by the government’s rejoinders. Item number one dealt directly with one of the principal charges:

MYTH: The governing Fidesz-KDNP party alliance unilaterally and hastily changed a well-functioning electoral system before the elections to ensure electoral victory in 2014.

Now fair is fair. Fidesz did not completely reinvent the Hungarian electoral system. The basic features were set in place by Orbán’s left-of-center predecessors. The reforms were meant to make Hungary more democratic, Fidesz asserted, not give advantage to any particular party. However, in Sunday’s elections, the changes initiated by Fidesz contributed to an outcome that was both less than fair and of benefit to Fidesz, as critics predicted. Indeed, Hungarian analysts suggest that without the electoral revisions, the party would have lost the supermajority it has enjoyed since 2010…..

Jobbik_Magyarországért_MozgalomThen there is Jobbik. Orbán has repeatedly taken credit for stemming the appeal of the ultranationalist party, which has a recent history of rank anti-Semitism and heavy-handed attacks on Hungary’s Romany population. Were it not for my softer brand of nationalism, Orbán has effectively claimed, Jobbik-style xenophobia would be much more of a threat to Hungarian democracy. The problem with this argument is that in the four years since the current Fidesz administration began, Jobbik has actually gathered momentum, at least as reflected in the election results. In 2010 it won 16.7 percent of the vote; on Sunday that figure rose to 20.5 percent, or nearly 1 million votes….

Orbán is admittedly not the only European leader who has adopted a low profile on the Ukraine crisis. But he has consistently stressed his credentials as an anticommunist and critic of Russian imperialism. ….. Then in January, he signed a deal that will allow Russia to provide a massive loan for the expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant. Beyond that agreement, Orbán has spoken about reorienting his country’s trade policies eastward, towards authoritarian countries like China, Azerbaijan, and Russia.

Although many countries exercise self-censorship in dealings with authoritarian trade partners, it is not unreasonable to expect a higher appreciation of democratic freedoms from those who lived under totalitarianism and foreign domination—indeed, especially from leaders like Orbán, who have made opposition to dictatorship central to their political identification. Critics may have gone overboard in picking apart each and every measure of domestic change introduced by Fidesz over the past four years. But its policies, both at home and abroad, are far from reassuring.



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Propaganda, disinformation, dirty tricks: resurgence of Russian political warfare


A new ideological Cold War?

A new ideological Cold War?

The invasion and annexation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine, has renewed the interest in Russia’s extensive political warfare activities.  In Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and other states of the former Soviet Union, Russian influence operations have been aggressively increased and targeted at Russian-speaking populations, who often have little other access to news and information and, therefore, are easy targets for Russian propaganda. 

Russian efforts hark back to the ideological battles of the Cold War and are aimed at audiences and policymakers here in the United States as well.  For home audiences, Russian propaganda persistently shows strong strains of anti-Americanism.  A panel of experts analyzes this threat and how the United States can best counter it.

 Propaganda, Disinformation, and Dirty Tricks The Resurgence of Russian Political Warfare  


John Lenczowski, Ph.D.

President, Institute of World Politics

 Paul Goble

Former Special Advisor to the International Broadcasting Board,

and Guest Lecturer, Institute of World Politics

 Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.

Senior Research Fellow for Russia and Eurasia Studies, The Heritage Foundation

 Hosted by

Helle Dale

Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy,

Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, The Heritage Foundation

Monday, April 21, 2014 – 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.


The Heritage Foundation’s Lehrman Auditorium 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE | Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 546-4400


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Putin threatens to cut gas supplies to Ukraine, Europe, ‘seeks influence, not invasion’?

Putins-InterestPresident Vladimir Putin warned European leaders today Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe, Reuters reports:

In a letter to the leaders of 18 countries, he demanded urgent talks with Europe on pulling Ukraine’s economy out of crisis but made clear his patience was running out over Kiev’s $2.2 billion gas debt to its former Soviet master. His comments were Russia’s most explicit threat to cut off gas to its neighbour, a move that could worsen a dispute over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea that has resulted in the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold war in 1991.

“Russia is putting substantial economic, military and political pressure on Ukraine, and we do not expect Russia to step back until its demands are met,” Vadim Khramov, a London-based Bank of America analyst, said in an e-mailed report. “We expect Ukraine to resist Russia’s latest demands but to eventually take steps to satisfy Russian demands as a solution to the crisis.”

The Kremlin wants Kiev to adopt a federal system of government giving far more power to the governors across Ukraine, The New York Times reports:

“A federal structure will ensure that Ukraine will not be anti-Russian,” said Sergei A. Markov, a Russian political strategist who supports the Kremlin……. But many experts sharply dismiss the Russian plan as a stalking horse intended to undercut Ukrainian independence.

“It is another way to dismantle and subjugate Ukraine,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “It means Moscow could grab and peel off any part of Ukraine at any time.”

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Is America’s neo-isolationist moment over?

Because of the Ukraine crisis, foreign policy is back at the center of our national conversation, and the WSJ’s Washington Bureau Chief Gerald Seib thinks it will stay there, writes The American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead.

The world is getting nastier, Seib argues, and domestic issues won’t be able to elbow out foreign policy anymore:

Syria is turning into an ungovernable mess, and a breeding ground for all manner of extremist groups. President Bashar al-Assad isn’t going away, thanks to an influx of help from his friends in Iran and Russia, but he isn’t reasserting control of his country, either.

[...] If tensions in the Middle East are rising because of weak governments there, they’re rising in Asia because rival governments are growing stronger. China’s arrival as an economic power and as an emerging military power has led to tensions with a newly assertive Japan in the East China Sea, and with a handful of American allies in the South China Sea. At a minimum, the tensions require attention and deployment of naval assets to reassure friends.

Iran’s nuclear program isn’t going away as an issue, regardless of the outcome of current international negotiations designed to rein it in.

As the domestic political debate over these crises heats up, we are seeing a classic American pattern in action, Mead adds:

America’s success abroad breeds stupidity and hubris in U.S. foreign policy. This hubris and stupidity leads to bad choices and magical thinking. We begin to believe, for example, that the world can become safer and more democratic even as we scale back our involvement. These bad choices and bad ideas then lead to huge global challenges. Those challenges ultimately spark smarter, more purposeful American engagement, usually after we’ve tried a few unsuccessful gambits first. That engagement finally leads to American success, which leads back again to American stupidity and hubris. And so on.

Contrary to Jeffersonian legends, what drove increasing American engagement over the 20th century wasn’t the missionary itch of the Wilsonians, or corporatist, Hamiltonian plots to build spooky New World Orders to Bilderberger specifications. It was the reality that when Americans got foreign policy wrong or ignored the outside world, the consequences were so severe that we were continually forced back into the “game” of world politics.


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