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Authoritarianism Breeds Authoritarianism


Never let it be said that Donald Trump doesn’t supply international leadership:

They make a show of putting their own countries first and breezily dismiss concerns about international law or human rights. They seek to bend the rules to their will, excoriating “the deep state” for getting in their way. And when they are challenged by the press or other critics, they have a two-word rejoinder: fake news.

In countries around the globe — from Brazil to the Philippines, and in many less prominent ­places in between — a generation of leaders who resemble President Trump in both style and substance is rising, consolidating power and growing bolder in its willingness to flout democratic principles and norms.

The strongman style of leadership is not new, of course, and it is not always obvious who is inspiring whom. Trump himself climbed to power amid a surge of nativist and nationalist politics worldwide, and his chief campaign guru, Stephen K. Bannon, borrowed themes and phrases from European populists to rally the make-America-great-again faithful.

But in interviews on four continents, diplomats, rights activists and foreign officials said that after two years of Trump using the world’s most powerful megaphone to cheer authoritarians, bully democratic allies and denigrate traditional American values, the impact on how others govern is becoming clear.

“While the global decline in freedom didn’t begin with Donald Trump’s presidency, I do think he has been an accelerant,” said Uzra Zeya, a State Department veteran who resigned last spring following a 25-year career that culminated as the nation’s top Foreign Service officer in Paris.

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