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The end of liberalism? At the G20, Putin sides with the populists

Lisa Micheal 14 Jun 30

"There is also the so-called liberal idea, which has outlived its purpose," he said in a wide-ranging discussion of global affairs. "Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable."
Putin, it seemed, was channeling US President Donald Trump's former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as he expounded on the surge in populist movements in Europe and the unexpected rise of Trump, whom he met on the sidelines of the summit Friday.
"What is happening in the West?" he said. "What is the reason for the Trump phenomenon, as you said, in the US? What is happening in Europe as well? The ruling elites have broken away from the people. The obvious problem is the gap between the interests of the elites and the overwhelming majority of the people."
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Leave aside for the moment that Putin's Russia is actually a diverse, multicultural state with substantial Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist communities: Putin's disdain for liberalism touched a nerve. He seemed to be suggesting ahead of a meeting of world leaders that the forces of autocracy and populism were on the ascent.
"I strongly disagree with President Putin that liberalism is obsolete," said European Council President Donald Tusk, on Twitter. "What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs."
That was an awkward point for Tusk to make, perhaps, while sharing a stage at the G20 with Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But Putin certainly has used the G20 meetings as highly visible forum to present himself -- and his brand of managed democracy -- as occupying an equal place with Western democracies.