June 28, 2012

Fixing the Democracy Discourse: How Autocratic Regimes Undermine Democratic Institutions in the West

Nondemocratic regimes in the former Soviet Union have increased their efforts to influence policymakers and public opinion in the United States and the European Union. Tired of being embarrassed as autocratic and corrupt, governments in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and other countries are going beyond traditional diplomatic efforts of winning friends, building alliances and cutting deals. Today, their toolbox includes everything from influencing academic discourses by commissioning reports and analysis and hosting high-profile international events to using PR and political communications agencies that deliberately spread misinformation and blatantly buying former elected Western officials.

But these trends have gotten more attention, and a counter-movement led by human rights activists both in the West and in the countries itself has been forming. The campaign around the Eurovision Song Contest is but one example. This discussion will take a closer look at these developments and what lies ahead in the contest over who will shape public and policy opinion in the West.

Please find the latest pertinent report, “Caviar Diplomacy—How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe,” by the European Stability Initiative at www.esiweb.org.


  • Gerald Knaus, Director, European Stability Initiative, Istanbul
  • Khadija Ismayilova, Investigative Journalist, Baku
  • Ken Silverstein, Author and Open Society Fellow, Washington, DC
  • Lincoln Mitchell, Associate Research Scholar, Columbia University, New York (moderator)
Date: June 28, 2012
Time: 12:151:45 p.m.
Khadija Ismayilova, Gerald Knaus, Lincoln Mitchell, and Ken Silverstein