Until February 24th Jessica Berlin was one of many experts on security and defense policy in the Berlin think tank sphere. But shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Berlin put her work on hold to devote herself entirely to helping Ukraine. She vigorously promotes massive support for Kyiv. In an interview with Berliner Zeitung, she calls for an international commission to investigate corruption by German politicians in the energy sector. She talks about Angela Merkel’s fear of Russia and our inability to understand the logic of dictators.
Ms. Berlin, you first came to the attention of the wider German public when Russia invaded Ukraine. You’ve had a very clear position from the beginning. What makes you certain your assessment is correct?
Primarily my experience in dictatorships around the world. I’ve lived and worked in four dictatorships, spent time in dozens of others, and have seen and experienced what life and power structures in dictatorships are like with my own eyes. This lived experience combined with my background as a security and foreign policy expert form the basis of my assessments. We are living in very dangerous times right now. And the German government has made many serious mistakes over the last 20 years.
What do the dictatorships that you experienced have in common? What do people who live in democracies need to understand about these systems?
Dictatorships run on fear: Their power is built on the population’s fear of violence. At the same time, however, dictators themselves live in permanent fear – of threats from without and within. It’s also important to understand that the planning horizons of dictatorships are much, much longer than those of democracies. In a democracy, we have a reactive political culture, public opinion means something. Our governments usually don’t plan for the next generation, they plan for the next election cycle. But in dictatorships, where one party or even one person stays in power for decades, governments can plan their geopolitical strategy or also plot against domestic opponents over the course of generations. The Chinese Communist Party has been doing this since the People’s Republic of China came into existence. The Kremlin has been doing it for generations as well. [Continue reading…]