Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban attend a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow.
Courtesy Reuters

Late last month, in a speech in Transylvania, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced nothing less than his government’s break with liberal democracy. Orban’s words have made waves across the West, and his defenders have been busy insisting that he was only dismissing what he called “the liberal understanding of society”: in essence, ruthless capitalism and selfish individualism. But Orban clearly gave notice that he was also done with political liberalism and its emphasis on accountability and checks and balances. Most important, by proudly embracing “illiberal democracy,” a term famously coined by the journalist Fareed Zakaria in Foreign Affairs in 1997, he signaled which side his government has chosen in the new geopolitical and ideological struggle between Russia and the West. Orban endorsed Putin’s model of populist leadership and an unrestrained executive based on assertive nationalism. Earlier this year, Russia gave a huge loan to Hungary. Moscow is already getting

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  • JAN-WERNER MUELLER is a Professor of Politics at Princeton and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna. He is the author of Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe.
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