Authoritarian Leaders and US Foreign Policy


Governmental systems and government regimes have been developing throughout centuries. The nation needs the social processes within a community to be organized and controlled so that any citizen could feel safe and comfortable. However, the social, financial, cultural, industrial, and many other systems depend not only on how the society within the country functions but, rather, on how it is affected by other nations. To protect the country in challenging times, the government may make unpopular decisions. Authoritarian governments – dictatorship, authoritarianism, or totalitarianism – are the ones where the decisions made maybe the most criticized. Nonetheless, at times, these regimes may save an entire country. The experts argue if it is possible to provide military and financial support to authoritarian governments, or it is immoral to condone the human rights violation. In this paper, the US foreign policy, its support of the authoritarian leaders, and their possible positive roles on the world stage will be considered.

The Impact of the Authoritarian Countries and US Foreign Policy

The Possible Positive Role of the Authoritarian Government

Before proceeding with the topic, it is necessary to consider the structure, functioning, inherent features, and possible positive role of the authoritarian countries in the first place. Authoritarianism is described as a form of government that centralizes the power in the government bodies and limits civil freedoms (Heller 296). The authoritarian strategy may be applied during economic crises or wartime – it may be possible to condone the human rights violation in order to raise the country’s economic system, for instance (Anderson). During the Francisco Franco regime, he approved the public sector intervention in the country’s economy, which helped to stabilize it by 1957 (Domingo). However, the economic growth did not concern Extremadura, Castilla–La Mancha, and Andalusia, leaving the regions mired in poverty. Still, the economic growth facilitated by Franco’s regime is nothing compared to the massacre of the defeated party in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 – 1939 (Aragoneses 180). Therefore, the authoritarian form of government, in Franco’s case, affected the economy of Spain positively but caused many deaths among the population.

Another example of the controversy of these regimes is Stalin’s government. To prevent the spread of fascism and win World War II, Russia has made great sacrifices. The authoritarian government was established in 1917 and has been sustained during Stalin’s rule. To prevent the spread of fascism, the governor issued decree 277, which impeded the soviet soldiers to retreat; otherwise, they will be executed on the spot. Stalin combated any form for the treason to be committed, to reinforce the influence of the Socialist Party (Furr). Nonetheless, to prevent the undermining of the party, the governor repressed, exiled, and killed countless amount of doctors, scientists, writers, poets, workers, and soldiers (Furr). The dictator’s government achieved elimination of the world threat by militarizing the country’s system, but every soviet family suffered heavy losses.

With this in mind, one may consider whether the authoritarian leaders may be condoned the massacres and atrocities they contributed to or even provoked themselves. On the one hand, Franco’s regime contributed to economic growth and saved the country, preventing it from intervention in World War II. On the other hand, he repressed and ruthlessly killed the communist party leaders. Stalin stopped the world threat of fascism and saved the rest of the world from its expansion, but then he committed mass genocide within the country. However, before judging the government, one should consider the fact that the reasoning for the solutions made is not always clear to the ordinary citizen. The whole picture may be inexplicit since the political elite and governors may not report on all the decisions made to the public for one reason or another.

The Author’s Opinion on the Authoritarian Leaders’ Support

The author’s opinion on the authoritarian leaders’ support, even conditional, is to be explicated. The author believes that the conditional support of the dictators should be meticulously considered and strictly limited. The national interests’ of a country should be, on the one hand, addressed adequately, and, on the other, respect other countries’ interests and human rights in the first place. Further, the author’s position will be explicated; the evidence will be provided.

The struggle for petroleum that developed in the Persian Gulf is a clear example of the authoritarian leaders’ support. The US set the following goals of its foreign policy: “to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community” (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor). Whereas, former president Bush stated that dependency on oil import is a “national security concern” (Krieg 101). The national security, the country’s army, in particular, relies on the oil reserves, which are abundant in the Middle East. The abundance of oil became the national interest of many countries; the US is among them. Having supported Saddam Hussein, they have supported, in fact, the use of chemical weapons, human wave attacks, the involvement of children in war actions, and devastating civilian casualties.

The author believes that authoritarian leaders may be supported in the case of an emergency, and the support program should be appropriately considered beforehand. The emergency case may be, for example, a threat to the great part of the world community on behalf of a certain country. The limitations in arms sales, soldiers training, the supply of military hardware, and other services of the kind should be regulated by NATO, if possible, and the world community. Otherwise, unlimited support may lead to great causalities for no reasonable goal.

The US Foreign Policy and the Relationships with the Authoritarian Countries

To protect and provide prosperity to a country, the government must maintain relationships with diverse countries, including authoritarian ones. According to the Democracy Index in 2019, the most authoritarian countries are North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Syria, Chad, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen (Khodadadi 29). Despite the different government regimes, the US maintains relationships with these countries to varying degrees.

Currently, the relationship between the US and North Korea is rather tense. The North Korea crisis, which provoked the tension, developed in 2017 due to the conducted missile and nuclear tests and the threats to the US on behalf of North Korea. In spite of the further summit between President Trump and Kim in 2018 and the declaration on “full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the relations are still strained.

At the moment, the US maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries, except Iran, North Korea, Butan, and Syria. The US provides military aid to some countries – with 70 million dollars received, Yemen is among them (Mills 114). The United States also provides financial aid to Tajikistan and has been known for delivering to the country over 1 billion dollars. The United States is also known for promoting its government regime, democracy, to the world. Although the democratization process in Turkmenistan is still arguable – the promotion of the economic and democratic reforms are in progress (Mills 121). The US efforts to expand the democracy, however, do not concern some countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Despite some economic agreements the US has with Saudi Arabia, the relationship between them remains strained.

The government is to maintain the relationships with other leaders to ensure the prosperity of a country; authoritarian ones are no exception. The United States should maintain good relationships even with these countries, although they are to be adequately considered and restricted. To protect the country, the US government should regulate relations appropriately with North Korea and Saudi Arabia and control military aid to the Middle East. The resource exchange, trading prospects, other country’s interests towards the US, and the military power should be evaluated before making arrangements with the authoritarian leaders.


To ensure a country’s prosperity, the government may come to unordinary, and sometimes, unpopular decisions. Whether it is democracy or authoritarianism, each of them may contribute to the country’s economic, cultural, and military growth in challenging times. However, in authoritarian countries, human rights may be violated for the good of the nation or a particular community. Authoritarian leadership may have a positive impact on some aspects of life. Authoritarianism may be supported in difficult times, in the case of a grave threat to the world community, for instance, but should be meticulously considered and limited. The US, at the moment, provides military and financial aid to some countries, delivering to some the financial resources to purchase the military equipment, and to implement economic reforms to others. It is necessary to maintain good relationships with the diverse countries to ensure national security and prosperity, but be conscious of the methods and nature of these relationships.

Works Cited

Anderson, L. “Pre-Copernican Political Science: What Analysis of “Authoritarianism” Reveals About the American Study of Politics.” Journal of International Affairs, vol. 71, no. 1, 2017. Web.

Aragoneses, A. “Law and memory (towards legal governance of history).” Legal Silences and the Memory of Francoism in Spain, edited by Belavusau Uladzislau and Gliszczyńska-Grabias Aleksandra, Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp: 175-194.

Domingo, I. “A Diabolical Plaything: Empty Signifiers and the Construction of Francoism’s Long-lasting Historical Myth in Spain.” Social Semiotics, vol. 30, no. 3, 2018. Web.

Furr, G. “October: The Story of the Russian Revolution.” Socialism and Democracy, vol. 32, no. 1, 2018. Web.

Heller, H. “Authoritarian Liberalism?” European Law Journal, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, pp: 295-301. Web.

Khodadadi, M. “Donald Trump, US Foreign Policy and Potential Impacts on Iran’s Tourism Industry: Post-Nuclear Deal.” Tourism Management Perspectives, vol. 26, no. 4, 2018, pp: 28-30. Web.

Krieg, A. “Externalizing the Burden of War: The Obama Doctrine and US Foreign Policy in the Middle East.” International Affairs, vol. 92, no. 1, 2016, pp: 97-113. Web.

Mills, D. Q., and Rosefielde, S. “The Trump phenomenon and the future of US foreign policy.” A Successful American Foreign Policy, World Scientific Publishing Company., 2016.

“Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.” U.S. Department of State, 2020. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Authoritarian Leaders and US Foreign Policy." December 22, 2022.