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Lucan Way’s elucidating account of postcommunist authoritarianism and democratization includes compelling critiques of diffusion-based arguments, particularly with regard to timing and electoral cycles. Yet his interpretation glosses over a distinction that ought to be the foundation of any discussion about post-Soviet governments—the distinction among regimes, rulers, and political teams. Further, Way underestimates the importance of the strength of autocratic parties or armed forces. Autocrats need strong parties and armed forces because they need either to resist or to control something. To understand the power of whatever that “something” is, political scientists need to pay greater attention to the weak legitimacy of autocracy.
Western pressure can be decisive, but it is not always easy to forecast when and how it will be applied.