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  • Billionaire George Soros, who survived Nazism and Communism, has slammed Donald Trump, calling him a would-be dictator surrounded by incompetent extremists. (Photo by VCG/Getty Images)

    Billionaire George Soros, who survived Nazism and Communism, has slammed Donald Trump, calling him a would-be dictator surrounded by incompetent extremists. (Photo by VCG/Getty Images)

    Donald Trump has been slammed by his harshest criticism yet. Billionaire George Soros, who escaped Nazism as a child, called the president-elect a “would-be dictator” who has surrounded himself with extremists. “Democracy is now in crisis,” Soros warns in a new essay.

    “Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president,” he wrote on his Web site Project Syndicate.

    “Although Trump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he has changed neither his behavior nor his advisers. His cabinet comprises incompetent extremists and retired generals,” he added.

    In fact, the last time a president had so many generals calling the shots was in 1940s during World War II.

    Soros, 86, has stared despotism in the face. As a child, his home country, Hungary, was occupied by Hitler’s armies in 1944.

    “I probably would have perished had my father not understood the gravity of the situation. He arranged false identities for his family and for many other Jews; with his help, most survived,” he recounts.

    Then, Hungary fell to another dictatorship, the Communists. In 1947, Soros finally escaped to England, where he became a student at the London School of Economics and went on to pioneer the hedge fund industry, making billions of dollars.

    In his later years, Soros has supported liberal democratic causes. He backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

    “I find the current moment in history very painful,” he writes. “Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies – from fascist dictatorships to mafia states – are on the rise.”

    Without firm leadership from the United States, democracy is in trouble worldwide. Trump’s isolationist mindset suggests the nation, for the first time since World War II, will shrink from its leadership role. He explains:

    “The US will be preoccupied with internal struggles in the near future, and targeted minorities will suffer… The US will be unable to protect and promote democracy in the rest of the world. On the contrary, Trump will have greater affinity with dictators. That will allow some of them to reach an accommodation with the US, and others to carry on without interference. Trump will prefer making deals to defending principles. Unfortunately, that will be popular with his core constituency.”

    ‘How could this happen?” he asks.

    “The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.”

    The United States emerged as the sole superpower after the collapse of the rival Soviet Union in the 1990s. Since then, it’s shouldered the burden of promoting democracy and free markets around the world.

    At about the same time, the globalization of financial markets, “had far-reaching economic and political consequences,” he noted. The trend let to large concentrations of wealth among the “owners of financial capital” without mechanisms to spread the wealth to the public at large.

    “The lack of redistributive policies is the main source of the dissatisfaction that democracy’s opponents have exploited. But there were other contributing factors as well, particularly in Europe,” he writes.

    But then something went woefully wrong, he adds.

    “After the Crash of 2008, a voluntary association of equals was transformed into a relationship between creditors and debtors, where the debtors had difficulties in meeting their obligations and the creditors set the conditions the debtors had to obey. That relationship has been neither voluntary nor equal.”

    What’s more, it started “a process of disintegration.”

    “These forces of disintegration received a powerful boost in 2016, first from Brexit, then from the election of Trump, and on Dec. 4 from Italian voters’ rejection, by a wide margin, of constitutional reforms.”

    Soros says he’s confidence American democracy will prove resilient, thanks to the U.S. Constitution and other institutions, including the media.

    But without U.S. leadership, “Europe could be in danger of coming under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose concept of government is irreconcilable with that of open society,” he says.

    Putin, he says, has worked hard to create disarray in the West.

    “At first, he tried to control social media. Then, in a brilliant move, he exploited social media companies’ business model to spread misinformation and fake news, disorienting electorates and destabilizing democracies. That is how he helped Trump get elected. The same is likely to happen in the European election season in 2017 in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. In France, the two leading contenders are close to Putin and eager to appease him. If either wins, Putin’s dominance of Europe will become a fait accompli.

    But the United States, traditionally a bulwark against Russian expansionism, is now in the hands of a president-elect who shows no inclination to stand up to Russian aggression.