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Democracy summit or geopolitical confrontation?

11.12.2021
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According to G. Carpenter

The highly publicized Washington Virtual Summit for Democracy, held on December 9 and 10, is already provoking well-founded criticism. The focus of US foreign policy on promoting democracy - if not substantively, then rhetorically - brings to mind the ill-fated efforts of George W. Bush. Playing the democracy card has also exacerbated already serious tensions between the Biden administration and Russia and China. Both powers interpret the summit as an attempt to draw other countries into hostile containment policies against them.

The worst feature of the summit, however, is the hypocrisy of US democracy policies. Yes, this is a long-standing and unpleasant feature of Washington's foreign policy. Many of the Free World allies that US leaders supported, financed, and armed throughout the Cold War were in fact violent and corrupt tyrants. What mattered to US officials was that these regimes were reliably anti-communist and anti-Soviet. The nature of their domestic rule could - as was usually done - be ignored. The Biden Summit invitee highlights that US double standards for democracy are alive and well.

Although the administration has ruled out governments that are obvious, undeniable autocratic regimes, some of the invitees have generated surprise, if not outright revulsion, from people who are truly committed to democratic norms. Despite the State Department's own reports confirming that Pakistan and the Philippines are often guilty of "extrajudicial killings" and other violations of civil liberties, representatives from both governments attended the summit. Kosovo is also on the invite list, although key members of the country's political elite are to appear before an international tribunal on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charges in this case include the systematic killing of prisoners of war for the purpose of selling their organs on the international black market.

US leaders want India to become an active participant in containment policies against China. The Trump-Biden administration has aggressively lobbied for the transformation of the quadripartite security dialogue, commonly known as the Quartet, of Japan, Australia, India and the United States, into a military alliance for this purpose. Despite the fact that the Quartet is conducting more and more joint military exercises, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far refrained from taking on political commitments, but Washington's courtship continues. Brazil is a key economic and political player in the Western Hemisphere, and Washington is particularly concerned about the government of President Jair Bolsonaro and its growing economic ties with Russia and China.

The way for small countries with highly questionable democratic reputations to win Washington's approval for a democracy summit was by obediently following the US lead on important international issues. It is noteworthy, for example, that Poland and even Ukraine received invitations to the conclave, while NATO member Hungary did not. Of course, there is no doubt that the Hungarian government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is showing growing autocratic tendencies. However, Poland is displaying similar anxious behavior, albeit in a slightly milder form. However, there is one significant difference; Warsaw enthusiastically accepts Washington's confrontational policy towards Russia, while Budapest is much more ambiguous.

Washington's hypocrisy is even more evident in inviting Ukraine to the summit. Ukraine was even more egregious than Hungary in silenced opposition media and other violations of civil liberties. In its 2021 Political Freedom Report, Freedom House gives Hungary sixty-nine points, placing it in the "partially free" category. But Ukraine is getting an even more anemic score of sixty, continuing its steady decline over the past several years. India has sixty-seven points; Philippines - fifty-six; Kosovo - fifty-four; Pakistan has a grim thirty-seven, which barely keeps it out of the "not free" category. However, Washington has decided to treat Ukraine as a NATO member in everything but name and make Kiev its foremost ally against Russia. Consequently, the deterioration of democratic values ​​and practices in Ukraine is considered insignificant.

Such blatant double standards should not be accepted anywhere in the world. The Democracy Summit demonstrates that Washington's alleged commitment to freedom and democratic values, as a key feature of US foreign policy, is more inconsistent and hypocritical than ever.

 

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