Feast of obedience: will the «Summit for Democracy» rebuild the world?

0:41, 12 декабря 2021

МОСКВА, 12 декабря 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.

Video conferences at the highest level, which are also video meetings, have become the hallmark of the outgoing year. The pandemic has turned this genre, which recently seemed exotic, into a routine of big politics.

The US president has been particularly frequent in it lately: after Joe Biden’s «difficult» video talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, on December 9, he opened a large-scale online project — a virtual «Summit for Democracy» with the participation of heads of states and government, businessmen and human rights activists from 110 countries and territories. «Difficult» interlocutors were not invited to it.

The US President’s speech at the opening of this two-day forum was not just thought of as the final international event of the outgoing year. We are talking about a global plan – a geopolitical project designed to revive the idea of American leadership based on the values of democracy.

And also about a personal challenge: Biden justified this idea in 2017 in the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine (the publication was entitled «How to stand up to the Kremlin») and developed it in spite of Trump during the election race in 2019, and in his inaugural speech he declared the opposition of democracies to authoritarianism as the core of his international policy.

The idea itself is not new, it can be said to be hereditary. The thesis that the spread of democracy will lead to prosperity was promoted by many leaders of the Democratic Party, from Wilson in 1917 to Roosevelt in 1941, of course, each of them did it in the context and in the formulations of their own era.

And even the timing of the event is highly symbolic: between the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (December 7, 1941) and Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States (December 11), after which America entered World War II. In general, everything is meaningful: democracies in the world are under threat again, but America is still ready to protect them. And to lead them.

The plans have been announced. «To inspire commitment and initiatives around three main themes: protection from authoritarianism, the fight against corruption and the promotion of respect for human rights”, it’s in this way that the summit’s task is formulated in a statement from the White House. The general formulation is concretised by the call to find ways to counter authoritarian leaders who operate outside their countries.

Europe was the first to be confused by this new missionary: the trends of modern American politics cause fears that the case will end with the selective imposition of sanctions against individuals, or even countries that, according to the organisers, are involved in serious violations in the three areas listed above. But is it possible to do this without discussing the criteria of true democracy in the modern world?

There is a characteristic detail. The event was preceded by a «warm-up», which has already become part of the genre of virtual big politics — invitations were sent out from the summer and were received as an indulgence, at the same time receivers began to guess what sanctions were waiting for those who would not be invited to the summit.

Alas, under the talk of democracy, all the preparatory work, distributed over the months to different think tanks, went surprisingly quietly – a sure sign, experts of the genre point out, that «specifics» are being prepared according to reports of the intelligence agencies. It’s interesting what new «red lines» this approach will draw our world with and in which directions of the world will this «right UN» begin to expand after NATO, AUKUS and other blocs and partnerships?

It is precisely for this reason that one of the main questions immediately became the choice of participants. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov qualified the event as one of the «most odious projects,» noting that when Washington decides who to invite and who not to «their own inter-party» after the bombing of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and the 20-year experiment in Afghanistan, it looks «just cynical”. 

If to briefly list the questions on the candidates, it is noteworthy that, in addition to China and Russia, Hungary (a member of the EU and NATO) and Turkey (the most difficult partner in NATO) are not invited. But among the democracies, there was a place for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (in fact, an incapacitated state), the Philippines (huge problems with corruption), Brazil (whose president regularly scares with authoritarian gestures), Pakistan (to which there are many questions about democracy), as well as Taiwan (it is clear without comments, in spite of whom and why).

The alignment of the former republics of the USSR is also interesting. Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan are outside the summit. But the three Baltic republics, as well as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are present. It is clear that they are considered as «their own» in the plans to confront Moscow. But what does the promotion of democracy have to do with it?

This, however, is not all. The latest (November) report of the International Institute for the Promotion of Democracy and Elections (IDEA), an inter-governmental organisation based in Stockholm that monitors the dynamics of democratic and authoritarian trends in the world every one or two years, raised the most unpleasant questions regarding the criteria for the organisers of the summit.

So, the report estimates: for the 5th year, the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction exceeds the number of countries that are developing towards democracy. At the moment, actually by three-fold.

At the same time, a separate souvenir went to the «teacher». «Significantly, the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself,» the IDEA report says. In the comments it was said: the visible manifestations of the deterioration are the tendency not only to challenge the results of voting and difficulty in participating in elections (which is manifested not only at the federal level, but also at the state level), but also the mechanism of elections.

Separately, it is noted that the tough challenge of the 2020 election result (the attack on the Capitol) undermined confidence in democratic procedures not only in the United States, but also in other countries. In particular, in Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru.

However, talking about the real reasons for the erosion of democracy in its main «bastion» is not exactly part of the plans of the American organisers: it’s not for this that they are gathering. Enemies are appointed in advance and will be appointed in the future – these are all those who doubt the «ideal».

And since the next «Summit for Democracy» is planned to be held in a year already in full-time format, it looks very much like a new and permanent mechanism for dividing the world into «friends» and «strangers» is being developed. With the right to move from one group to another only in case of successful completion of the obedience exam and an unmistakable choice of geopolitical priorities.

So the rhetoric that will be heard in the coming days at the forum is hardly worth listening to. But it’s worth taking a closer look at the pressure mechanisms that will be announced. In order to understand how to resist them.

publication-7604Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат