Biden’s Summit for Democracy heightens global political divisions before it even begins

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US President Joe Biden speaks at the NJ Transit Meadowlands Maintenance Complex in Kearney, NJ on October 25.Ivan Vucci / The Associated Press

US President Joe Biden will host the leaders of the world’s democracies on Thursday and Friday in an online summit to shore up a political system that has lost ground to a rising tide of authoritarianism.

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But the Summit for Democracy has exacerbated geopolitical divisions even before it began, with China and Russia accusing Biden of Cold War thinking and attempting to divide the world into blocs once again. And the invitation list of 111 countries – filled with governments with dubious democratic credentials – has sparked fresh acrimony among those who stood with Washington during the Cold War, with NATO allies Turkey and Hungary angered by their exclusion from the virtual meeting. .

The democratic world Mr. Biden is seeking to rally is under pressure from some autocrats ousted from the summit. Ukraine, which is among the invitees, faces the threat of a massive Russian invasion. Taiwan, another invitee, is dealing with Chinese displays of force and rhetoric about the subjugation of the island, which Beijing sees as a renegade province. There have been new conflicts in recent weeks between Armenia, which is considered a democracy by Mr Biden, and Azerbaijan, an autocracy that received Turkey’s backing during a victorious 44-day war against its neighbor last year.

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Ahead of US summit, China tries to move goalposts on the meaning of ‘democracy’

Meanwhile, there are fresh concerns about fragile peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, an uninvited figure between Croatia and Montenegro, the two countries invited to the summit. The leader of Bosnia’s ethnic Serb – inspired by Russia and fellow non-invited Serbia – has alarmed many in Europe by announcing his intention to withdraw from the country’s institutions and effectively secede from the Bosnian state.

In the Middle East, only Israel and Iraq were invited, making it clear that two decades of US military intervention in the region, which began with talk of freeing people living under dictatorships, would achieve that goal. had failed to do. Only a handful of countries in East Asia and Africa met White House criteria for democracy, including head-scratchers such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola, which, like Iraq, were characterized as “not free” by US-based The place has been given. NGO Freedom House.

On December 8, Ukrainian troops pass destroyed buildings on the front line in Marinka, Ukraine.Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Canada’s Chief of Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre said during a visit to Kiev last week that he saw the world as a more dangerous place than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

“It’s called a return to history,” said General Eyre, who served as a peacekeeper in the Balkans and in Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula during the 1990s. “You have long-standing historical fault lines… Some of the geopolitical challenges we’re seeing here have been going on for centuries — and 30 years of history isn’t going to overcome that.”

With about 100,000 Russian soldiers gathering near the border with Ukraine, General Eyre said the dangers of today’s world can sometimes seem too far-fetched to Canadians. But that separation is eroding, he said, as geopolitical frictions mount and countries such as Russia and China make territorial claims, some of which overlap with Canada’s own claims in the Arctic.

“Look at the deteriorating security situation around the world,” General Eyre said, predicting that the Canadian military would be called upon more and more in the coming years. “The world is shrinking in terms of technological capabilities. We see some weapon systems being deregulated. Nowhere is Canada as secure or insular as it once was.”

Russian military vehicles prepare to be loaded onto an aircraft for aerial exercises during maneuvers in Crimea on April 22.The Associated Press

Mr Biden’s supporters see the Summit for Democracy as an attempt to reverse the trend towards a liberal government by re-establishing American leadership. “President Biden sees this as a personal mission to halt the decline of democracy around the world,” said former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogg Rasmussen, who now heads the Alliance for Democracy, a non-profit group Which promotes representative government. “This one summit will not stop the autocrats moving forward, but it could mark the beginning of our pushback and a turning point in the fall of the free world.”

A pre-summit on Wednesday will include speakers such as this year’s joint Nobel Peace Prize laureate, journalist Maria Russa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia. At the session on Media Freedom and Sustainability, Secretary of State Melanie Jolie will deliver concluding remarks.

The main summit will open with Mr Biden’s speech on Thursday, followed by sessions focused on “strengthening democratic resilience” after the pandemic, as well as combating corruption. Friday will focus on combating authoritarianism, with keynote speakers such as Svyatlana Tsykhanovskaya, leader of the democratic opposition to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the invited leaders, but was not listed as speaker at any of the sessions. Most leaders are expected to deliver pre-recorded video messages during the main summit.

Ahead of the online gathering, the US Treasury Department this week announced new sanctions targeting individuals and entities in Iran, Syria and Uganda that it accused of “serious human rights abuses that undermine democracy”.

But after the rise of Donald Trump, and the violent riots that followed his election defeat to Mr. Biden, the United States is no longer considered the beacon of democracy during the Cold War. When Hungary – where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has strangled civil society and free media in his 11 years in power – was excluded from the online summit, it did so by mocking the state of American democracy, not for the invitation. reacted.

“Hungary does not have serious democratic problems like the United States,” said Gergeli Gulias, the head of Mr Orban’s office. “If we can help and America feels it needs our advice, we are available. In Hungary, we are not at the point where nearly a third of voters think democratic elections are rigged.

State media in China and Russia have also drawn similar scathing criticism. China’s hawkish Global Times tabloid ran an editorial accusing the US of using a “unilateral interpretation of democracy” to “divide the world into two camps”. And Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the US of “drawing new dividing lines and dividing countries into good and bad”.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the West would impose “strong economic and other measures” on Russia if Russia attacked Ukraine, while Putin demanded guarantees that NATO would expand further east. will not

Reuters

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