US Gathers Forces for a Lengthy Siege of Russia

Russia and China were blatantly not invited to a major international event organized by the United States — the Summit for Democracy. Turkey and even Austria also found themselves outsiders to this gathering. What is the summit’s real goal? Why are Moscow and Beijing reacting to it so sharply? What opportunities could it still offer Russia?

“A great man doesn’t seek to lead. He’s called to it,” Duke Leto Atreides tells his son Paul in the recent blockbuster “Dune.” It seems the world now calls for a leader who must unite all nations and lead them away from the perfect storm. A storm in which old threats — the threat of large-scale war, hunger, political stability — have mixed with new ones — COVID-19, the energy crisis, the destruction of the global rulebook.

However, instead of answering this call, the United States — a nation positioning itself as world leader — is beginning to seek to lead, thus fracturing the world more. The Americans are doing this by fulfilling Joe Biden’s February pledge: convening the Summit for Democracy.

Old Idea

It would seem that this decision is no big deal. “The idea of uniting democracies under U.S. leadership isn’t new. This reflects its ideologized approach to foreign policy and its tradition of viewing democracies as legitimate countries and natural U.S. partners. Biden’s idea about the Summit for Democracy isn’t essentially different from the idea of the League of Democracies advanced by then-Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain in 2008,” explained Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the National Research University, Higher School of Economics, to Vzglyad newspaper.

The State Department published a list of invitees which includes 110 nations and territories. “The summit will focus on challenges and opportunities facing democracies and will provide a platform for leaders to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad,” the State Department explained.

The State Department is expected to announce measures in three areas: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. Human rights advocates are seriously hoping for the announcement of genuine and serious initiatives. “The United States cannot allow the summit to devolve into a flurry of empty rhetoric. Instead, it should use the occasion to commit fellow democracies to support for human rights defenders, journalists and democracy activists around the world,” said Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. That support would be financial as well as political.

For the United States, this summit, in the words of the State Department, presents an opportunity “to listen, learn, and engage with a diverse range of actors whose support and commitment is critical for global democratic renewal.” In approximately a year a new summit will occur — in Biden’s words, to “take stock of the progress made and forge a common path ahead.”

New Meaning

However, the problem is that this isn’t only another human rights advocacy gathering. “Now this idea is taking on essentially new meaning,” said Suslov. “That foreign policy paradigm, which prevailed after the end of the Cold War and consisted of the aspiration to spread democracy to the rest of the world and also transform it in accordance with American values, is a thing of the past. The U.S. has rejected it for the foreseeable future, and in its place, it’s moving toward a new paradigm: the consolidation of American partners and allies — particularly democracies — around the U.S. in opposition to America’s enemies. First and foremost, China and Russia.

“Therefore, the Summit for Democracy is a U.S. attempt to implement new global division, a global demarcation of the world. To create new bipolarity where at one pole there will be consolidated democracies with the U.S. at their head, and at the other those countries which the U.S. considers authoritarian. Those are Russia and China.”

It’s unsurprising that Moscow and Beijing reacted sharply against America’s most recent attempt to instill division in the world community. “This event, certainly, has a confrontational, divisive focus and presents another link in the realization of Washington’s plan to re-ideologize international relations,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. “Under the slogan of advancing democracy, the U.S. is gathering another group of interested parties for conflict with countries that preserve their strategic independence from the collective West, that preserve their sovereign vision of an equitable world order, namely Russia and China.”

Moscow is not going to make peace with U.S. attempts to usurp ideas, either — for example, the exclusive right to declare certain countries democratic, and others non-democratic.

“More and more countries prefer to decide for themselves how to live without looking to anyone. But these U.S. attempts are being made, they’re trying to privatize the word ‘democracy.’ That is, democracy is only that which is consistent with Washington’s understanding. But it’s obvious this cannot be, and should not be. In fact, it’s not,” said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary.

The Chinese also subscribe to his view, calling the summit an “anti-Chinese ideological clique.” “As sunlight breaks up into different colors inside a water droplet, democracy cannot be in one single color or defined by one single country,” an article in the Chinese Global Times stated. “U.S. actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world,” said Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

New Challenges, New Friends?

“Whatever the cycle — strengthening confrontation, weakening it, or the Biden administration’s desire to stabilize this confrontation — Moscow is viewed as a long-term enemy. So this is about global confrontation, a new cold war for at least several decades,” warned Suslov.

But on the other hand, the summit also offers natural opportunities. It allows for Russia to build relationships with new partners.

The fact is, the list of invitees to the summit was rather specific. There was no place for NATO and the European Union nation of Hungary (although Poland, which evokes no fewer questions on the subject of human rights advocacy, were invited — clearly because they handle the anti-Russian agenda better). Another U.S. NATO ally, Turkey, is also not on the list.

From the entire Middle East, only Israel and Iraq were invited. Egypt (a U.S. ally) was not invited, nor even Qatar, which hosts a very important American military air base.

“After the world watched the disregard for rule of law, expansion of executive power and mistrust of elections spread throughout the United States, the question is: What moral authority does Washington have to lecture the rest of the world about democracy?” Al-Jazeera asked, frustrated. Among Asian countries, Thailand and Vietnam were not invited, nor Singapore, which to this day remains a model of economic development and democratization with an “Eastern specificity.”

All of these countries play an important role in American geopolitical plans and are now offended by the status of “ally, but not partner.” Both Moscow and Beijing can benefit from this resentment. After all, a true leader doesn’t seek friendship — friends find him themselves.

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