Estranged Bedfellows under the Banner of American-Style ‘Democracy’

The Summit for Democracy hosted by the United States several days ago ended miserably. The U.S. acted in its own self-interest by dragging its allies into a “get-together” that ultimately ended in a lonely way. The banner of American-style democracy now not only fails to fool the international community at large, but is such that it cannot hide the fact that many U.S. allies are estranged, joined only in appearance.

A recent article published in The Washington Post hit the nail on the head by pointing out that a major flaw in the Summit for Democracy is the presumption that all democracies think alike based on their shared commitment to democratic values.

The fact is that the purported alliance headed by the U.S. is full of internal contradictions and apparent differences.

There is an inextricable conflict of interest among the U.S. and its allies. In recent years, under the guidelines of the “America First” policy, the U.S. has shown its true colors in valuing profit over justice. In its arrogance toward European allies and others, from tariff wars on steel and aluminum products, cheese and red wine, to disputes over aviation subsidies and digital service taxes, the U.S. and its allied nations have exchanged blows, with neither side giving in. After the Biden administration took office, despite an attempt to use language that placated and cater to allies who were deeply injured by its predecessor, in actual deed, there wasn’t much difference between administrations. From snatching up huge sums in French submarine purchases to ungraciously using Australia as an anti-China “pawn” and harvesting its lost share of Chinese commercial trade, America’s allies continue to feel grimly uneasy under the smiling face of “Big Brother.”

There is an immense strategic difference between the U.S. and its allies. The self-interested actions that the U.S. has taken make it difficult for European allies to rely on the trans-Atlantic alliance for their security. Despite the Biden administration’s proclamation that “America is back,” the cry for European strategic autonomy is getting louder every day. With respect to relations among the major powers, the U.S. is shrewdly roping its allies into an engagement of strategic competition with China and Russia, but the overwhelming majority of its allies oppose America’s push for such “decoupling” with China. Political circles in Europe rationally asserted that countries should not be prejudiced against China and that Western nations should cooperate with China on global issues. Prominent British scholar Martin Jacques has pointed out that differences in attitude about China are typically the No. 1 disagreement within the Group of Seven.

There is a grave danger involving trust between the U.S. and its allies. For some time, the U.S. has fostered an eavesdropping culture to protect its global hegemony and has even included allied European dignitaries on its surveillance list, causing extreme dissatisfaction in Europe. The U.S. hastily withdrew troops from Afghanistan without adequately consulting its allies, catching the troops of allied nations off-guard. U.S. behavior with regard to its allies is contemptible. Opinion polls show that merely one-third of those surveyed consider the U.S. to be a trustworthy, cooperative partner. Some figures in European political and academic circles believe that the experience of the Trump era, in addition to the prevailing uncertainty in American domestic politics, make the misgivings of European allies hard to brush off, and it is difficult for the European-U.S. relationship to recreate yesterday. France’s Le Monde warned that so long as the vital interests of the U.S. are involved, its European allies must not expect to receive any favors or courtesies.

The facts make clear that what the U.S. wants are not allies, but rather its own cheerleading squad. It does not want friends with whom it can stand on equal footing, but rather peons who will follow Americanism blindly. This sort of inherently unequal master-servant relationship is bound to go nowhere. The modern U.S. is facing many domestic problems, the system of alliances is in a critical state, the U.S. and its allies vying for profit is gradually becoming the norm, and a widening of disagreement is unavoidable.

At the global level one can see that the alliance system built by America is fundamentally meant to maintain its hegemony. For this reason, the U.S. will not hesitate to use its purported alliance strategy to manufacture international schisms and destroy international unity. This mountain stronghold mentality of forming cliques runs stubbornly counter to the international tendency toward collaboration and mutual profitability. It also runs counter to the current tendency to advocate for unity and cooperation and is doomed to have no future.

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