On Friday, President Joe Biden will wrap off his two-day virtual Summit for Democracy by emphasizing the significance of election integrity, opposing authoritarian governments, and boosting independent media.
On the first day of the summit, Biden stated that the United States will invest up to $424 million throughout the world to promote independent media, anti-corruption efforts, and other initiatives. He announced the project as he urged international leaders to join him in combating what he saw as an alarming erosion of democracy throughout the world.
“Will we continue to allow the erosion of rights and democracy to go unchecked?” Biden stated this on Thursday. “Or will we, as a group – as a group — have a vision… and the fortitude to once again lead the march of human development and freedom forward?”
On Friday afternoon, the president will offer concluding comments to leaders and civil society organizations.
As he launched the meeting, Biden avoided mentioning China or Russia by name. However, he has frequently argued that the United States and like-minded partners must demonstrate to the world that democracies are vastly superior than autocracies as vehicles for society. It’s a core part of Biden’s foreign policy philosophy, which he promised would be more outward-looking than Trump’s “America First” approach.
“We know as well as anyone here in the United States that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institutions takes ongoing effort,” Biden said.
The United States’ main foes and other countries who were not invited to the video session on Thursday reacted angrily.
China’s and Russia’s embassies to the United States authored a joint piece condemning the Biden administration as having a “Cold-War mindset” that will “spice up ideological conflict and a division in the globe,” despite the fact that neither country was invited. The government was also questioned about how it chose which nations to invite.
Other leaders at the summit made their own speeches — many of which were scripted — on the condition of democracy, frequently reflecting on the strain that quickly expanding technology is putting on their countries. They also expressed concern about the rise of misinformation tactics aimed at weakening institutions and elections.
Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s Prime Minister, stated, “The democratic dialogue is shifting.” “New technologies and huge digital businesses are increasingly setting the stage for democratic discussion, with a focus on reach rather than freedom of expression in certain cases.”
The meeting comes as Biden presses Russian President Vladimir Putin to back down following a significant army buildup on the Ukraine border that has raised concerns in Washington, Europe, and Ukraine. On Wednesday, Biden warned Putin that if Russia attacked, there would be “serious repercussions.”
“Democracy is not a given; it must be fought for,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who attended Thursday’s conference and subsequently spoke by phone with Biden, wrote on Twitter.
Andrzej Duda of Poland spoke out against Russia in his speech, condemning Moscow’s backing for Belarus.
In response for the European Union’s sanctions on his autocratic dictatorship, Poland and Western allies have accused Russian ally Belarus of using migrants as pawns to undermine the EU. Hundreds of migrants have come to the Belarus-Poland border, the most of them are from the Middle East.
According to Duda, Poland “took on a commitment to be a supporter of democracy in Eastern Europe.” “It’s a lovely task, but it has implications.” It has turned us into a propaganda target for the Kremlin.”
Putin made no public comments about the meeting on Thursday because he was on a video chat with members of the Kremlin’s human rights council.
Biden has said that the passage of his ambitious domestic agenda — the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law, as well as the roughly $2 trillion “Build Back Better Act” of social and climate change initiatives currently moving through the Senate — will show how democracy can improve people’s lives.
Some supporters also want Biden to put greater emphasis on strengthening democracy at home. The House passed the Protecting Our Democracy Act on Thursday, the third of a trio of proposals — together with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — supported mostly by Democrats. Republicans in the Senate are anticipated to stymie all three.
“We know that our democracy is not immune from challenges here in the United States,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the end of the first day of the conference, referring to the January Capitol insurgency. “The events of January 6 hang large in our collective consciousness, and anti-voter measures established in several states are part of a deliberate effort to keep Americans from participating in our democracy.”
In its annual report, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance stated that the number of nations suffering democratic backsliding “has never been as high” as it has been in the previous decade, with the United States joining India and Brazil on the list.
The conference has been met with a barrage of public criticism from Chinese leaders. They’ve also expressed their displeasure with the administration’s invitation to Taiwan to participate. China considers the self-governing island to be part of its territory and opposes it making connections with international governments on its own.
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, has declined to attend the meeting. “We appreciate our connection with the United States, which we seek to strengthen both bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation,” the foreign ministry said in a statement released before of the meeting.
Pakistan’s relationship with the United States, on the other hand, has been plagued with distrust on both sides. Islamabad has reacted angrily to Washington’s repeated assertions that Pakistan has not been a loyal ally in the war on terror, accusing it of sheltering the Taliban while fighting a US-led coalition. Pakistan claims that it has lost 70,000 people in the war on terror since 2001 and that it is willing to cooperate in peace but not in war.
Other uninvited nations have expressed their unhappiness as well. Hungary, the sole member of the European Union not invited, attempted but failed to prevent the EU Commission’s president from speaking on behalf of the group at the summit. Biden called Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban a “thug” last year.
The meeting, according to Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, would be a “domestic political-type of event,” with only nations whose leaders have a solid connection with Trump being invited.