By convening the second so-called "Summit for Democracy" Tuesday through Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden's administration could further split the world into opposing camps, fanning the flame of ideological confrontation that will only bring more tumult.
Unlike the inaugural summit two years ago where Washington was the lone organizer, four more co-hosts, namely Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia were handpicked by Washington for the second gathering, which -- according to the summit's schedule -- weaves the rhetoric of democracy into matters of politics, the economy, social equity and technology.
While the fact that the world's four major continents have each been allocated a co-host is a deliberate arrangement designed to showcase U.S. efforts to convince nations worldwide of the merits of "democratic value" as well as the viability and reliability of "democratic institutions," the world at large may hardly buy into the ostentation, and the pageantry may well prove useless.
The announced substance of the summit put aside, the list of invitees alone has drawn a considerable amount of criticism from experts, who point to some U.S. allies being excluded while countries where democracy is "backsliding" are included.
"One problem is that the hosts may end up paying a political price for excluding some states from what is little more than a glorified talking shop," wrote Daniel Larison in an article carried by Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
Larison and other experts have noticed that as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- hence allies of the United States, Türkiye and Hungary have for the second consecutive time been left off the list of invitees, signaling Washington's hypocritical recognition of them as allies.
Asked to explain why Ankara and Budapest were excluded, John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communication at the U.S. National Security Council, failed to provide a reason, only telling reporters at a virtual press briefing Tuesday that the United States is "very committed to furthering and strengthening our relationships with Türkiye and Hungary."
"If the hosts refuse to draw any lines about which states can participate, they open themselves up to criticism that the summit has no substance," Larison said in his article, adding that the United States and its fellow host countries making arbitrary decisions on the selection of participants will open them up to "charges of hypocrisy and favoritism."
FORCED TO TAKE SIDES
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that the ongoing summit, just like the preceding one in 2021, will yield no results of democratic advancement for the participants.
The Russian envoy told U.S. magazine Newsweek in an interview in the days leading up to the summit that Moscow established three flaws in the first summit based on conversations with those who participated.
"It turned out that many of them, firstly, had no idea of what the essence of Washington's undertaking was," Antonov was quoted as saying. "Secondly, they were driven the importance of being in a group of 'leading democracies' of the world. Thirdly, as some diplomats put it, the path of least resistance was taken."
"Nothing was requested, and the establishment of another forum for discussions on democratic transformations entailed no consequences for their countries," he said. "The situation with the second 'Summit' is actually the same."
William Jones, Washington bureau chief of U.S. publication Executive Intelligence Review, in an article echoed the Russian ambassador's view that participants were forced to side with the United States.
"When the United States extends an invitation, it behooves one to accept, since a refusal would result in retribution from a country that has proven it can be quite harsh in dealing with recalcitrants," Jones said.
FAILING MODEL TO FOLLOW
As regards the substance of the summit, Kirby at a press call on Monday briefed reporters on a number of deliverables that will be announced at the summit.
"The whole idea of a summit for democracy is to stand up for this very idea of democracy, to acknowledge that maintaining democratic institutions requires a whole heck of a lot of work and effort, honesty, transparency and accountability," he said.
However, transparency and accountability are exactly what is missing now in U.S. political institutions.
"We need a government that is more transparent and accountable to the people," Larison said. "Our leaders preach democracy to the rest of the world while neglecting or weakening it at home."
For Antonov, the U.S. democracy is deeply flawed. Questions arose "in principle, about the ability and largely the moral right of Washington -- dealing with many political and socio-economic controversies at home -- to impose its canons and way of life on others," he has said.
"Doesn't America have problems with racism, gun violence, corruption and social inequality? Why are approximately 40 million people living below the poverty line in the richest country in the world? Yet, the 50 wealthiest Americans are richer than half the U.S. population," the Russian envoy said.
"There is also a clear problem with the freedom of speech, evidenced eloquently by the 'cancel culture' -- cutting out people from the public sphere for dissenting views," he said.
"The idea that we are going to spread democracy is just silly, because we don't have democracy to spread," Daniel Kovalik, an American lawyer who teaches international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"The people in America don't think that they're being represented by their government, and they're not," he said. "We neglect our infrastructure. We neglect our people's health. Our banking system is falling apart... We have the most prisoners in the world of any country in absolute numbers and proportion of the population."