“Biden’s Awkward Democracy Summit”

Edward Luce, a Financial Times columnist who was Larry Summers’ speechwriter and remains a whisperer to top Democrats, has published a peculiar and revealing piece musing about the failure (although Luce won’t use such a direct work) of Biden’s second summit for democracy. The fact that this two day virtual summit has only just started and Luce is already making polite criticisms is an indicator that he has company in believing the entire exercise is misguided.

And before we look at the particulars, one might also wonder why Biden thought this sort of exercise was necessary or desirable on top of the raft of other confabs and NGOs promoting “democracy” and other flavors of US-rules-based-order fandom. The very fact of this addition to the panoply of US attempts looks like an effort to shore up waning US power.

One colleague suggested that the US was trying to lead a group of countries that together had more combined GDP than China and its friendlies. This sort of posturing may come out of accumulating US-unfavorable factoids like the G-7 having a lower combined GDP than the BRICS, measured in PPP terms.

The wee problem is that the US isn’t scoring so hot on the democracy or the role model front these day, although Hollywood is helping with the brand fumes. We’ve had increasing hard censorship (individuals being deplatformed and demonetized; figures in public positions, particularly education, being fired or forced out for non-orthodox views) and soft (biased search rankings and prompts; mainstream media narrative conformity; regular use of “conspiracy theory” to silence questioning). And that’s before getting to rising signs of social breakdown: declining lifespans, world-leading imprisonment rate, high teen births, high childbirth death rate, falling educational attainment, rising gun ownership rates).

To provide some necessary backstory, the Summit for Democracy was launched in December 2021 as a virtual event. Per Wikipedia, “The three themes are defending against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption, and advancing respect for human rights.”

And that’s before getting to a second wee problem, that the US has been perfectly fine with supporting authoritarians when it suited our interest and undermining democracies that we say as a threat, with our overthrow of Iran’s Mosaddegh in 1953 because he nationalized the oil industry. Needless to say, when the Saudis went about getting more economic control of their oil reserves in the 1960s, they were more cautious. Oh, and our good Saudi friends (until Mohammed bin Salman) were hardly democracy poster children.

Needless to say, the US definition of who rated as a democracy raised eyebrows in some circles. Again from Wikipedia:

The summit’s guestlist was criticized for inviting participants based on the political interests of the United States, not on its democracy ratings. University of Sydney politics professor John Keane said the guestlist was a “cynically drawn up, bureaucratically crafted, agency-structured invitation list that includes states that by any measure are falling way down the democracy rankings or aren’t democracies at all”.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, accused of crimes against humanity, accepted President Biden’s invitation to join the Summit for Democracy. According to ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy, “Duterte’s reign of terror and mass murder, which have provoked an ICC investigation of crimes against humanity, would seem to disqualify him from providing advice on anything except fascist populism, repression and human rights violations.”

Despite several democracy watchdogs calling Brazil a backsliding democracy, Indonesia and Nigeria as other types of democracy, and Pakistan as a banana republic, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari participated in the Summit for Democracy, while former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, though invited, did not.

Most Financial Times readers should have a passing acquaintance with America’s insincere record as a bulwark of democracy, even before getting to the short history of this event. But we are following in the evangelizing footsteps of Britain, which despite its murderous and rapacious ways, justified its conduct in the name of bringing civilization and Christianity to the heathens. The US has taken to promoting its version of human rights, while various commentators have pointed out that Russia’s vision of a multipolar world features more tolerance for different political and social systems.

And that’s before getting to how old Christian schisms are coming to the fore. From former Indian diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar in Indian Punchline:

The Ukraine conflict has dimensions ranging from geopolitics to geoeconomics. But the subterranean eddy of animate religious passions eludes the casual non-Christian observer. A remark recently by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that 85% of his country’s residents will always support Russia, come what may, called attention to the paradigm. But religious cleavages in Christianity, when it overlaps with racial divides particularly, are a highly sensitive matter that is never allowed to climb up from the attic [cellar?] to the living room….

Religious bigotry in the Christian world has caused more bloodshed than any other issue in history. The Euro-Atlantic Christian countries have a gory past. They fought wars for the spread of their religion in faraway lands and also tore each other apart over their sectarian passions — or even for pursuit of carnal pleasures, as in the case of the Anglican Church.

Christianity has turned out to be the most violent religion out of the three Abrahamic religions. The reluctance of Muslim countries and Israel to take sides in the Ukraine conflict is very striking and it is understandable, as Islam and Judaism have immensely suffered from Christian bigotry historically. The ensuing unspeakable sufferings through vast corridors of time up to the modern times are embedded deep in the Muslim and Jewish psyche…racial prejudices come easily to Christian countries, beneath their veneer of modernity….

The feud within Christianity began intensifying in the recent decade or two with Russia’s resurgence under Putin’s leadership, when Russian Orthodox Church entered a golden era of state patronage….

The Euro-Atlantic countries are in a quandary. They are already in panic as the locus of world power shifts inexorably towards the East. They fear that as the Eastern Church and “Holy Russia” surge, they would also become the backwaters of Christianity.

That may seem a bit long-winded, but helps illustrate that the American “democracy” branding signposts a good deal more that is not necessarily attractive to other countries.

Now back to Luce. His article starts out with a remarkable rewrite of history:

If the US has taken to heart one big lesson in the 21st century, it is that democracy is not created at gunpoint. The 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion reminded Americans of that.

Um, just because Saddam was a dictator does not mean that the US regime change project in Iraq had bringing democracy to ordinary Iraqis as a leading objective. Indeed, the “at a gunpoint” implies that democracy can be imposed externally….which means it sure ain’t the will of the people but a political project, and awfully colonial-seeming.

A striking feature of Luce’s article is the way he points out some of the US hypocrisies, like inviting Israel, while blandly repeating some Western media smears against other countries, particularly India.1

And then we get:

Biden’s aims are noble….But the president’s means are open to doubt. According to V-Dem, a Swedish research institute, almost three quarters of the world’s population now live in autocracies against less than half a decade ago. That vertiginous shift justifies the term “democratic recession”.

It is difficult to believe a liberal democratic Russia would have invaded Ukraine. It is equally hard to imagine the people of an autocratic Ukraine fighting as fiercely for their freedom as they are doing now. It is thus reasonable for the US to think that spreading democracy is in its national interest. The problem is that America is not very good at it.

Please have a gander through the V-Dem report. You don’t have to get very far to find eyebrow raisers like:

What Autocrats Attack
• Censorship of the media and repression of CSOs [civil society organizations] increases and academic freedom declines in more than 25 of the autocratizing countries.
• Academic and cultural freedom, and freedom of discussion also rank among the top institutions attacked by autocratiz-ing rulers.

Disinformation, Polarization, and Autocratization

• Disinformation, polarization, and autocratization reinforce each other.
• Topdemocratizersconverselyreducethespreadofdisinfor- mation substantially, and to some extent also polarization.

And how is this not happening in the West, with policing of discourse over Covid and the Ukraine war, and now in the US on social matters like trans correctness? And how about other overtly authoritarian actions, like Macron abusing emergency powers to ram through deeply unpopular pension “reforms,” or German foreign minister Annelina Baerbock saying that supporting Ukraine was more important than German domestic needs and what German voters wanted? Or European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen acting like the Queen of Europe and regularly running roughshod over national leaders?

It is also remarkable that the West refuses to acknowledge that Putin is elected democratically, and until the war in Ukraine cemented national opinion behind him, had to very much worry about the support of the 20-25% middle class, which cared very much about their living standards and not much else. Having them turn against Putin would have made it difficult for him to continue in office. The Russian presidency is admittedly more powerful than similar offices in the West, but my understanding (and readers may correct me) is that concentration of power dates from the Yeltsin era; Putin’s big addition was the admittedly too-cute move of getting a Constitutional change allowing him to serve in office for more than two terms.2

Similarly, the historically-minded will know, as Big Serge covers in detail in his recent post Apocalypse: Operation Barbarossa, that the supposedly demotived-because-authoritarian-system Soviets under Stalin were ferocious Nazi fighters. And what about the Japanese under Emperor Hirohito? The US justification for its nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that the Japanese were so committed, um, brainwashed that a US invasion of Japan would have resulted in high losses on the Allies side.

Back to Luce:

Nowhere has the US expended more guns and butter than in the Middle East. The democratic returns have been almost uniformly negative….

The only unqualified success in US democracy promotion was the Marshall Plan for postwar Europe.

Again, huh? France had bridled under Vichy; the Allies managed to find and promote a resistance leader, Charles de Gaulle, who had the capacity to lead a nation. The US occupied Germany and was actively involved in who took national and even local office and was aggressive about deNazifying. That well predates the Marshall Plan of 1948.

Oh and as for democratic successes, what about Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who was in power until 1975? He’s politely ignored because, as Richard Nixon remarked after his death, “General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States.”

The rest of the article pearl-clutches that the US isn’t doing very well with the Global South and notes that “China has pumped more money into the developing world than all the west combined.”

I have to confess to repeating the intellectually lazy “Global South” formulation, since clearly there are many distinctions in that group. I’m hoping more useful characterizations arise. But the US officialdom in trying to win them over should not be falling back on such big generalizations.

In any event, I suspect a large reason the US is not doing very well is bigotry. The US simply can’t take non-white, or even definitionally non-white people as seriously as it should. For instance, the unwarranted US and EU assumption of superiority over Russia was based not just on long-standing, badly dated Soviet stereotypes, but also on negative views of Slavs….despite Russia’s long-standing top performance in mathematics and physics.

We’re likely to see even more unwitting displays of Western attitudes that helped get us in our present decline. One bit of good news here is enough pink paper readers weren’t buying what Luce was trying to sell that it wasn’t until well into the comments on his piece that the first instance of Putin Derangement Syndrome occurred. That means a fair number of readers were actually considering the arguments rather than falling back on their (not always great) reflexes.

1 For instance, “India is in the process of jailing opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on a trumped up defamation ruling.” Indian Financial Times readers complained loudly in comments, pointing out that the judicial process was fair, but Ganhdi’s counsel did an appallingly poor job in court.

2 In the Oliver Stone interview, Putin acknowledged that Russia had a ways to go in the democracy category, but pointed out Russia had had top-down systems until the fall of the USSR, and it takes time for democratic systems to develop. He also cited a number of steps the government had taken to increase citizen input and control. I do not currently have access to the transcript of the interview to see if Stone and Robert Scheer footnoted Putin as accurate on these claims or not.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar


    This is an excellent summary of the situation, and the cultural aspects of the current failure of the West, as described, cannot be discounted.

    The religious dimension is undoubtedly lurking: The U S of A, less so England, is made up of minor denominations that think that they dominate religious thinking throughout the world. So much of U.S. discourse is Baptist testifying and Methodist sermonizing. This style is evocative for Anglo-Americans. Baptists are few and far between in Latin Europe and the Mediterranean basin, let alone India or Iran. Further, U.S. understanding of the Orthodox Churches (let alone the Copts, Ethiopian Orthodox, or the churches of the East) is non-existent. They might as well be Muslims.

    Part of the imperial role that the U.S. has assumed means carrying the imperial religion throughout the world. The evangelicals in Brazil, emerging as a reactionary front, are hardly “organic” to Brazil. I am working on something that led me to documents about the Philippines–and discovered that the U.S. imperialists believed that they had to Christianize the Filipinos, in spite of Catholicism being the religion of the majority for, ohh, a couple-a hundred years.

    Market fundamentalism is failing, the adoration of property for the sake of property isn’t working out, and religious fundamentalism is not working out well either. The U.S. two-party system is an auction. U.S. racial categories are intellectually empty (although that doesn’t prevent Americans from trying to impose them worldwide): Aren’t Persians “really” beige?

    What could go wrong?

    [[This post deserves more comments and discussion. Did it get buried in the feed?]]

    1. hk

      The ongoing religious dispute in Ukraine seems particularly dangerous, complete with bloody history going back to Workd War 2 and much earlier (close connection between Ukr ultranationalism and Uniate Catholic Church and bloody persecution of the Uniates going back to the Imperial era). Artificially propping up of the non-Moscow aligned Orthodox Church (the phoney, heretical church as the Duran guys call it–I suppose they are not detached from this since they are culturally Greek, after all) seems such a reckless nonsense, especially given that Zelensky is Jewush.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        I think it and a lot of Ukrainian policies have been aimed at “nation-building” in the 19th century mold. Why not prop up an independent national church, among everything else? Plus national security concerns, which may not be solely paranoia. (Churches are hardly politically neutral.)

        1. Ignacio

          In my experience churches tend to lean in the conservative side of societies. Not neutral as you say.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            Yes, but they also tend to be natural hubs for political organisation for any purpose. The old Liberal Party in Britain was sustained by Nonconformism, for example, and fell with it. The Catholic Church was a powerful organising force for Catholic minorities in the US. The Ukrainian government, now set on a pro-Western and anti-Russian course (how ever foolish), understandably worried that a Russian-aligned church would be able to undermine this agenda in any number of ways. So they started to fight it with all tolerable (at least for the West) means at their disposal. Western tolerance expanded remarkably after the SMO began.

          2. Polar Socialist

            My father’s cousin introduced me (a natural born apatheist) to the “teología de la liberación” and she did financially support many a South American Catholic organizations involved in “the cause” to the end of her life.

            Mainly because of her I have a soft spot in my heart for Christians who behave like Christians should.

            1. WestCountry

              Liberation Theology is quite amazing in many ways, there are a number of very good works out there about the topic. I learned alot about it while reading up on the sandinistas and other popular struggles in south america and how entwined LT was with some of these movements

              1. JBird4049

                Liberation Theology seems to be considered communist, subversive, even heretical by much, maybe most of the senior Catholic leadership as well as by the ruling oligarchies in the Americas and I include the United States, here.

                This makes me predisposed to like it. A lot. Too bad that much of it was suppressed in the 1980s. Whenever they made serious and even apparently effective efforts at fighting for the poor and against corruption, clergy tended to get lead poisoning from the local government or be yanked back by the senior church leadership.

                It is just like in the United States as well as in most of the world. Saying pious is words and mumbling about the suffering of the poor or about democracy is all well and good. It is even respected by most others. Doing anything about it, which includes just bringing attention to it, gets people killed by the wealthy and their servants.

      2. Chris A

        The Duran guys may be Greek but the Patriarch of Constantinople approved this heretical church in Ukraine and is supported by Greek, Cypriot and American Greek Orthodox hierarchy. Those who oppose this heresy have been kept at bay. This is evidenced by the actions in Cyprus recently in selecting a new archbishop.

  2. Skip Intro

    Biden’s Democracy Summit — Sounds like a cockroach summit held by the pest control industry.

  3. Daniil Adamov

    The difference betwen Yeltsin and Putin, with respect to democracy, is that the former seemed much more keen on winning elections without outright falsifications. Of course, if democracy ever went against him, as with a certain democratically-elected legislature, it was obviously fine to correct it with armed force; and just as naturally, dirty tricks during elections that fell short of outright falsifications were just best practices. Putin has, at the very least, tolerated a much greater level of fraud. He also continued the narrowing of free speech and various other liberties. It is true that all anti-democratic and anti-liberal tendencies in modern Russia started under Yeltsin, though. He and his cronies also conclusively crushed all serious democratic opposition (not to be confused with the liberals that linger to this day, albeit much-reduced). Putin just cleaned up the remnants due to lacking as much sentimental and personal attachment to the concept. Also true that we still have a long way to go before even late Soviet levels of repression, albeit we made significant progress in that direction in 2022 alone.

    “It is difficult to believe a liberal democratic Russia would have invaded Ukraine.”

    I could see Yeltsin doing it in an instant if he thought he could get away with it and improve his polling in the process. For that matter, the model liberal democracy of America has demonstrated all kinds of tricks that any liberal democracy could use here in a pinch. All that matters is elite consensus, and it is not at all hard to imagine the most liberal and democratic Russian elite imaginable (Yeltsin-era Yabloko, maybe?) reaching the same conclusions with respect to events in Ukraine, if in government and forced to seriously reckon with foreign policy issues.

    Agreed re: authoritarian valour in WW2.

    1. tevhatch

      Liberal democratic institutions have been undermined by the USA’s well funded efforts to use them to undermine sovereignty of many nations, either by loss of sovereignty or by loss of openness to defend sovereignty. The most interesting thing is the necessities and corruption of war undermine it not only in the target nations, but in the USA itself, a freak show mirror to what has happened in Russia.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        That is certainly a major part of it as well, but Yeltsin hardly needed much help or guidance for saving democracy by killing it. It is true that he got it nonetheless.

    2. reprobate

      Not sure what you mean regarding “outright falsifications” given the way the US meddled to get Yeltsin re-elected. He was polling at what, 7% before the US engaged in massive election interference to change that.

      Washington Post:

      President Boris Yeltsin, polling in the single digits, met with U.S. President Bill Clinton in the Kremlin and complained that his prospects for reelection were “not exactly brilliant.” So began Yeltsin’s campaign to get an American president to influence Russia’s 1996 election….

      A few months before the election, the United States helped Russia finalize the multibillion-dollar IMF loan, in what the New York Times described at the time as “a major election-year boost” for Yeltsin. Behind the scenes, private American consultants (with marginal influence) advised Yeltsin’s campaign and provided regular updates to one of Clinton’s political advisers, who in turn updated the president. The levers of U.S. democracy promotion also operated overtly. “Throughout Russia’s various local, regional, and national campaigns were IRI-trained Russian political activists,” the International Republican Institute’s 1996 annual report said, “working on behalf of democratic candidates.”


      The presentation of the US electoral system as a model of democracy is a transparent fraud. It is system that legally sanctions the buying of candidates, parties and elections by a super-rich financial oligarchy….

      When it comes to manipulating foreign elections, the American ruling elite and its media and political stooges know whereof they speak. The United States is the world leader in interfering in other countries’ elections. Professor Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University has assembled a database documenting as many as 81 occasions between 1946 and 2000 when Washington interfered in elections in other countries. This number does not include military coups or regime-change efforts following the election of candidates the US opposed, as in Iran, Congo, Guatemala, Chile and many other nations…..

      In 1996, the White House and President Bill Clinton personally mounted a massive campaign to secure the reelection of Boris Yeltsin, whose comprador regime had been installed in the first place to oversee the dissolution of the Soviet Union and restoration of capitalism. One of the ironies of the current contrived scandal over alleged Russian intervention in the 2016 election is the fact that the supposed victim, Hillary Clinton, is the wife of the president who oversaw the very real interference by Washington in the Russian election 20 years earlier.

      By the time Yeltsin announced in early 1996 that he would be running for a second term in the presidential election scheduled for that summer, he had become one of the most despised figures in Russia, having presided over the catastrophic consequences of the privatization of the Russian economy. The impact included a GDP decline of 50 percent, hyperinflation, rampant corruption, skyrocketing violent crime, the collapse of medical services, food and fuel shortages, nonpayment of wages and pensions, and a plunge in life expectancy. Added to this toxic mix was Yeltsin’s highly unpopular war with Chechnya.

      By late 1993, these policies had provoked such massive opposition that Yeltsin, by means of a dictatorial decree, dissolved the parliament. In response, opponents in Moscow took over government buildings. To put down the rebellion, Yeltsin, using critical intelligence provided by Washington, called out the military, shelled the parliament building and in the ensuing bombing and shooting killed an estimated 2,000 people. This was the supposed hero of democracy whom the United States backed in the 1996 election.

      The oligarchs and generals who supported Yeltsin urged him to cancel or postpone the election, fearing that Gennady Zyuganov, the right-wing nationalist leader of the Stalinist Communist Party, would win. Instead, US political operatives were sent to Russia to rescue Yeltsin from likely political defeat.

      ar from concealing this intervention, the American ruling elite boasted of its success after Yeltsin’s victory. Time magazine made it the cover story of its July 15, 1996 edition…..

      Based upon their initial polling, they determined that Yeltsin was favored by only 6 percent of the electorate and was “trusted” as a competent leader by an even smaller proportion. “Stalin had higher positives and lower negatives than Yeltsin,”…

      And the abstract of a paper by David Strickland:

      Still in the recent past, the 1996 Russian presidential election has not received sufficient historical attention for an event of its magnitude. Although there has always been evidence that the United States supported Boris Yeltsin’s reelection campaign, additional documentation regarding the Clinton administration’s direct interference to that end has since surfaced. This article aims to tell the story of that intervention and assess the impact it had on Yeltsin’s unexpected 1996 electoral comeback. I will outline the strategic incentives that pushed the administration toward pro-Yeltsin policies and stances in post-Cold War Russia, including the threat that Yeltsin’s strongest opponent posed to US interests in the region. After analyzing recently declassified Yeltsin-Clinton meeting transcripts, I will argue that the US manipulated international institutions and democracy promotion to help Yeltsin win reelection. Finally, I will compare this case of electoral intervention to others in history and discuss the legacy of it in the context of US-Russia relations since 1996.

      Please tell us what Putin has done that exceeds that in terms of “falsifications”. Having the US move the needle from 6% to a win seems hard to beat.

      Yves and Lambert regularly ask for links to back reader statements, so I trust your reply will meet that standard.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Foreign meddling in elections is not the same as falsifications. A leader with low popularity winning does not necessarily mean that extensive falsifications – it means that in Russia, as in many other places, people voted for what they perceived to be a lesser evil. “Having the US move the needle from 6% to [13%]” is neither the result of voter fraud (although some was alleged and no doubt occurred) nor all that impressive. What is true that Putin is much more popular than Yeltsin and surely does not need to rely on voter fraud to win. United Russia uses it relentlessly nonetheless.

        I can dig up examples if you want, but I want to make my understanding clear first. By falsification I mean meddling with actual voting, not the campaigning up to that point, which is what you are referencing here. It is true (and WSWS does mention this) that there is a somewhat widespread theory about the communists winning the election in 1996, only for the results to be fixed afterwards. I have yet to encounter any convincing evidence for that, though – just speculation and hearsay, which is what WSWS has too.

        1. Daniil Adamov

          Please ignore the 13% bit. I was in a hurry and some wires must’ve gotten crossed. My point stands, though; opinion polling is not the same as votes in an election.

      2. Daniil Adamov

        Okay, here is a link regarding voter fraud in 1996: http://electoralpolitics.org/en/articles/vybory-prezidenta-rf-1996-g-o-razmerakh-falsifikatsii/

        Finding comparably balanced and scholarly texts about 2011 (the worst year of falsifications under Putin… probably) in English is rather harder, but here is a starting point: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1206770110

        If you accept Washington Post, there is this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/monitors-find-russian-elections-flawed/2011/12/05/gIQAzrhqXO_story.html Citing OSCE.

        Here we have ECHR: https://www.businessinsider.com/eu-court-putins-party-rigged-the-2011-russian-elections-2017-6

        None of those are absolute authorities to me, but it seems like electoral fraud was considerably worse in 2011 than in 1996. Though none of that means Putin would have lost power under a more rigid democracy; I think it just means he and his don’t care about it that much (and perhaps rightly so).

        1. tevhatch

          Maybe anger at Putin/Sovereignty vs. love for Yeltsin/Slavery may have an impact on the manufacture of reports, which isn’t the same thing as “facts”, which anyhow are like vials held up in the UN, not very factual. Just consider the funding of each organ above, those are the kind of numbers I can appreciate.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            Undoubtedly it was an influence. One should certainly take such sources with a grain of salt. However, electoral fraud in 2011 and elsewhen is very widely accepted in Russia, and not just among Yeltsinists and Westernisers. For one thing, the communists suffer from it about as much as do the liberals if not more, and often speak up to that effect. However, finding their take on it in English is rather harder for obvious reasons.

        2. OnceWereVirologist

          How hard would it be to get an undercover operative with a tie-pin spy camera and an audio recorder into whatever organization actually conducts Russian elections on the ground. After all the PNAS report alleges that there’s ballot stuffing and misattribution going on in the majority of precincts in Moscow. Thousands of people would have to be involved. That’s how you prove to the world that Putin steals elections. Instead we get this gish gallop of statistical gobbledigook – you could hide a mountain of data manipulation in the truckload of statistical methodologies they’ve piled on. Nor do I see any way to get the raw data to check their work. Simple old-fashioned exit polling would be more convincing data-based evidence than this.

      3. Polar Socialist

        I think that the 1996 election was mostly about anybody vs. Zyuganov (the Communist Party leader) who was leading the polls because the political field was so fractured.

        Basically 70% of the Russians did not want Zyuganov (as in “return to communism”) and would vote anyone else. So basically all Yeltsin had to do was to become The Candidate To Stop Zyuganov to win the election.

        Now, USA certainly helped him driving that message, but for all we know and can prove, he won fair that election.

          1. John

            I well remember the 1996 Russian election and the Time Magazine cover celebrating Mr.Yeltsin’s victory. Was the 2011 election clean as hound’s tooth? It was not. How about the elections since then? I have no idea.

            It is quite clear that Russia is in a far better state today than it was in 1996 or 2011. Is this attributable to Mr. Putin? In part I am sure.

            We might pose as a hypothetical question, would the US be better off today were the 2016 election results reversed. I imagine that would provoke as lively a discussion as comparisons between Messrs. Yeltsin and Putin.

    1. leaf

      everyone uses VPN in China. Even though Youtube is blocked in China, Chinese state media like CGTN, Xinhua, Global Times all maintain official Youtube channels

    2. digi_owl

      China instead observe and plug holes in their great firewall from time to time.

      Again and again i read about people that suddenly find their “bulletproof” VPN solution for accessing services outside of China nonfunctional.

      On a different note, if you search around you will find that Bono of all people a few decades back advocated for a “great firewall” like setup in order to stop copyright infringement.

      Children and copyright, the two horses of western authoritarianism?

      1. tevhatch

        “China instead observe and plug holes in their great firewall from time to time.”
        That’s interesting experience you’ve had, I’m assuming you’ve had it vs. reading about it in media with an agenda. The experience of myself, and fellow Asian travelers with whom I conversed, don’t find much plugging of paid (vs. free) VPNs at all. The China we see recognizes the need for international organizations and individuals (and even Chinese organs) to safely conduct their business, which includes accessing information. What we see rather is a great deal of effort to track and when necessary coopt or remove local agents for US and Proxies, so less concern with tunneling under the wall, than with any attempt to distribute propaganda, etc.

  4. KD

    Oh and as for democratic successes, what about Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who was in power until 1975? He’s politely ignored because, as Richard Nixon remarked after his death, “General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States.”

    Dominican Republic, Haiti, Indonesia, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, what do these nations have historically in common? Surely not democracy.

    1. Synoia

      Bad KD – you omitted most of the African nations in your list! /s

      The joke in Africa about democracy Was “One man, one vote, one time”

  5. Socal Rhino

    Speaking of schims: this called to mind what Harold Bloom described as the “American Religion”, the pervasive beliefs and practices that would not be recognizable to, say, a European of the 1700s. Whereas the Russian brand of Orthodox christianity likely would. So similar to the way China now scores much higher on its citizens views of their government as democratic, Russia is appealing to some (Rod Dreher types for now) as the emerging center of Christian world.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      It might be a little too familiar to a European of the 1500s as well. Infamous (if still exaggerated by liberals) degrees of hypocrisy, corruption and self-aggrandisement at the top, occasional saintly and more common jobbing parish priests at the bottom, and furiously intolerant internal critics in a very Lutheran mold. Plus a bizarre semi-heretical cult of the Martyr Emperor that the hierarchy is trying to grapple with. Such at any rate is the imagine I receive from Russian media and the odd church-connected acquaintance. Much of society is quite secular in practice and Christian in name only (if that; there are also very outspoken militant atheists of the sort that seem to be crumbling in the West), although religiosity is undergoing a general revival that cannot be attributed solely to state or official church efforts.

  6. Michael Hudson

    It’s even worse. Here’s the statement of purpose — which India, Mexico and even Armenia refused to sign:
    We reiterate our firm resolve to support countries and people around the world that adhere to the values of freedom and democracy, … We recognize the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense of States consistent with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. We underscore the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the UN Charter. We deplore the dire human rights and humanitarian consequences of the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including the continuous attacks against critical infrastructure across Ukraine with devastating consequences for civilians, and express our grave concern at the high number of civilian casualties, including women and children, the number of internally displaced persons and refugees in need of humanitarian assistance, and violations and abuses committed against children. We are deeply concerned by the adverse impact of the war on global food security, energy, nuclear security and safety and the environment. We demand that Russia immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and call for a cessation of hostilities. We also call for the parties to the armed conflict to adhere to their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law. We call also for the complete exchange of prisoners of war, the release of all unlawfully detained persons and the return of all internees and of civilians forcibly transferred and deported, including children. We strongly support accountability for the most serious crimes under international law committed on the territory of Ukraine through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the national or international level, and to ensure justice for all victims and the prevention of future crimes.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      I wouldn’t be surprised about Armenia. When Pashinyan came to power, there were widespread expectations of him aligning Armenia with the West, and he does seem to have attempted as much. Then in the war with Azerbaijan, it turned out that he forfeited Russian support (at least beyond the letter of our treaties) without acquiring anything of value from the West. He has since walked his foreign policy back to a large extent. He may well still prefer a Western alignment (lots of democracy fans do by instinct, at least in this corner of the Earth), but he knows how practical it is now.

      1. tevhatch

        Armenia said they would arrest Putin under the ICC warrant. Is USAID putting LSD in the water?

        1. Daniil Adamov

          Possibly. This has already caused a row back in Yerevan. I suppose that the government is trying to please both sides, but I suspect they will find a way to walk this back later.

    2. John

      A comprehensive statement of the “Ukraine Project Narrative” on steroids. The Biden administration obsession with Ukraine is chipping away at the foundation of the US position in the world: the dollar as the reserve currency.

  7. tevhatch

    Interesting that the Summit (for Hypocrisy) was held in South Africa. South Africa is a member of the ICC, and yet the Foreign Secretary has clearly stated that they will refuse to honour the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin.

    1. Piotr Berman

      UK refused to arrest Pinochet, on Spanish warrant, claiming immunity for heads of states — although Pinochet was retired, the crimes were committed in Presidential capacity. Where the British principle came from? It seems to be recognized in the Commonwealth, like SA.

      1. JBird4049

        There was also the claim that Pinochet was too ill for a trial, which is what they based their decision to let him go back home. IIRC, on landing back home, he practically danced off the plane.

  8. David in Friday Harbor

    FFS, the Marshall Plan “successful” at promoting European democracy? Only if you’ve never read history!

    Aside from Franco’s (pre-war origin) near 40-year murderous Falangist dictatorship in Spain, how about Salazar in Portugal? Or the Greek Papadopoulos U.S. supported “Colonel’s” coup and brutal dictatorship from 1967-74?

    The biggest whopper here is talking about de Gaulle as if he was a Marshall Plan success story — leaving out the shambolic 1946-59 Fourth Republic that tortured and murdered Vietnamese and Algerians while careening through the “PM of the Month Club” until a military putsch put de Gaulle into power from 1959 until the May ‘68 revolution forced his resignation. De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic’s “La France, c’est moi!” withdrawal from Algeria, expulsion of NATO troops, and rapprochement with the USSR were hardly seen as American successes at the time!

    As for Germany, it was an occupied country at least until the 1991 Reunification and still must suffer the presence of tens of thousands of American troops — and American attacks on their infrastructure if Sy Hersh’s source is to be believed.

    C’mon, man! The American imperium sure ain’t “democracy.”

    1. Polar Socialist

      I’ve learned from reading of late that Marshall Plan was designed to undermine the European democracy. The whole point of it was that USA could intervene in internal matters of the receivers.

      Partly because the planners wanted Soviet Union to refuse because US congress would kill the plan if it supported communist countries.

  9. Kouros

    Maybe Biden & Co should check this latest Ipsos Global Happiness Report, page 11:

    See how people across the world feel about their countries’ respective political systems.

    As for Christianity being bloodthirsty, I don’t blame the religion here. Europeans would have made Buddhism bloodthirsty. It is the culture that made war = peace…

    There is an old Arabic saying: “The hand of the Chinese, the mind of the Frank, and the tongue of the Arab”. Arabs were impressed by the sophistry of the Frankish warriors. For which the Russians made a word now: “not agreement capable”

    1. Piotr Berman

      Theravada Buddhist may show a bloody side against Muslim (Myanmar) or Hindus (Sri Lanka). Bloodthirsty people can use any religion or ideology, twisting Christ, Buddha, or Founding Fathers.

  10. truly

    Yves, thank you very much for this analysis. In particular near the end where you address bigotry. Sometimes it seems that American foreign policy is like the pinball bouncing erratically and unpredictably from one direction to another. But then sometimes it seems like it is so planned out. The last 6-7 years of Russophobia so heavily pushed by one party has set so many up to disbelieve that RU has any legitimate security concerns. If HRC would have won they would have needed to take a different tack. But either way bigotry needed to be pushed to delegitimize our opponent and legitimize our current policy. Dehumanization is always the first phase of any war.

    Watching that 7-8 year old Mearsheimer talk, where he addresses that RU has legitimate security concerns. In a bigoted world- can illegitimate people have legitimate concerns?

    I have thought for a long time that this war will be over when the west realizes that Russia and Russians are legitimate people with legitimate concerns and that they need to be treated with respect. We (Americans) can choose to do that of our own free will or it will be imposed upon us. Measuring the outcome of this war using maps is useless. The movements of the borders need to happen within peoples minds. RU is winning this battle every day. We increasingly see other nations moving their markers away from us and over to the RU side. This Democracy summit is surely our attempt to get those markers moved back our way. If Luce can see through the hypocrisy then who can’t?

    “It is difficult to believe a liberal democratic Russia would have invaded Ukraine.”
    It is difficult to believe that a liberal democracy would agitate and threaten Russia by supporting a coup on their doorstep.

    1. tevhatch

      Slavic-phobia, mixed with Yellow-peril on Russian Asiatic and of course Chinese. One of the great things to the Nazi/Kapo decedents who populate the neo-cons in Obama/Trump/Biden admin (singular) is they are using Ukraine (and Poland) as a proxies to carry out Slavs killing Slavs. Taiwan/Japan vs. China will be, they hope, yellow on yellow slaughter. Like blackness (or Jewishness to a Nazi), it comes in shades and tones, but in the end the one drop rule prevails

      The Japanese have done an Irish and become honorary whites for now, but I’m old enough to remember being mistaken for a “Jap” in the USA.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘The Japanese have done an Irish and become honorary whites for now’

        Been so for some time. When I was in Apartheid South Africa in ’79, I saw this Japanese guy ride the train with the whites because South Africa graded them as honorary whites. Considering the fact that Apartheid at the time had racial classification down to a science, I found this very interesting. The funny thing was to see the look of the young Afrikaaner guys in the same train compartment trying to make sense of this Japanese guy with his cameras sharing their compartment.

  11. Sausage Factory

    It is the common concern of Russia and China that the world order must return to an international system with the UN at its core and a world order based on international law. There is no question that the two countries’ strategy is to overturn the “rules-based order” dominated by the US and return to an international order centred on the UN.

    In fact, Article 5 is the very soul of the joint statement issued in Moscow: “The two sides reaffirm their commitment to firmly upholding the international system with the United Nations at its core, the international order based on international law and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and oppose all forms of hegemonism, unilateralism and power politics, the Cold War mentality, confrontation between camps and the establishment of cliques targeting specific countries.”

    Meanwhile ASEAN meet to talk about dropping dollar, euro and GBP from all transanctions …

    Bidens interminable warblings and sputterings are a post unipolar moment of clarity, not for the West but for the rest of the world

  12. MFB

    How can a virtual summit be held in South Africa? Virtual summits are virtual. As far as I know, there has never been a U.S.-backed summit in South Africa.

    Oh, and the ICC warrant (which in my view is a load of rubbish — Putin is basically being charged with moving civilians out of a war zone, for which you could also have charged Neville Chamberlain) has not yet been decided in South Africa. And our foreign affairs are handed by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, not by a Foreign Secretary.

  13. The Phoenix

    I have one objection to this article, namely the characterization of the Indian diplomat of Christianity.

    The leaders of western countries that proclaimed that they are doing what they are doing to promote “Christianity” and bring it to the heathens of the world is the same as the US invading Iraq to bring “Democracy” to the people. A moral blanket to cover the real motives (resources, control, doing the bidding of a powerful and motivated ethnic minority/elite/foreign state, etc.). There is nothing about the actions of the western powers who waged wars for the last 500 years that is “Christian”.


    As for another name for the Global South (like you, Yves, I don’t know why we call them that – south of what? The equator? Not accurate), “The non-Western World” might work. That did pose a problem in categorizing Russia and Slavs, but seeing the current shift I don’t think it does anymore.

  14. Lex

    Democracy is of course just a code word. The deepest problem with stunts like this being that they reveal the game. Not to the true believers in the US and Europe but to everyone else in the rest of the world.

    The fundamental idea of democracy is that the majority of people have the political power to enact their will. One would assume, even in a strictly Liberal sense, that those people would enact laws which benefit the majority. So rather than measuring democracy based on whether there is voting, we might get more use out of measuring the real lives of national citizens. If their lives tend to get better it suggests that the government is responsive and in that sense democratic. If their lives get worse, how democratic can the government be?

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