19 December 2021 — Internationalist 360°
On December 9 and 10, the so-called “Summit for Democracy” took place, an online event sponsored by the Biden administration as part of a new attempt to revive the global hegemony of the empire, weakened for several years now by a polycentric architecture of international actors of different sizes, influence and geopolitical scope, with China and Russia at the forefront, which has brought about the definitive collapse of the era of US unipolar dominance.
Beyond the rhetorical product of the summit itself, and the no lesser consequences of its Cold War-style ideological crusade, the lateral and indirect movements of the bureaucratic machinery of empire describe a new phase of planning and execution of regime change and asymmetric warfare devices deployed on a global scale, now incorporating other technologies of coercion and enveloping pressure with a high degree of sophistication, extension and impact on the various planes of the world community, understood as the complex interaction between states, societies and cultural and normative universes.
The Summit: What is it and what is it not?
The meeting, according to the official website  of the Department of State, aims to bring together “leaders from government, civil society and the private sector to establish an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to address the greatest threats facing democracies today through collective action”.
Despite the publicity given to it by the Western media, it is an informal meeting, non-binding in its final conclusions and with little, if any, practical impact in terms of establishing obligations for the States that have decided to participate. In short, no binding agreements will emerge from the meeting in formal terms, so that the name Summit is in itself a publicity stunt.
In a rather abstract way, the main issues on the agenda were corruption, the defense of human rights and authoritarianism, three topics that fit the narrative resources of the Democratic Party’s soft power and its scheme of indirect interference based on “universal values” and “common sense”, so widely used in the color revolutions and insurrectionary movements from the 90’s onwards.
President Joe Biden, host of the Summit, sees the meeting as his first major event of international impact after his irrelevant participation in the last United Nations General Assembly and in the most recent G7 summit in the United Kingdom, overshadowed by the conflict between the European powers and the difficulties in reaching solid consensus.
The President’s image has gone downhill as his verbal slips and his well-known moments of disorientation in public events have generated reasonable doubts about his ability to hold office. In the face of this, the meeting could offer him a temporary oxygen valve to close the year with a less weakened public projection, showing some geopolitical muscle by bringing together more than half of the existing community of states, with the weight of the defeat in Afghanistan on his shoulders.
In terms of international policy, the Summit provides Biden with an opportunity to mark a break with the isolationism of the Trump period and to promote, at the same time, his supposed return to the multilateral dynamic framed in the “America is back”, thereby attempting to repair the deterioration of the traditional alliance system of the empire produced by his predecessor.
The idea of linking the private sector, NGOs, “activists” and other non-state figures, although clearly expressing the liberal imperialist ideology of the Democratic Party, in this opportunity takes on the specific meaning of betting on mechanisms of destructive interference against the countries that have been excluded from the event and where the arms of the CIA, namely the NED and USAID, try to systematically implant themselves using the cover of human rights and citizen activism.
Through the incorporation of private actors, dependent on the State Department’s metabolism of interference, flattery and perks, the US seeks to expand the meeting’s orbit of influence, offering a momentum of emboldening, promoted by the media, and with their respective lines of financing henceforth throughout the entire chain of agitators and platforms created for regime change.
Given the non-binding nature of the meeting, Washington is seeking to take advantage of the possibilities it offers as a resonance platform to deploy its Cold War rhetoric and project strength in the face of strategic conflict with China and Russia. As the risk of a power collision in the South China Sea grows dangerously high with the newly created AUKUS alliance (Australia, UK and US), and while in parallel NATO ramps up its provocative acts against Russia from its western border, the event should be seen as a platform intended to recrudesce the logic of antagonistic conflict, but on the plane of diplomatic simulation.
About 110 countries were summoned, under a visibly arbitrary selection mechanism and which, in the specific case of the illegal invitation to Taiwan, implies another act of provocation against the People’s Republic of China and an attack on its credentials as an internationally recognized sovereign nation. The gravity of this maneuver is even greater if seen in parallel to the chain of violations of international law in recent times by the empire, such as the presence of the US military on the island, a fact recognized by Tsai Ing-wen herself at the time, or the recent announcement of a boycott against the Winter Olympic Games, to be held next year in Beijing, an action that has joined the US, Canada and the UK.
The calculation of turning the island of Taiwan into a powder keg of unsuspected consequences, against the backdrop of a global microprocessor crisis where the US resents its disadvantages vis-à-vis China, is evident and could mean the most important geopolitical event of the decade if a catastrophic outcome occurs.
In any scenario, the Summit contributes to the deterioration of strategic security in East Asia, as it promotes the deactivation of options for dialogue and recognition in the multilateral arena. Maintaining its essential characteristics, this aggressive treatment is transferred towards Latin America, reinforcing the place of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua as epicenters of the machinations for the reconquest of the continent, where Juan Guaidó could well represent, with his own particularities, the hemispheric counterpart of Taiwanese separatism.
Contradictions, guests and calculations
The U.S. designed its list of guests under the premise of a restricted concept of democracy, according to its interests, in which a good part of the African and Asian countries, and several Latin American countries, where a good part of the world’s population converges, were excluded, which is a paradox due to the anti-democratic nature of the convocation.
The researcher Nury Vittachi sees in this form of selection an extension of the racist and neocolonial mentality of the USA, where the global South was not taken into account:
As many have noted, the meeting purports to represent inclusion, but comes across as an unfortunate example of white privilege, with the United States alone deciding which communities can attend. […] the doors to the summit are wide open to white English-speaking nations and their political allies, while most African countries, most ASEAN and most Middle Eastern countries cannot attend.
According to the event’s own promotion, the selection was made based on the basic principles of liberal democracy (elections, separation of powers, etc.); however, Steven Feldstein, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, warns that Washington actually took into account “regional dynamics and U.S. strategic interests, including using the summit to encourage a movement in one country toward democracy,” in deciding who participated and who did not.
In short, the Biden administration took into account how loyal a given country is to the strategic interests of the empire as a mechanism of approval or exclusion. That is why Brazil, governed by Jair Bolsonaro, who has undermined the institutional foundations of Brazilian democracy, was invited, while the opposite happened with Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia or Cuba, countries that are moving towards their own alternatives for development and democracy independently of Washington.
On the other hand, the standards supported by the U.S. to arbitrarily evaluate democratic functioning abroad were also manipulated. For example, countries such as Poland or Ukraine, which according to the World Justice Project, an entity connected to the State Department, rank at the bottom of its Rule of Law quality index, were summoned. The latest report of the Civicus Monitor organization, quoted by The Guardian, emphasizes that in Belgium and the Czech Republic the quality of their democracies has been reduced in recent times, a situation that was also not taken into account by Washington when inviting them.
Nevertheless, the contradictory mosaic of the invitation generated diplomatic turmoil. The invitation to Serbia and Kosovo, and the exclusion of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the same time, generated a complaint from Sarajevo against Washington. On the other hand, Pakistan, initially invited, decided not to participate, which was recognized by the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lijian Zhao, through his Twitter account, who described the country as an iron brother.
In the Latin American continent, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which make up what the United States calls the Northern Triangle, were left out. This is probably due to the strained relations with Nayib Bukele and, to a lesser extent, with Alejandro Gianmattei, to which must be added the recent change of government in Honduras, after the victory of the left wing led by Xiomara Castro of the Libre Party.
Most likely in order to maintain a minimum of credibility given the name of the Summit, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, two monarchic regimes closely linked to Washington, were also not summoned. Turkey received the same treatment, in view of the positive evolution of its relations with Moscow, as did Hungary, a country that has opted to join the Belt and Road Initiative promoted by Beijing, generating anxiety among the Brussels elite.
It is noteworthy that Singapore, considered a loyal ally of Washington in Asia, was excluded from the guest list. Meanwhile the Philippines, ruled by Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of being a dictator and human rights violator by the West, was invited. The reason for this is that Washington seeks to use the archipelago as an outpost against China due to its critical geographic positioning overlooking the South China Sea, the source of skirmishes between the two Asian countries.
Consequently, the Biden administration privileged its scheme of alliances and geopolitical loyalties to design the convening of the Summit, regardless of the democratic quality of the participants, which evidences its biased, instrumental and contradictory view.
(Neo)colonial concept of democracy and ideological crusade
With this summit, the U.S. has tried to set itself up as the model country of democracy worldwide, deciding by arbitrary standards which countries are democratic, as long as they are loyal and replicate the institutional, political and even economic parameters of the empire.
However, the U.S. is a restricted democracy, systematically undermined by the plutocratic and corporate powers, so its moral authority to convene this Summit is certainly not such. This conclusion was reached by the Swiss-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which determined in its latest report that the U.S. is a “shrinking democracy” and “backsliding,” since:
… there is a decline in effective parliament and a decline in freedom of speech and freedom of association and assembly in the U.S. The decline in civil liberties and checks on government indicate that there are serious problems with the foundations of American democracy.
Also, the latest Fernand de Varennes report, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, identified the exclusion of social groups and restrictions on their political and electoral participation, the main foundation of liberal democracy as understood by the West. “Unfortunately, it is becoming evident that it is almost a tyranny of the majority where minorities are denied the right to vote in many areas,” Varennes said at a press conference following the presentation of his report.
According to a review by The Asean Post:
Varennes reported systemic discrimination against minority groups in many areas, including electoral rights, education, religion, criminal justice, and hate crimes. He noted that anti-Semitism, anti-Asian discourse, Islamophobia, derogatory slurs against the Latino community and xenophobia against immigration are on the rise, sometimes at record levels, in the country.
The Summit can also be seen as an update of the warmongering narrative employed by the Bush (Jr.) administration when it launched the so-called “War on Terror” after the September 11, 2011 attacks: “You are either with us or with the terrorists”. In this case, the antagonism has been modified, under a return to the Cold War mentality, positioning “authoritarianism” as the existential enemy of democracy.
Analyst Phill Hynes sees a profoundly dangerous message in this scheme, as it forces countries to choose sides (between the multipolar world led by China and Russia, and the US) and creates, in parallel, new dividing lines of conflict and confrontation, weakening multilateralism and the peaceful coexistence of the international community. The event attempts to divide the world into restricted spheres of ideology and influence, where the “democratic” and the “anti-democratic” bloc would be destined to an apocalyptic conflict.
In this sense, Hynes indicates that the strategic objective of the summit basically consists of:
…further isolate China, Russia and other states that consider themselves too close to each other and not close enough to the West. China’s growing sphere of influence is a prime target. Countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative and considered too friendly to China, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Hungary, are all excluded.
The intention to contain China’s geopolitical and commercial expansion by aggressive means, in line with Hynes’ thesis, is fueled by the US neocolonial paradigm on democracy. For the empire, other versions of democracy that do not conform to its principles, and which are rooted in the very social and cultural diversity of countries, are excluded. It is a vision that excludes factors such as inclusion and diversity, essential bases of democracy in a broad sense, which turns the Summit into an anti-democratic event from its initial conception.
In the opinion of Russian researcher Andrey Kortunov, this restricted and ultimately authoritarian paradigm has dangerous effects in a context of international crisis and systemic instability such as the one we are currently experiencing:
This view reduces the multicolored palette of the modern world to minimalist black-and-white graphs of a global struggle between “democracies” and “autocracies.” It divides the international system into “us” and “them”, into “good” and “bad”, into “legitimate” and “illegitimate”. Such a reductionist system, if built, cannot be stable and shock-resistant by definition: any major international crisis or regional conflict could generate high risks of implosion.
The Summit convened by the US implies a setback in the civilizational dynamics of the global community, where the diversity of political, economic and cultural systems is becoming broader and this imposes new challenges to the functioning of the international universe of international relations, which requires renewed mechanisms of interlocution, dialogue and mutual acceptance to adjust to the new trends of complexity. However, the US insists on a re-edition of the Cold War by creating situations of antagonism and divergence in terms of geopolitical loyalties, in turn condemning alternative democratic models to the US.
This anachronistic mentality fits what thinker Kishore Mahbubani has indicated about the intention to update the catastrophic conflict between the US and the Soviet Union: “by treating China’s new challenge as similar to the old Soviet strategy, the United States is making the classic strategic mistake of fighting tomorrow’s war with yesterday’s strategies”.
New phase of global regime change
The Summit has been presented by the Biden administration as the figurehead of a new phase of global regime change, incorporating new technologies of coercion, pressure and geopolitical blackmail. More than an abstract event where the supposedly universal values embodied by the empire will be discussed, it is a platform to deploy new instruments of hybrid warfare, with a view to the strategic objective of slowing down the development of the rising multipolar world.
This was made clear by Samantha Power, an icon of the neocon wing of the Democratic Party and currently USAID administrator, and Janet L. Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury, in an opinion article published in The Washington Post, as a way of opening the Summit. In the text, corruption is projected as the main weapon (and justification) to fight independent governments, for which USAID and the Treasury Department are moving forward with new restrictions on the U.S. financial system. This implies another tightening of the screws aimed at giving a generalized character to the economic war developed against Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and other countries of the global South, by means of new real estate investment rules and restricting the mobility of foreign funds in the banking system.
The strategy involves tightening controls and limiting the freedom of trade and investment of US companies themselves. The verb recruit used to involve third countries in this design is significant:
It will require many U.S. and foreign companies to report their true owners to Treasury and to update us when they change hands. We are also working toward new reporting requirements for real estate transactions and will enlist other nations to address these issues.
For Power and Yellen, spokespersons of the Deep State, the instrumentalization of the “anti-corruption” fight is the selected path to catapult their strategic interests, supporting movements, political leaders and previously co-opted “citizen” organizations, which can reach positions of power and reinforce the US orbit of influence. In this regard, they point out the following:
Of course, fighting corruption also requires significant efforts abroad, so the United States will deepen and expand support for those fighting kleptocrats and bad actors through a new anti-corruption response fund. In the Dominican Republic, Moldova, and Zambia, we have seen politicians win overwhelming victories by acting on anti-corruption platforms. We want to support their reforms.
The gamble is combined with the use of a propaganda offensive channeled through “activist” media and journalists affiliated with the USAID payroll. Narrative control has a strategic value for this technology of regime change based on “anti-corruption”, since it creates the conditions of cultural hegemony to make viable actions of persecution and prosecution against government and sovereign states.
The footprint of the Alex Saab case, in this sense, represents a precedent with a key resonance, since the financing and support to media platforms (Armando.info, mainly) was the basic condition to advance in the moral assassination of the diplomat and, later, already with that advantage gained in the psychological field, to justify his kidnapping as a “natural” fact. Taking advantage of the Summit, new lines of financing and programs were announced with the purpose of sustaining the brokerage of propagandists and media allied to the US strategy:
We will also seek to protect international journalists from lawsuits, the latest tactics of oligarchs and autocrats seeking to suppress stories exposing corruption. USAID is launching a global Defamation Defense Fund to provide journalists with cover to survive defamation claims and deter lawsuits in the first place.
In the same framework of the event, the White House announced an update of its anti-corruption strategy, which adds new components of repression and surveillance of public-private financial movements abroad, through a scheme coordinated with the G7 and G20, but which also prioritizes support to co-opted movements of “civil society”, from which to underpin the containment of government policies based on the public sphere and with projection towards the Eurasian geopolitical axis. With this update, Washington seeks to instrumentalize corruption as an asymmetric resource to undermine the world’s economic and financial cooperation with China, accusing those who diversify their trade flows and establish comprehensive partnerships with the multipolar world of being “kleptocrats” and “corrupt”.
In this area, the Summit finds its main strategic purpose, beyond the abstract deliberation that took place. With these new tools and technologies of financial pressure and economic blockade, the Biden administration seeks to integrate as many participating countries as possible into its strategic approach. It is important to note that the political use of corruption, and its manipulation within U.S. standards, entails a simulation of democratic quality and a set of rigid compromises.
There is an underlying repression in the bureaucratic machination of the empire for those who join its strategic horizon, based on the obligation to restrict cooperation with China and the multipolar architecture in exchange for concessions, lines of financing and being assimilated into the so-called “free world”. In this way, Washington seeks to give a moral character to the containment offensive against the Eurasian axis, and this is where the recently updated “anti-corruption” strategy, with the aim of coinciding with the Summit, represents a technology of economic warfare designed to guard the geopolitical orientations of sovereign countries and keep under control the traditional allies, almost all of whom are invited to the event. The fundamental premise is to slow down and complicate the ascription of new nations to the Belt and Road Initiative.
This new effort falls under the “Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal”, presented in the framework of the Summit, and which plans to transfer:
… up to $424.4 million […], which will focus on supporting free and independent media, fighting corruption, boosting democratic reformers, promoting technology for democracy, and advocating for free and fair political processes and elections.
Another key new Treasury Department rule that has come into operation is the empowerment of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a law enforcement-type prosecutorial entity whose reach encompasses the critical vectors of the U.S. financial system. What is important here is that corruption-related issues now have the attribute of “national security”, making U.S. exceptionalism and the prosecutorial logic of acting against national finances and assets of third countries much more evident and dangerous. The New York Post review states the following:
“The rule will help close loopholes that undermine U.S. national security, strengthen economic fairness and protect the integrity of our financial system,” [Yellen] said. FinCEN said the proposed rule reflected the Biden administration’s push to crack down on shell companies used to launder the proceeds of corruption, drug and arms trafficking or terrorist financing.
In this new maneuver of economic authoritarianism, one can perceive the new strategic possibilities that opened up with the bet on Juan Guaidó and his “parallel government” in Venezuela. Despite the lack of support for the foreign intervention project, its prolongation over time and the unflagging US support has given rise to the seizure of Venezuelan assets abroad (Citgo, Monomers, gold in the Bank of England, liquid reserve funds, etc.), where the premise of corruption, politically instrumentalized, has had a specific weight in creating the framework of justification.
The chain of events and regulatory reforms indicate that the U.S. is shaping an institutional framework that allows it to act extra-legally against private or public, U.S. or foreign companies that, directly or indirectly, have significant ties to the empire’s strategic rivals and that have organic communication with the U.S. financial system. The narrative of “kleptocracy” and “government corruption” is presented as an alibi with which to legitimize, in the face of the domestic and foreign public, measures of coercion and punishment, just when national economies are making progress in shaping conditions of stability and recovery after the damage caused by the global health emergency of covid-19. In short, the empire’s radius of geopolitical blackmail has increased considerably, as it continues to retain the previous advantages of dominating the world’s main currency.
The Summit sends a dangerous message in this sense, since the dividing lines into hierarchical camps it proposes is an announcement of how the empire is advancing in a destructive trend vis-à-vis international law and basic multilateral cooperation.
The intellectual framework of this new phase of global regime change, linking judicialization (Lawfare re-powered) with the persecutory logic in the economic and financial field through the anti-corruption fight, has been taking shape for some time now.
In September of this year, Samantha Power, in an event with anti-corruption “activists” promoted by USAID, managed a thesis that connects with the interest of globalizing the technology of anti-corruption power, which would give the empire the false authority to arbitrate, punish and approve the economic management of the countries according to its scheme of domination. The dissolution of sovereignty in practical terms is at the heart of Power’s vision:
Regional conflicts and humanitarian crises; they cross borders. But for too long, corruption has not been seen in these global terms. It has been seen as an internal problem. A matter of internal affairs. It occurs mainly among well-connected elites, and the impacts are presumed to be confined within borders. But that’s not really the case. If it ever was, it certainly isn’t the case anymore. Even if corruption is often rooted in poor governance and abuse of power, at the national level, it is today facilitated by developed nations and outdated global institutions.
The Summit has also been a space where the strategic objectives of the empire, channeled through USAID when it comes to the fallacious “defense and promotion of democracy”, can display their orientations and push for massive support from the participants. The new direction Power has set for the Agency was expressed a few days before the Summit, in the midst of an event where he presented the Agency’s new priorities and the way in which he will modify the terms of resource management. Power has decided to restrict funding to governments in order to favor NGOs, foundations and “activists”, betting on keeping the machinery of regime change (via color revolution) oiled when necessary, especially in a context of chain elections that can alter the correlation of forces in a direction contrary to that desired by the empire.
Power, in the aforementioned event, indicated what can be understood as a renewed commitment to social fragmentation into identities and unconventional hybrid penetration into the internal life of States and its subsequent use in regime change activities:
At USAID, in addition to a target of 25 percent of our assistance going to local partners, today I am announcing that by the end of the decade, 50 percent of our programming, at least half of every dollar we spend, should be placed local communities in the lead to co-design a project, set priorities, drive implementation, or evaluate the impact of our programs. We are also taking steps to strengthen the Inclusive Development office we opened last year. In addition to our goal of 50 percent local voices, which I just mentioned, we will continue to push for changes that will allow our staff to better focus our programs to reach women and girls, and marginalized groups, including Indigenous communities; LGBTQI People; People with disabilities; and racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
With these previous and lateral elements, the objectives pursued by the Summit can be more accurately dimensioned and from there, it aims to mold the geopolitical purposes of the empire in the short and medium term, in a clear direction of re-editing the Cold War, containing the Eurasian axis and using the technology of “anti-corruption” to weaken States and national sovereignty.
This special report was prepared in the heat of the moment during the Summit, and was supported by Diego Sequera’s collection of sources.