Joe Biden’s guest list raises eyebrows, China excluded

Pakistan, Iraq, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the 110 countries invited to the summit although they are classified as “not free” by Freedom House. Pakistan appears to have made the cut because it is a longtime US security partner in the war on terror. If Iraq had not been invited, Israel would have been the only Middle Eastern country present.

Meanwhile, countries with significantly higher democracy ratings from Freedom House – including Hungary, Singapore, Bolivia and Sri Lanka – have not received an invitation. Right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is running for re-election early next year, and the White House does not appear to have wanted to bolster his position by inviting him to the top.

Not invited: the Hungarian Viktor Orban and the Russian Vladimir Poutine. Credit:PA

John Keane, professor of politics at the University of Sydney, author of The life and death of democracy, says the White House has come up with a “cynically drafted, bureaucratically designed and agency-structured invitation list that includes states that in all respects fall very low in the rankings of democracies or are not all democracies ”.

“The great danger I see with the summit is that democracy is dragged into a posture of power and increases public cynicism towards the ideals of democracy,” Keane said.

“Like the Quad [grouping of the US, Australia, India and Japan], the summit cannot be understood apart from an attempt by the United States to build an anti-hegemonic – read: anti-China coalition. “

Daniel Nexon, an international relations expert at Georgetown University, said the summit’s makeup reflects a combination of an “anti-China geopolitical agenda” and an attempt to punish some backward democracies.

Women work in a brickyard in Nahrawan, a south-eastern suburb of Baghdad, Iraq.  They work 12 hours a day for around US $ 15 ($ 20).  Iraq was invited to Joe Biden's Democracy Summit.

Women work in a brickyard in Nahrawan, a south-eastern suburb of Baghdad, Iraq. They work 12 hours a day for around US $ 15 ($ 20). Iraq was invited to Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit.Credit:PA

Anatol Lieven, senior researcher at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, says the summit organization exposes the United States to accusations of hypocrisy.

“I’m afraid the summit will draw attention to the fact that in many parts of the world the United States supports authoritarian regimes and of course also very illiberal democracies,” he said.


“In fact, the primacy of the United States in the Middle East and elsewhere rests on these authoritarian allies or client states in the same way that Russia’s geopolitical position rests on authoritarian states like Belarus and Syria.

Hervé Lemahieu, director of the Power and Diplomacy program at the Lowy Institute, says there is an inherent tension between Biden’s goals of promoting democracy and competing with China for world supremacy.

“The United States needs to mobilize a large church of countries concerned about China and not all of these countries are democracies,” Lemahieu said. “In fact, most of the ASEAN countries are either authoritarian regimes or imperfect democracies. “

He says the perception that the United States is an “exclusive club” of democracies risks alienating strategically important countries that are currently hedging their bets between China and the United States.


It denotes countries in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, none of which have been invited.

Write in USA today this week US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration is not trying to divide the world into “rigid ideological blocs”, noting that the countries at the top “represent a specter, from strong democracies to those that have retreated. “.

Rather than just a party of talks, he said: “All participating governments will make concrete commitments to three goals: tackling authoritarianism, tackling corruption and protecting human rights.

“To encourage accountability, President Biden will bring everyone together in a year to report on our progress. The United States will also make commitments. “

Receive a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what is making the headlines in the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.