‘No ground for cockiness’: Tough love for U.S. at pro-democracy conference

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister from 2015 to 2018, replied “We are” when asked in an interview if allies are concerned about the United States.

“The US is by far the most important of the Western democracies. … We all have a legitimate interest in the health of American democracy. So, yeah, I think it’s a real problem, ”he said.

A bipartisan group of six senators in attendance – three Republicans and three Democrats – will now bring the message they heard loud and clear back to Washington, where bipartisanism is already jeopardizing important national security priorities as the threats posed by great powers crystallize to have.

“I have the feeling that there is no need to be cocky. Sometimes a little humility even enables us to make better connections with other nations because we are not really able to give lectures, “Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), A member of the Senate for Foreign Relations and Armed Forces Committees, said in an interview. “We are able to enter into dialogue, share experiences, share best practices, recognize areas in which we need to work together.”

“We can’t really go and teach other countries about political unrest and corruption,” added Kaine. “But sometimes that actually means that the conversations are more open and a little more authentic and a little more productive.”

This year marked the conference’s first meeting since Donald Trump stepped down and Biden took office with a renewed promise to build the strategic alliances his predecessor often shunned. It was supposed to be a coming-out party for the US after four years of anti-democratic moves by Trump that shook allies. But in the 10 months since Biden took office, the US has faced cascading crises both domestically and abroad that have led Western allies to question America’s promises.

One focus of the three-day conference was the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which many foreign officials here viewed as a betrayal of Washington’s commitment to the country’s ailing democracy. Sabrina Saqeb, a former member of the Afghan parliament, told an audience, “We have been sold to terrorists.”

“Members of our delegation acknowledge that the United States has failed its partners in many ways,” including in Afghanistan, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Armed Services Committee and a combat veteran, said in one Interview. She added that the US must work to “meet our commitments”.

Some of these crises were raised organically by the legislators themselves. During the panels, Kaine and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) Spoke about the January 6 attack on the Capitol and its impact on American democracy. In particular, Kaine said the US had a problem with its “immune system,” which he described as America’s ability – or lack of it – to respond to stresses on its democracy.

Coons, meanwhile, said the best way for the US to counter China’s worsening predatory behavior – a key focus of the conference – is to “take decisive action to heal our own democracy.” He said the January 6 attack “encouraged Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, autocrats around the world, those who wish us evil.”

“Heads of state or foreign ministers from other nations often express their concern about the state of our democracy and the impact of January 6th on them,” Coons said in an interview. “So I think it’s perfectly appropriate to bring it up, and I honestly think we need to do much more specific work to strengthen our civic culture.”

Turnbull, the former Australian Prime Minister, fully agrees. Misinformation and extremism on the American right “led to the attack on the Capitol. That led to an attempted coup, ”he said. “The rest of the world looked at January 6th and was shaken.”

“When you see the very essential foundations of democracy being challenged from within, and where you see a political party, then the Republican Party – not all, but many – is actually challenging the constitutional institutions on which this great one is built Over two centuries of democracy depends on it, which is what really undermines international public confidence in American democracy, ”Turnbull continued.

Some also expressed doubts that the US would stop aggressive actions by autocrats, particularly the massaging of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

Petro Poroshenko, Ukrainian President from 2014 to 2019, said in an interview that the West – led by the US – is sending more “deadly defense weapons” into his country, pushing for Ukraine to join NATO and its stance on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany and attack Moscow with tougher sanctions. Failure to take these steps by the US and its allies would “increase the likelihood” that Putin will launch a second major attack on Russia’s neighbors.

Europeans are also increasingly concerned that America’s turn to the Indo-Pacific and competition with China in the region will divert Washington’s gaze from Europe.

The idea of ​​an emerging “strategic autonomy”, even if it is still unclear, has prevailed in NATO discussions on deterring and containing Russia.

“I think strategic autonomy is about the fact that there needs to be more military capabilities available in Europe that are now only available in the US,” said Admiral Rob Bauer from the Netherlands, head of NATO’s military committee and senior alliance military officer, told a small group of reporters on the sidelines of the event.

“If the nations of Europe and Canada are able to take on some of the roles that only the US can now because of its capabilities, the US could prioritize and do more in the Indo-Pacific,” Bauer said.

The Senators will now return to Washington after the Thanksgiving break and stare at several time-sensitive agenda items.

Congress is already in danger of failing to pass a defense clearance bill for the first time in six decades – a concern foreign colleagues here have voiced directly to lawmakers. And Senate leaders are hoping to confirm Biden’s diplomatic nominations, which have been the subject of a GOP-led blockade preventing more than 50 nominations from being swiftly confirmed.

Idaho Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, was asked about the blockade here and said he was working to break it, adding, “I was governor. I understand that you have to have a team to rule. “

Legislators were particularly concerned about the impression of not being able to work together to solve pressing challenges. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DNH), who co-chaired the Senate delegation with Risch, said there were “legitimate questions based on what people read” about tensions between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

“We haven’t seen people for almost two years,” Shaheen said in a brief interview. “And that’s why I think it’s not unexpected.”

Leave a Comment