Biden’s democracy summit will not be helpful as a tool of statecraft. But it will be right in its message that the surest path to prosperity is through greater freedom.
Biden got together 100 countries for his first democracy summit held in December 2021. The event seemed to be an attempt to unite democracies in support of the Biden Doctrine which argues that the defining issue of our time is the contest between democracies and autocracies.
The Biden Doctrine, however, is not stated precisely enough to be useful. As Biden himself makes clear on page 8 in his National Security Strategy, America’s main strategic challenge comes from powers that are both authoritarian and revisionist. Such powers, he continues, wage and prepare for wars of aggression, undermine other democracies, oppress their peoples, and use economic coercion against democracies. He adds, importantly, that “many non-democracies join the world’s democracies in forswearing these behaviors.”
What is clear in Biden’s National Security Strategy, but not in his other statements on his doctrine, is that not all autocracies are threats to the United States—only the revisionist ones. And that some autocracies are actually on the United States’ side in opposing revisionist autocracies like China and Russia.