America’s allies are concerned about democracy in the US in mid-January. 6 hearings

Three European diplomats opened the door to the ambassador’s residence and offered cognac and a request for anonymity.

A few years ago, they might have been happy to speak openly about American democracy, the basis of the “brand” of the superpower on the world stage, if one of them had put it that way. This is now a subject of uncertainty and controversy. The brand is tarnished as former President Trump, who tried to cancel the 2020 election, teases a political comeback, and President Biden, the man who succeeded him, is experiencing political difficulties.

“It’s not about Trump,” one of them said. “It’s much deeper. And it’s much more disturbing.”

Many televisions in Washington embassies are set to January. 6 committee hearings and a flurry of testimonies detailing Trump’s plot to undermine the will of the electorate with the help of an angry mob of his supporters.

But anxiety what America was drifting began to intensify ahead of the hearings as Western allies saw a rise in nationalism and isolationism, as well as a sense of disenfranchisement among voters that extended to their own countries, according to interviews with US veteran foreign policy makers and diplomats, many of whom asked to be anonymous to speak candidly about the ally’s concerns.

“It’s very hard,” said Heather Conley, a former State Department official who just returned from a tour of European capitals and was repeatedly asked by foreign officials about the US midterm elections and the possibility of Trump’s return.

Conley, who heads the German Marshall Fund, a US-based organization that focuses on transatlantic and other multilateral relations, said officials fear Biden’s attempts to repair a broken system are temporary, like glue holding a broken vase together.

One diplomat who spoke to The Times pointed to the months immediately after January. December 6, 2021 when Republican lawmakers shifted from condemning Trump to going over to his side. This period was crucial, he says, because it showed that the pressure to get behind Trump came from the bottom up.

“It’s terribly disturbing,” he said. “Because it means that democracy is sick among the voters, not just the system, institutions and policies.”

Despite the warning signs, several diplomats said they saw a transition to Biden, however difficult, and the responsibility that the January execution brought. 6 hearings as signs of sustainability. One ambassador noted that America has also recovered from the damage caused by shocks such as Watergate and the Vietnam War.

“This country has never been very stable,” he said. “There’s always something going on.”

While diplomats disagree on the severity and extent of America’s problems, most are concerned that the country’s deepening polarization is undermining its credibility and credibility. They cite several accompanying structural problems, such as congressional paralysis, partisanship in the Supreme Court, restrictive state voting laws, and media fragmentation. Some also accuse Democrats of playing power politics and, in the long run, turning away low-income white voters, leaving many disillusioned with the political system and vulnerable to Trump’s populism.

America, according to one diplomat, is a place where “two different worlds coexist, but they don’t talk to each other.”

America’s size, power, and self-proclaimed moral standing make its problems of great importance. Side effects include instability in European governments, authoritarian turns elsewhere, and encouragement from China and Russia, all of which confirm President Vladimir Putin’s claim that liberal democracies are fading.

“Democracies are being challenged from both inside and outside,” said a European diplomat. “This is a real issue and we are seeing it in the United States; we see it in our countries too.”

For example, French President Emmanuel Macron. tried to assemble a government after the far-right nationalist party gained strength in the June elections. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who came to power thanks to opposition to a united Europe, agreed to step aside after a series of scandals. And Viktor Orban of Hungary, a far-right nationalist, recently said that Hungarians should not become “mixed race people” echoing the rhetoric of racial purity that many Europeans hoped to bury after the Holocaust.

In Latin America, several countries have turned to more autocratic or anti-American governments, strengthening ties with China. In June, Biden couldn’t convince the governments of several countries in the Western Hemisphere have been invited to participate in a major regional summit, the Summit of the Americas, hosted by the United States for the first time in three decades, after his administration excluded some countries.

On the eve of the meeting, which took place in Los Angeles, Earl Anthony Wayne, former US ambassador to Mexico, Argentina and deputy ambassador to Afghanistan, said that America was no longer winning the war of ideas against China.

“Public opinion about how effective democracy is is getting worse,” Wayne said. “They look and see that the United States has had some of the same problems. This is not a shining example of success in the north.”

Biden’s promise that his election would mean “America is back” on the world stage did not convince many leaders that it would stay there, said David Gordon, a former State Department official in the George W. Bush administration and now an analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk assessment consultancy.

“Biden was easy to imitate. He’s known all these guys for ages. But they watch him physically disappear before their eyes. They compare President Biden to Vice President Biden and it’s not the same guy,” Gordon said. “They are worried about what will happen in the future. Will Trump or another person inclined towards the America First agenda return?

As one European diplomat put it: “You have to be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket. The US election could change things again.”

Meanwhile, some believe Biden has compromised some of his promises to put human rights at the center of his agenda, including promise to make Saudi Arabia a pariah due to the brutal murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other attempts to silence dissidents. Some also say that Biden failed to call on allies like India and Israel when they committed alleged violations, and he has been widely condemned for his chaotic and deadly troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At some level, almost all of America’s allies see their relationship with the US as strategic rather than ideological or moral. The balance of these priorities depends on the country and who is asked to weigh them.

Michael Green, former national security adviser for Asia in the George W. Bush administration, said this was especially true of allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Intelligentsia in these countries tend to view American leadership in the same light as European allies, fearing that Trump’s return to the White House would further undermine democracy.

However, many people in the political arena in some of these countries viewed the Trump years through a security lens and often agreed with Trump’s advisers on how to confront China, said Green, who now heads the Center for US Studies at the University of Sydney. .

“The people who were in charge of foreign policy when Trump was oblivious, which was mostly most of the time, were basically hawkish conservative Republicans,” he said.

But a second Trump term could reverse those calculations. Many of those same allies fear, for example, that Trump will fulfill his stated desire to withdraw US troops from South Korea by abandoning what they see as a stabilizing force for the region.

Other governments, including those that have turned to their populist authoritarian leaders such as Hungarian Orbansee Trump’s potential return as a boon, said Conley of the German Marshall Fund.

“They are – unwisely – using our polarization and hoping it works on their side,” Conley said. “It’s very, very risky.”