Russian President Vladimir Putin during his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is part of the backdrop of Biden’s Summit for Democracy, which begins Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is part of the backdrop of Biden’s Summit for Democracy, which begins Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Biden opens Summit for Democracy: ‘We stand at an inflection point in our history’

Leaders and activists from more than 110 countries are taking part in the event

U.S. President Joe Biden says it’s up to democracies around the world to prove that government of, by and for the people is the best way to solve problems.

Biden opened his two-day virtual Summit for Democracy by acknowledging that democratic systems are inherently fragile and often demanding.

He did it from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across from the White House, sitting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken across from a screen filled with the faces of world leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Biden says while democracy is hard work, it’s also capable of self-correction and self-improvement, calling it the best way to unleash human potential.

And he’s citing his own political wins — getting a pandemic rescue plan and a 10-year, $1.2-trillion infrastructure upgrade through an impossibly divided Congress — as evidence.

Biden is promising to spend $424 million on a global democratic renewal strategy that includes bolstering media freedom, fighting corruption, enlisting technology and defending free and fair elections.

Government officials, business leaders and activists from more than 110 countries are taking part in the summit, which is unfolding with Russia and China — two of the gathering’s most glaring absences — flexing their military muscles at neighbouring Ukraine and Taiwan.

“They seek to advance their own power, export and expand their influence around the world and justify the repressive policies and practices as a more efficient way to address today’s challenges,” Biden said, without mentioning names.

“That’s how it’s sold by voices that seek to fan the flames of social division and political polarization.”

In his own preamble, Blinken acknowledged the fact that the United States is facing existential challenges to its own political system, not only from foreign autocrats but from within its own borders as well.

“Our democracies are facing growing challenges around the world from within and from without, decreasing citizen trust in government,” he said.

“We’ve seen a democratic recession in recent years. And these are not challenges to be taken lightly. We have a lot of work to do. But that’s exactly why we’re here today.”

—The Canadian Press

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