During an interview with reporters on Monday, devoted to a regional summit with Latin America currently being held in Los Angeles, a senior White House official found himself on the defensive.
What logic is there in excluding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from this “Summit of the Americas” because of “reservations” on democracy and human rights, while at the same time the 79-year-old democrat evokes a trip to Saudi Arabia?
– “Cabbage and carrots” –
“It’s a bit like comparing cabbage and carrots,” the White House official said. “This in no way suggests an approach that would be different depending on the region.”
All this nevertheless remains embarrassing for Joe Biden, who sees himself as a champion of democracies against autocracies, and who is not stingy with moral indignation.
He released a report pointing to the responsibility of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and promised to make the oil kingdom a “pariah” on the international scene.
But now, according to the American press, he is considering a meeting with “MBS”.
“If (Joe Biden) decides that it is in the interest of the United States to establish contact with a foreign leader and that this contact can bring results, then he will do it,” his spokeswoman Karine Jean said on Monday. -Rock.
“Pure cynicism,” according to Robert Guttman, who teaches political science at Johns Hopkins University. “The midterm legislative elections (in November) are approaching and everyone is angry with Biden, and he has to show that he is doing something.”
– Oil –
If “everyone wants Biden”, it is in particular because of the prices at the pump which do not stop climbing. This infuriates Americans and jeopardizes the Democrats’ chances of retaining control of Congress.
Joe Biden therefore thinks he has everything to gain from a drop in the price of black gold, if Ryad agrees to produce more.
Conversely, he cannot hope for any political benefit from a dialogue with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. On the contrary: the Republican opposition would fire red balls at any rapprochement, in particular with the communist regime in Havana.
The president is therefore “betting that Americans will be blinded by a drop in gas prices and will not notice that he is getting closer to autocrats and dictators”, was indignant recently Andrea Prasow, executive director of the NGO Freedom Initiative.
Bruce Jentleson, a professor at Duke University, believes that the planned trip to Saudi Arabia is also a strategic mistake.
“What worries me is that it gives the impression that we are lying down” in front of Ryad.
“I don’t believe that an increase in Saudi oil production would have a big effect on the price of gasoline. So it’s counterproductive, both in terms of democracy and in terms of the balance of power,” he decrypts.
In Los Angeles, Joe Biden has also scheduled his first bilateral meeting with Brazilian far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.
A delicate interview: Washington is indeed publicly worried about the maneuvers of the Brazilian head of state, who is seeking a second term, to challenge his country’s electoral system already.
This is not the first time that the Biden administration has been caught in the act of ambivalence, between democratic ambitions and diplomatic interests, for example the desire to face the ambitions of China.
When he recently organized the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the American president, for example, shunned Burma, but invited regimes that are not exactly considered models of democracy, for example Laos and Cambodia.