EHe is, in his own way, the embodiment of the American dream. The daughter of an unemployed miner in the north-east of England ravaged by deindustrialisation and Thatcherism, Fiona Hill was urged to leave by her father in the 1980s because, he told her one day, “There is nothing for you here, my little one”.
The young Fiona, scholarship holder, studied brilliantly at Saint Andrews in Scotland, Moscow, then Harvard, became one of the best specialists of Russia of her generation, took American nationality and found herself in charge of the Russian file within the Security Council. National Council of President Donald Trump. The general public discovered her on television screens in 2019 when, straight as an I, she testified against the president in front of elected Congressmen. who were investigating his dismissal trial.
Having become a researcher at the Brookings Institution again, Fiona Hill has just published a book that has received great attention in the United States. Its title is his father’s warning: There Is Nothing for You Here (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, untranslated). It’s not just about his time in the White House; she talks about Russia of course, her native England and her adopted country, the United States. But above all, she says how this journey leads her to identify her greatest object of concern: the state of American democracy.
Choices that leave you perplexed
“I saw with my own eyes how vulnerable America is to the political scourges which afflicted Russia”, she writes. In 2019, she understood “That America was embarked on its own authoritarian drift”. In 2020, she saw the pandemic bring the world’s leading power “On the verge of systemic bankruptcy”. In 2021, despite Trump’s departure, she remains extremely pessimistic.
Yet it is this country with faltering democracy which is convening on December 9 and 10 a “summit for democracy” – by videoconference -, for which the State Department has previously distributed the good and bad points. On what criteria, we do not know: the list is careful not to specify. While some choices seem clear – Taiwan yes, China no – others are puzzling. Hungary is excluded, but Poland is invited. Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be there, but Serbia is invited. Turkey, a NATO ally, has finally been sidelined, but Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil will be received with open arms. Pakistan, the Philippines are also in the game.
Joe Biden had issued the idea of this summit in January 2020. He wanted “Convince other democratic leaders to include strengthening democracy on the world agenda”. It did indeed require a little effort: a number of these “Other democratic leaders”, in particular the Europeans, rather scalded by four years of Trump regime, had some reservations about the usefulness of this noble enterprise and made it known. They were not, moreover, involved in the preparation of this event, nor were civil society.
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“Almost a year after the departure of Donald Trump, doubt still hangs over the solidity of American democracy”