The United States this week released the National Security Strategy, a 48-page document that lays out what President Joe Biden considers the most difficult challenges for the country and how his administration plans to maneuver between these domestic and foreign challenges.
The strategy is a document required by Congress. This year’s document describes President Biden’s doctrine that is both ideological and pragmatic – considering geopolitical adversaries such as China and Russia part of his vision of a world where “autocracies and democracies are at war.” At the same time, the intention is expressed to cooperate with all countries without differences, to face the pandemic, climate change, inflation and other global threats.
The strategy says that at the start of what President Biden calls a “decisive decade,” there is a narrow opportunity to confront shared transnational challenges, and even current great power rivalries, to advance interests of the United States and to set the world on the path to a brighter future.
“The United States will lead with our values, we will work closely with our allies and partners, and with all those with whom we share interests,” President Biden says in the introduction. “As the world continues to maneuver amid the lingering effects of the pandemic and global economic uncertainty, there is no country better prepared than the United States to lead with power and clear purpose.”
The strategic document presents a three-pronged plan for the administration of President Biden to realize this objective: investment within the country in industry, innovation, education, health and democracy; mobilizing alliances and coalitions to increase collective influence and shape the rules of the game; as well as the modernization and strengthening of the US military.
Strategic challenges at the end of the post-Cold War era
President Biden’s administration identifies two key strategic challenges. The first is the competition among major powers to shape the future world order as the world leaves behind a post-Cold War era in which the United States held hegemony. The second is how to work with allies and adversaries to confront transnational problems, including climate change, food insecurity, communicable diseases, terrorism, energy shortages, and inflation.
“We have reached a point where we can face both aspects equally – geopolitical competition and common transnational challenges – so we are building a strategy for this purpose, for competition that we cannot ignore and for global cooperation without which we cannot successfully exit,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said as he presented the strategy at an event Wednesday hosted by Georgetown University and the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow and Beijing are singled out as “authoritarian revisionist powers” – undemocratic actors whose aim is to change the global order and pose a threat to international peace and stability by “waging, or preparing for, wars of aggression” – a reference to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and China’s increased military presence in the South China Sea and its threats to Taiwan. China considers Taiwan a rebel province and has not ruled out taking it by force of arms.
These countries are also singled out for “actively undermining the democratic political processes of other countries, using technology and supply chains for pressure and oppression, and exporting an illiberal model of international order.”
Still, the strategy emphasizes that democracies and autocracies can cooperate, said Stacie E. Goddard, who teaches at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“The problem, the strategy says, is not that China and Russia are not democracies,” Ms. Goddard told VOA. “The problem is that they are underestimating some basic rules that enable order in international politics.”
Those rules, Mr. Sullivan said, include principles of sovereignty.
“Many countries that do not have democratic institutions are on the side of protecting and respecting the terms and principles of the UN Charter,” he said, citing the massive vote at the United Nations this week to reject Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories. .
Critics pointed to the discrepancy between the administration’s rhetoric in leading the global fight to preserve respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the prohibition of taking territory through war, and the actual policies it pursues on the ground, particularly with regard to Israel.
President Biden’s administration has yet to reverse or criticize former President Donald Trump’s decision in 2019 to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Middle East Institute. The Golan Heights were part of the Syrian territory that was occupied by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981.
“Nor has he called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as previous presidents have done,” Mr. Elgindy told VOA.
Critics also point to the recent decision by OPEC+, a group of oil-producing countries that, despite intense lobbying by the administration, decided to cut production to boost the global price of oil and thereby help finance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort. against Ukraine.
The strategy provides sound principles to guide policy in the Middle East, from advancing regional integration, to ensuring the security of partners and allies from regional and external threats, to supporting improved human rights conditions, all this without exceeding the resources of the United States and without distracting attention from global priorities, said Daniel B. Shapiro, Middle East fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“But the region moves quickly, and even when those words were released, events challenged the ability to implement this strategy,” Mr. Shapiro said, adding that the Middle East traditionally overturns “strategic documents, forcing policymakers to make choices that require the most painful trade-offs, of an essential priority versus an equally valuable one.”
The most consequential geopolitical challenge
While the document’s originally planned February 2022 release date was pushed back by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the US administration’s focus on China has not changed — the strategy underlines that Beijing is the United States’ “most important geopolitical challenge.”
The document states that Russia is a “source of global disruption and instability” and poses an “immediate and continuing threat to the regional security order in Europe”. He also calls other smaller autocratic powers “aggressive and destabilizing,” namely Iran and North Korea. But he argues that no country other than China has “capacity across the spectrum”.
“Russia’s aggression is a challenge, but it’s clear that this administration still sees China as the long-term problem for US influence,” Ms Goddard said.
The US administration says Beijing uses its “technological capacity and growing influence over international institutions to create more tolerant conditions for its authoritarian model and shape the use of technology and global norms to favor its interests and values.” “.
The administration adds that Beijing is using its economic power to pressure countries and rapidly modernize its military as it seeks to damage US alliances in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.
At the same time, the US administration recognizes that China is “also central to the global economy and has a significant impact on shared challenges, particularly climate change and global public health” and that it is possible “to coexist peacefully and share and contribute together to human progress”.
The release of the strategy comes as the Chinese Communist Party prepares for its National Congress this weekend. President Xi Jinping is expected to be elected for a third term following a constitutional amendment in 2018. The meeting is conceived to bring about the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049.
“This renewal, and aspects of China’s overall development, will be hindered by the actions of the Biden administration,” said Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.
The US administration’s message to the Chinese people, Mr. Daly told VOA, is that while the United States will not actively harm them, Washington will no longer assist in key aspects of their technological development because the government theirs is a threat to a rules-based order.
The administration aims to keep the focus of the US-China rivalry on the policies and strategies of governments, Mr. Sullivan said. “It is very important for us that it does not turn into the Americans against the Chinese”./VOA/
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