Competing with China, constraining Russia are priorities of Biden’s National Security Strategy

China and Russia are increasingly aligned with each other, but the challenges they pose are different, says the document

October 12, 2022 11:16 pm | Updated 11:16 pm IST - Washington D.C.

President Joe Biden. File

President Joe Biden. File | Photo Credit: AP

The Biden administration has said that maintaining a competitive edge over China and constraining Russia are priorities for the U.S. strategy, as it released the administration’s first National Security Strategy on Wednesday.

The document, which every administration is required to release, by law, was delayed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  It lists great power competition and transnational challenges as the two premises on which the strategy is built.  The strategy is based on “building strength at home” as well as building coalitions abroad to deal with both types of challenges.

China and Russia are increasingly aligned with each other, the document notes, but the challenges they pose are different. “We will prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over the PRC while constraining a still profoundly dangerous Russia,” it says.

However, the U.S. did not want to see the world just through the prism of strategic competition, nor have that competition become a Cold War or confrontation with others, such as China, which, remains America’s “most consequential geopolitical challenge”, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, during a Wednesday morning briefing call.

Mr. Sullivan said that the U.S. had entered a “decisive decade” with respect to the “two fundamental strategic challenges” as he highlighted major power competition and issues like climate change, food insecurity, communicable diseases, terrorism, the energy transition and inflation.

These challenges are “ not secondary to geopolitics, but they operate on a plane alongside the competition, the geopolitical competition with major powers,” Mr. Sullivan said.  The U.S. will seek to address both these types of challenges by investing domestically, building a strong coalition of abroad to shape the strategic environment and for cooperation on transnational threats, and setting the rules for emerging technology, cyberspace, economics, investments, as per Mr. Sullivan.

“The PRC represents America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge,” he said, adding that this would play out significantly in the Indo-Pacific, but also had global dimensions to it.

“And we will not try to divide the world into rigid blocks. We are not seeking to have competition tip over into confrontation or a new Cold War,” he said.

On the Indo-Pacific, the document says, as India is the world’s largest democracy and a major defence partner [of the U.S.], the two countries “ will work together, bilaterally and multilaterally, to support our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

With its allies and partners, the U.S. is, as per the document, assisting in making Russia’s war on Ukraine a “strategic failure”.  It cites the example of NATO, as well as Finland and Sweden [which have applied to become members of the alliance]. It says that “Putin’s war” has “profoundly diminished” Russia’s status with Asian powers like India, China, and Japan – with Moscow’s soft power and diplomatic influence waning.

“The historic global response to Russia’s war against Ukraine sends a resounding message that countries cannot enjoy the benefits of global integration while trampling on the core tenets of the UN Charter,” the strategic document says.

On U.S. alliances, the strategy says they have played a critical role and calls for a deepening and modernization of these associations, a range of which are listed, including the Quad. The strategic document says the “revitalized Quad” which includes the U.S., India, Australia, and Japan, had addressed regional challenges and “demonstrated its ability to deliver” for the Indo-Pacific on fighting COVID-19, cybersecurity and “promoting high standards for infrastructure and health security”. While the Quad, at its ministerial meet in New York last month, produced a plan to counter ransomware, a plan to roll out at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses across the Indo-Pacific by the end of this year has not met its targets.

The strategy says that the G7 is strongest when it works with other countries with aligned goals, listing a few of these including India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, along with several other non-G7 leaders, attended the group’s summit level talks in June this year in Germany.

It says the Quad and AUKUS – a security relationship between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. – will be crucial in addressing global challenges as well as encouraging tighter linkages between America’s Asian and European allies.

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