The post-Cold War era is “definitively over,” the Biden administration declared in a new national security strategy, describing its intention to compete ferociously against China and Russia — while also collaborating with them on global threats like climate change.
The long-awaited U.S. National Security Strategy, delayed by the invasion of Ukraine, serves as a reference point for Biden administration officials to coordinate policies across the government.
The congressionally mandated document encapsulates U.S. President Biden’s thinking on the state of the world and how his administration will navigate challenges to the homeland and global order.
In a foreword, Biden calls this the “decisive decade to advance America’s vital interests.”
The U.S. will do so in three ways before time runs out, according to the document: investing at home to strengthen the local economy, society and defenses; growing coalitions and alliances; and modernizing and strengthening the military.
That will allow the U.S. the take on the most pressing problem, per the strategy: “powers that layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy” — that is, China and Russia.
That will require complicated maneuvering on the part of the administration, which also said in the strategy that it plans to simultaneously work with China, Russia and allies to curb pandemics, slow climate change and boost food and energy security. That is how the administration hopes to break with the Cold War paradigm of “with us or against us” even in a new age of great-power rivalry: The countries with which the U.S. will steadfastly compete can still be engaged as partners in solving global problems.
China “is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” the administration declares in the strategy. To win that competition, the Biden administration says it will help countries meet their needs without the reciprocation China typically expects, work to maintain peace between China and Taiwan, align a diplomatic approach toward China with allies, and work with Beijing on areas where U.S. and Chinese interests align.
“We cannot let the disagreements that divide us stop us from moving forward on the priorities that demand that we work together, for the good of our people and for the good of the world,” the document reads.
As for Russia, which the document says “has chosen to pursue an imperialist foreign policy with the goal of overturning key elements of the international order,” the U.S. will proceed to punish the country for the invasion of Ukraine. But, just like with China, the Biden administration is open to working with Russia in areas where a partnership can be “mutually beneficial.”
The language in the new document echoes the Trump administration’s national security strategy, which asserted “great power competition returned,” and the second Obama-era iteration, which emphasized the need to revitalize democracy at home while partnering with allies on global issues.
It makes sense, as Biden, Sullivan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken repeatedly in both Trumpian and Obamian terms on world affairs, sometimes in the same sentence.
The focus on China and Russia, though, can’t distract from the transnational threats facing the U.S. and many other nations. The administration identified key ones in the strategy: climate change; pandemics and biodefense; food insecurity; arms control and non-proliferation; and terrorism. Terrorism’s relatively low listing in the order of the global threats shows how far the U.S. has come from the days of the so-called war on terror, when the U.S. government after the attacks of September 11, 2001 reoriented itself for an ill-fated attempt to eradicate terrorism as a practice.
To take these challenges on, the administration said it will pursue “two simultaneous tracks: one where the U.S. works with “all countries and institutions” to solve the problem, and another where Washington aims to “deepen” ties to like-minded partners.
Other media reports said:
The U.S. sees strategic competition as global but will avoid temptation to view world solely through competitive lens, as per the country’s new national security strategy document.
“Strategic competition is global, but we will avoid the temptation to view the world solely through a competitive lens, and engage countries on their own terms,” the White House said.
The White House’s new national security strategy views China as the “most consequential geopolitical challenge” to the U.S., even more so than Russia.
The strategy recognizes that “the PRC presents America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge,” National Security Council Jake Sullivan said in a press conference.
The document added that “Russia poses an immediate and ongoing threat to the regional security order in Europe and it is a source of disruption and instability globally but it lacks the across the spectrum capabilities of the PRC.”
At the same time, the U.S. believes it is possible to coexist peacefully with China and jointly contribute to human progress
“It is possible for the United States and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to coexist peacefully, and share in and contribute to human progress together,” the White House said in its new National Security Strategy.
China plays central role in the global economy and has a significant impact on shared challenges, particularly climate change and global public health, the new National Security Strategy read.
Introducing the National Security Strategy document on Wednesday, Jake Sullivan described the “decisive decade” to come embodying two “fundamental” challenges: competing to “shape the future of the international order” and addressing “transnational challenges” like terrorism, climate change, and pandemics.
In his remarks to reporters, Sullivan attempted to reframe the increasingly-strained great power rivalry as friendly, insisting “we are not seeking competition to tip over into confrontation or a new Cold War.”
The administration acknowledges that it has “broken down the dividing line between domestic and foreign policy,” suggesting its own authority to “defend our homeland our allies, partners and interests overseas, and our values across the globe” supersedes that of local governments. However, the policy stresses that “our alliances and partnerships around the world are our most important strategic asset” and pledges to deepen those by injecting “more democracy” into its foreign relations.
While the document makes repeated references to strengthening, modernizing, and otherwise expanding the U.S. military, the administration hints at battle fatigue in the Middle East, pledging to “empower our allies and partners [to] advance regional peace and prosperity, while reducing the resource demands the region makes on the United States over the long term.”
The U.S. has an interest in maintaining peace and security across the Taiwan Strait, and remains committed to both the One China policy and the Taiwan Relations Act.
“We have an abiding interest in maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is critical to regional and global security and prosperity and a matter of international concern and attention. We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side, and do not support Taiwan independence,” the White House said in its new National Security Strategy.
The U.S. plans to deepen its cooperation with Arctic allies and partners and maintain regional institutions such as the Arctic Council despite the challenges posed by Russia’s operation in Ukraine, according to its new national security strategy document.
“We will deepen our cooperation with our Arctic allies and partners and work with them to sustain the Arctic Council and other Arctic institutions despite the challenges to Arctic cooperation posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the document stated. It noted that Russia had made significant military investments in the Arctic over the last decade, “creating new risks of unintended conflict and hindering cooperation.”