President Joe Biden released his first national security strategy plan on Wednesday, outlining how the United States would “effectively compete” with China in the coming years, “while constraining a dangerous Russia.”
The 42-page document was initially scheduled for release last December, but was delayed when it became clear that Russia was preparing for military action in Ukraine.
Ten months later, Russia’s army and its economy have both been significantly weakened by the disastrous invasion, a new reality that was reflected in Biden’s strategy.
“Russia and [China] pose different challenges,” wrote Biden. “Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of the international order today, as its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown.”
“The P.R.C., by contrast, is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective,” the president wrote, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
Biden wrote that the United States will engage in strategic competition with China, while at the same time “moving forward on the priorities that demand that we work together,” like global health and climate change.
Every new administration is required to release a national security strategy, but the document functions more as an aspirational expression of a president’s values than as a blueprint for military plans.
Overall, Biden wrote that his administration would prioritize three things: Boosting America’s domestic industrial and high tech sectors; strengthening global alliances and coalitions like NATO, and making investments to “modernize and strengthen our military.”
In light of America’s urgent and ongoing involvement in Russia’s war in Ukraine, Biden’s strategy for countering Russia struck a pragmatic note.
Damage to the Russian military caused by the protracted conflict “will likely increase Moscow’s reliance on nuclear weapons in its military planning,” Biden wrote. The United States “will not allow” Russia to achieve its objectives through the use or threat of nuclear weapons, the president wrote, but he did not say how the U.S. would do that.
In addition to maintaining and increasing its current military support for Ukraine, “We are renewing our focus on bolstering our collective resilience against shared threats from Russia, including asymmetric threats” to U.S. infrastructure and American democracy, wrote Biden
On a global level, Biden wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine had “profoundly diminished Russia’s status vis-a-vis China and other Asian powers such as India and Japan.”
And while Russia poses a regional threat to Europe and a threat to global markets, wrote Biden, the Kremlin “lacks the across the spectrum capabilities of the PRC.”