China and Russia vs. U.S.-Is the Biden Administration Responding to These Threats?

A look at America's new view of two old foes

  
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China and Russia vs. U.S.-Is the Biden Administration Responding to These Threats?

As of today, March 20, 2021, Joe Biden has been President of the United States for two full months.  Given recent developments in America’s relationships with China and Russia, the two nations closest to the U.S. in near-peer status as world powers, we can see some distinct patterns emerging.

To put it bluntly, and to quote Biden, “America is back!”  Events of the past couple of weeks show that, at least in dealing with China and Russia, Joe Biden seems to be channelling the ghost of Ronald Reagan, for which we say, “It is about time!”

On the China front, the U.S. is now actively engaging with our Indo-Pacific partners, Australia, India, and Japan, who, together with the U.S., forms The Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), which is quickly developing into a viable alliance whose goal is to contain China’s increasingly aggressive military and diplomatic moves in the area.  The recently ended Trump Administration made a lot of noise about opposition and confrontation with China, but usually in more of a lone-wolf way, often ignoring or antagonizing traditional allies.  Biden and his foreign policy team are righting that boat, and are actively working with regional allies to remind China that there are limits to Beijing's behavior.  

Let’s look at recent Chinese actions that are troublesome:

  1. Ongoing military buildup and modernization

  2. Threats to Taiwan (a democracy)

  3. Border clashes with world’s biggest democracy, India

  4. South China Sea tensions

    1. Chinese expansion in SCS islands

    2. Naval aggression against Philippines, Vietnam

  5. Increased repression of minorities, especially against the Uighers of Xinjiang-Genocide

  6. Continued and increasing cyber attacks on U.S. and allied targets. China maintains an active and growing cyber offensive capability in PLA Unit 61398

The diplomatic summit held in Alaska on March 18 and 19th between high-level diplomats from the U.S. and China made headlines for the very un-diplomatic words of anger exchanged there.  Both sides criticized each other publicly, showing that they are far apart on a variety of issues.

This is actually a good thing. The Biden Administration’s opening dialogue with a Chinese government that is showing increasing aggression on multiple fronts in the Indo-Pacific theater, as well as increasing internal repression of her own minority populations, while also engaging in cyber-attacks against her foes.  This is the sort of aggression and bad behavior by an authoritarian regime that demands America stand up to it and show the world that, yes, America is back!

On the Russia front, the recent comments by President Biden in an interview, in which he agreed that Vladimir Putin is a “killer,'' appeared to irritate Mr. Putin, and sparked some harsh talk from Russian media.  Considering that the past four years under Biden’s predecessor, Russia got a pass for a lot of bad behavior, it is refreshing that the U.S. is showing a stony face to Russian adventurism, and calling out Putin for the authoritarian thug that he is.

Recent Russian aggression and concerning actions:

  1. Attacking Ukraine and annexing the Crimea (over the past 7 years)

  2. Propping up the bloody Assad regime in Syria in concert with Iran and Hezbollah

  3. Intervention in the Libyan Civil War

  4. Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan

  5. Aggressive statements and actions that worry eastern NATO members in the Baltics and Poland

  6. Recent treats to Bosnia, warning them against joining NATO.

  7. Increased cooperation (military, diplomatic, in space) with China against the West.

  8. Cyber attacks on U.S. and European targets

  9. Russian meddling (often in cyber attacks, hacks, and disinformation campaigns) against U.S. elections in 2016 and 2020, and in European political campaigns.

Looking at all of the actions of China and Russia, it is clear that they see themselves in conflict with the West and with “liberal democracies,” and it is time that the U.S. and the West recognize this for what it is: the opening shots of a new Cold War/great power competition.

As the U.S. re-engages with our allies in both Europe and in Asia, and we start to see signs that the American military is retooling for potential confrontations with China, (especially in light of recent statements by U.S. military officials that they see China possibly attacking Taiwan in the next few years), it is critical that the American people understand that Great Power competition is back, and is a real threat.  America enjoyed a brief respite after the end of the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War as the world’s only true superpower, but that era is now ending.  Both China and Russia are now flexing their muscles internationally, and are making very aggressive noises toward their neighbors (all U.S. allies, by the way), and the U.S. must meet this challenge.  Will the new Biden Administration stand up and meet this challenge?  So far, based on the Biden-Putin interactions, and the recent Alaska summit with China, and the ongoing work with the Quad and NATO, it looks like American policy is at last heading in the right direction.  Hopefully, this means that indeed, America IS back!

Sources and Notes:

https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/541133-bidens-america-is-back-pledge-leaves-the-world-unimpressed

https://www.rand.org/blog/2020/07/the-quad-is-poised-to-become-openly-anti-china-soon.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/19/china-usa-alaska-477267

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/16/977987292/pentagon-pushes-for-bigger-effort-to-deter-chinas-growing-military-might

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/15/china-growing-threat-taiwan-476170