Security First:

What does the Interim Strategic Guidance reveal about Biden’s priorities?
Security First:
July 8, 2021

US President Joe Biden has released Interim US National Security Strategic Guidance, which covers aspects of US relations with countries around the world, the administration’s conception of US national security priorities, and the main sources of threats. The key features of the Strategic Guidance are as follows:

1. Initial interim strategy for US national security. The Interim Strategic Guidance represents initial guidance for US national security agencies, enabling them to act immediately, in parallel with the process of developing a more in-depth national security strategy in the next few months. The interim guidance defines the global outlook as seen by the Biden administration, outlining foreign policy priorities and how to replenish the power of the United States to confront threats and exploit current opportunities.

2. Linkage between domestic and foreign policy. The strategy emphasizes the close connection between domestic and foreign policy, stating that the governing values of the US system represent the main source of guidance for national security policy. The focus is on democracy and human rights, as well as unconventional threats such as climate change and cybersecurity.

3. The importance of curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. At the top of Biden’s list of priorities is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and strengthening global health security by encouraging rapid global distribution of vaccines, supporting developing countries, and dealing with potential new global waves of the pandemic.

4. Washington’s leadership in managing the global economic crisis. The Biden administration envisages the United States playing a leading role in confronting the global economic crisis, by building a more stable and inclusive global economy and addressing the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Activating existing free trade agreements. The strategy indicates that the US administration will work to activate free trade agreements, in parallel with helping workers and small businesses to benefit from them, as well as adopting programs to neutralize the effects of free trade on the US economy. This reflects the Biden administration’s fear of adopting free trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which large sections of the US public have opposed.

6. Renewing commitments to protect democracy. The report states that democracy around the world faces existential threats, asserting that Russia and China both aim to call into question the advantage of the US democratic system. The report stated that the United States will use the power of the US democratic model to encourage the adoption of political reforms, combat corruption, put a stop to unjust practices, and undermine the perspectives promoted by authoritarian regimes. The strategy included an assurance that democracy would not be encouraged through costly military interventions or by attempting to overthrow authoritarian regimes by force, but rather through the power of example and by adhering to democratic values.

7. Establishing a humanitarian and effective immigration system. The strategy indicated the Biden administration’s intention to establish a just and effective immigration system in the United States, modifying the Trump administration’s policies, which complicated immigration systems in the United States.

8. Strengthening ties with allies and partners. The strategy emphasized the US intention to strengthen ties of trust with its allies, maintaining the strong roots it has in Europe and Asia, as well as with its partners in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. The strategy focuses on using allies to encircle and constrict Chinese global expansion, stopping Chinese activity in regions such as the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific.

9. Pledging to combat climate change. The United States under Biden is committed to leading efforts to combat climate change through the ‘green energy revolution,’ and to changing the status quo in the United States, which produces 15% of global carbon pollution. Washington will lead global initiatives to combat this worldwide threat.

10. Securing US technology leadership. The United States aims to maintain its lead in the global technology race by developing and employing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. US technical defenses will also be strengthened following the data breaches at security and federal institutions caused by Russian-controlled hacking networks, the most recent of which was the cyberattack against the SolarWinds company.

11. Managing the challenge of China’s ascent. The strategy considers China to be “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.” This makes it the main competitor to US precedence in the international system, threatening the rules, values, and relationships which guarantee US global hegemony.

The strategy stressed the primacy of managing the competitive relationship with China, in parallel with exposing Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, pledging that China will not escape scrutiny. At the same time, it stressed the necessity of competing from a position of strength, using allies to confront Chinese expansion, and of countering China’s threats to allies in Asia.

12. Confronting forces which threaten national security. The strategy focused on the threats posed to US national security by states such as Russia, which is conducting a cyber, information, and media war against the United States, and North Korea, which possesses a nuclear program that threatens global security. Meanwhile, it also involves a pledge to return to the Iranian nuclear agreement.

In summary, the strategy emphasizes that the United States will confront national security threats using a variety of tools, including diplomacy, economic relations, free trade, and international sanctions, going as far as employing military force and cyberwarfare. This makes it a strategy founded on active engagement in global affairs and attempts to restore the position of the United States in the global system.

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