[Editorial] US’ National Security Strategy- Perception of China, Russia and India

The current US administration has brought out its first National Security Strategy recently. This much anticipated document was delayed due to the Russia-Ukraine War.

What is it about?

  • The National Security Strategy is a document on the executive’s vision for national security.
  • All US Presidents are required to bring out NSSs of their own, according to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act.
  • This comprehensive document is for communicating the US government’s stand on the national security agenda of the day to the legislative. This gives the Congress an opportunity to determine the areas of investments and costs that the country will have to shoulder to achieve national security.
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What are the highlight?

  • The Biden administration’s strategy looks at the current decade as a decisive one. In this decade, USA seeks to:
    • Sustain its global leadership
    • Improve its economy
    • Build on its large network of alliances and partnerships
    • Counter China (its strategic competitor) and Russia (a disruptor)
    • Improve its competitiveness
    • Defend democracy
  • The document outlines the government’s agenda to tackle transnational challenges which have both, international and domestic implications:
    • Climate change
    • Food insecurity
    • Pandemics
    • Terrorism
    • Energy shortage
    • Inflation
    • Outer space security
    • Governance
  • The strategy is based on 3 key fulcrums:
    • Invest:
      • It calls for investment in ‘tools’ that strengthen the country’s power and influence.
      • This is to be achieved by:
        • Strengthening the domestic economy
        • Improving critical infrastructure
        • Investment in microchips, semiconductors and other technologies
    • Build:
      • The strategy envisions the building of ‘the strongest possible coalition of nations’.
    • Modernize:
      • It calls for modernization to the simultaneously address needs of internal and external security.

What does it say about other countries?

China:

  • The NSS has considered the Chinese threat in both, the short-term and the long-term.
  • The US-China competition is placed at the core of the NSS’s decadal outlook.
  • It clearly opposes China’s attempts to unilaterally change Taiwan’s status.
  • The document took note of the differences in the challenges poses by China and Russia, despite the increasing alignment between the two countries. It says that the US strategy would be to “prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over the PRC while constraining a still profoundly dangerous Russia”.

Russia:

  • The document argues that the ongoing Ukraine War has ‘profoundly diminished’ its Cold War rival’s status vis-à-vis China, India, Japan and other Asian powers.
  • It holds that the Russian economy and influence has declined and that countries like Japan and India would fill the gaps.
  • For instance, it hints that India could join important global forums like the G7.

India:

  • The document identifies India as a USA’s bilateral and multilateral partner in the Indo-Pacific region, specifically taking note of its large democracy and significant defence ties.
  • Partnership with India has been assessed as critical for developing a ‘latticework of strong, resilient and mutually reinforcing relationships’. This is to be achieved through regional groupings like the QUAD, I2U2, etc.
  • As India pursues an agenda of diversifying and indigenizing its defence procurements, the US strategy lays down space for India-US partnerships.

Why is it significant?

  • The Biden government’s strategy would serve 3 broad purposes:
    • Continuing and completing the strategic vision, started with the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance of March 2021
    • Clarifying the administration’s various policy verticals
    • Marking an end to an important political expectation about presidential doctrine
  • The document has been released just ahead of the upcoming November mid-term elections. By providing policy clarity, it could help Biden and his party amass political support.
  • It informs the country’s Department of Defence’s strategy in 2 key areas- missile defence and nuclear posture. Though delayed, the report is timely in the backdrop of the threats of nuclear weapon use– one of the most potent possibilities since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • This key document follows the release of other strategic documents last week- National Defense Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review, thus serving to reinforce the central policy messages.
  • In line with the strategy outlined in the document, the Biden administration had unleashed a series of sanctions that affects the sale of semiconductors to China, US citizens’ and residents’ ability to work in China’s chip companies, etc.
  • By putting China at the focus of the strategy, as seen from its being named the ‘only competitor’ with sufficient capability and intent to alter international order in a significant way, the document shows USA’s recognition of unprecedented level of competition with the Asian giant. This is despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
  • The strategy’s focus on developing strong international coalition is an indication of the country’s recognition of the limitations of unilaterally driving global geopolitics.

What is the way ahead?

  • Though late in coming, the NSS helps clarify USA’s position on international political issues, like Taiwan, to its allies.
  • While the strategy declares an intention to strengthen multilateral efforts in the Indo-Pacific, several of the administration’s future steps may purely cater to US interests while being out of sync with its Indo-Pacific partners.
  • For instance, even while underscoring India as a ‘major defence partner’, USA has approved a $450 million sustainment program for upkeep of Pakistani F16 fighter planes.
  • Hence, the NSS’s stated objectives must be taken by the countries’ allies with a pinch of salt.
  • On the subject of the administration releasing grand strategy documents, not that several other countries follow this practice too:
    • UK had released the Integrated Review 2021
    • China puts out its white papers on defence strategy
    • France publishes its Strategic Update
    • Pakistan unveiled its first Security Policy this year
  • Meanwhile, India doesn’t publish such documents. The last such attempt was the release of the 2004 Indian army doctrine.
  • Not publishing a comprehensive security strategy document is bad press for India’s aspirations as a global power. The Indian administration could consider releasing an NSS to increase its policy establishment’s credibility.

Conclusion:

The US NSS, focusing on countering China and Russia and building stronger partnerships in the Indi-Pacific, isn’t much of a surprise for its observers. However, it is timely in clarifying its nuclear and missile policies, given the situation in eastern Europe. While it gives significance to its Indo-Pacific allies, the countries would be better served in adopting a calibrated approach to boosting ties.

Practice Question for Mains:

Comment on the focal points of the recently released US National Security Strategy. What are its implications for the India-US ties? (250 words)

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