For a President Who Spends His Days Confronting Russia and China, a Domestic Focus

WASHINGTON – When President Biden delivered his State of the Union address a year ago, war had broken out in Europe just days before, and it seemed inevitable that Vladimir V. Putin would quickly take control. Ukraine. The Pentagon keeps repeating that China is America’s “pacing” challenger, a long-term competitor in technology and finance, but is unlikely not to pose an imminent challenge to Taiwan or the United States.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Biden faced a changed world.

Managing an aggressive Russia and a risk-taking China at the same time could be his biggest challenge for the next two years. And they will increasingly capture his attention, especially now that Republican control of the House of Representatives has virtually ended his domestic legislative agenda.

So it’s particularly notable that in the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, he chose to devote relatively little time to America’s global role, focusing instead on into its “Made in America” ​​effort to bring manufacturing jobs to the United States, even at the cost of angering America’s closest allies and top trading partners.

History can clearly conclude that bringing the NATO alliance together and uniting the various Asian allies in the face of an belligerent Russia and a rising China is a remarkable achievement. Biden, especially for a president who considers himself first and foremost a master of foreign policy.

But that further underscores Mr. Biden’s choice to downplay those accomplishments, perhaps because he knows that re-engagement in the world is both costly, and at the same time kickstarting an election cycle, as a challenge. difficult political trade. Containing Russia and competing with China can be decades-long work, but it will add tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to an already strained budget.

Thanks to Western aid and Ukraine’s resilience and ingenuity, the war now appears to have turned into a protracted and bitter conflict, one in which Washington and Moscow find themselves involved. excluding direct armed conflict, arguably the most tense moment between the two superpowers since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. And the more successful the Ukrainians are at using precision American missiles, German-made tanks and NATO ammunition, the more likely it is that Putin will again threaten that, if necessary, he will detonate it. nuclear weapons to win what he considers an existential battle.

Since the summer, Mr. Biden’s intelligence agencies have reassessed a China that appears to be much more willing to take risks – threatening Taiwan, defending disputed territory in the South China Sea and, last week, sending one spy balloon drifting over the continental United States seems to imply the problem of a surveillance state that is not ashamed of its ambitions.

Now, Mr. Biden’s national security team is debating which country will be harder for China to deal with: a confident, rising power or a power that in recent months seems to be stumbling. Falling, losing control of the COVID-19 virus and growing increasingly stressed as it tries to restore the spectacular economic growth that has been key to its strength.

As the president discovered as the whole country held its breath as the Chinese balloon and its mysterious mass of high-tech sensors, even minor incidents with Beijing could escalate quickly. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken postponed a trip to China, the first trip by a head of the State Department in many years. Republicans call Biden ‘weak’ for ordering the balloon to be shot down only after it had traveled across the country; Beijing accused him of an “obvious overreaction” and said it reserved the right to retaliate. It’s a reminder that in both countries, domestic political demands can force leaders to take a harder line, a drug that fuels already strained relations.

These are the issues that dominate Biden’s days, as he walks into the Situation Room to measure progress in Ukraine’s Donbas region, or attends the groundbreaking ceremony for Intel’s new semiconductor factories. or IBM, to make the United States less dependent. on Chinese production.

However, Mr. Biden only briefly mentioned Ukraine on Tuesday night – much less than last year. He invited the Ukrainian ambassador to the speech and thanked her, but never mentioned Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president who visited Washington just two months ago to thank a joint session of Congress for his support. of America.

Instead, he focused on his plan to spend $52 billion to start making chips. “We will make sure the supply chain for the US starts in the US,” he said.

To give the US time to catch up, he cut off the supply of China’s most sophisticated semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and persuaded Japan and the Netherlands to do the same.

“The reality is that history shows that whenever powerful nations have access to advanced computing power, they deploy this for intelligence and military purposes,” said Chris Miller, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tufts and author of “The Chip Wars: The Battle for the World’s Most Important Technology,” speak to the Marketplace radio show.

Mr. Biden mentioned President Xi Jinping by name, repeating his argument that he seeks competition, not conflict with China – but he never mentioned the balloon.

His closest warning was: “Make no mistake: As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. . And we did.”

Mr. Biden also tried to make a point on Tuesday night that in the challenge he poses to himself and to his country – to show that “democracy works” and can overcome autocracies – he has begun to show progress. “Over the past two years, democracies have become stronger, not weaker,” he said. “Authoritarian regimes are getting weaker, not stronger.”

It was part of his argument that while democracy is messy, once America acts together, it can prevail. “Before I took office, the story was about how the People’s Republic of China was growing in strength and America was failing in the world,” he said. “No more.” He then went even further, subtly suggesting that no other world leader would want to take his place, given the range of his recent problems.

That might be a premature victory statement. Yet despite his domestic focus, Mr. Biden had much to brag about leading the international response to Russian aggression. “Ever since George HW Bush gathered allies for the Third Gulf War,” said Robert Litwak, director of security studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, who has written extensively on superpower competition. Fourth, no president has assembled this kind of coalition.” , especially in the nuclear sector. “It requires a retooling of American foreign policy.”

After four decades of hard work in foreign policy, Biden has convinced a reluctant Germany to cut off the Nord Stream II gas pipeline that makes it dependent on Russian-made energy and pulls water. out of reluctance to rebuild after World War II. military power. A few weeks ago it even agreed send tank Leopard to help Ukrainians break through Russia’s trenches, a move completely unthinkable the last time Mr. Biden spoke before a joint session of Congress.

But as George HW Bush learned the hard way, voters are often unimpressed with foreign policy achievements: He was defeated in 1992, just a year after his victory in the Middle East. Some of Mr. Biden’s advisers fear that history could repeat itself, noting that gas and egg prices have a way of influencing voters that the powers of Russia and China do not.


News7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button