ANALYSIS: National Security Strategy Emphasizes Strength in Numbers

By Stew Magnuson

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The Biden administration’s National Security Strategy — released Oct. 12 —emphasized a different kind of “strength in numbers.”

Unlike the National Defense Strategy that focuses on end strength of soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and all their high-tech platforms, the NSS spells out the importance of allies and alliances to bolster the nation’s defenses against and array of threats.

“Working with partners and allies …” is one of the most common phrases found in the new strategy.

President Joe Biden’s introduction to the strategy states that his administration has “reinvigorated” its multi-lateral alliances, a clear reference to the Trump administration’s criticism of NATO, the withdraw from trade agreements, and emphasis on bilateral relations.

“We have deepened our core alliances in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. NATO is stronger and more united than it has ever been, as we look to welcome two capable new allies in Finland and Sweden,” Biden stated.

He named-checked the agreement with the United Kingdom to assist Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines and continue cooperation in other military technologies known as AUKUS as well as other organizations in which the United States has common cause: the European Union, the Indo-Pacific “Quad,” the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.

“These partnerships amplify our capacity to respond to shared challenges and take on the issues that directly impact billions of people’s lives,” he said.

The administration is “clear-eyed” about the threat the People’s Republic of China poses as it tries to remake the world order, he said.

In addition, “Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war on its neighbor Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and impacted stability everywhere, and its reckless nuclear threats endanger the global non-proliferation regime,” he wrote.

Autocrats are working overtime to undermine democracy and export a model of governance marked by repression at home and coercion abroad, he added.

Russia and China are the only two nations have their own chapters in the strategy document.

One of the administration’s three lines of effort will be to “build the strongest possible coalition of nations to enhance our collective influence to shape the global strategic environment and to solve shared challenges.”

In Asia, it pledged to “deepen cooperation” with alliances such as the Quad — the United States, India, Japan and Australia — and AUKUS, along with the “Five Eyes nations: the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

As for military technology, the administration vowed to “remove barriers to deeper cooperation” between like-minded allies in fields such as cyber and space, missile defense, trusted artificial intelligence, and quantum systems, “while deploying new capabilities to the battlefield in a timely manner.”

The United States is often criticized by even its closest allies for its export control restrictions and over classification that prevents cooperating in military technology programs.

For example, the AUKUS agreement — pundits have said — will not work unless the United States is willing to share some of its most closely guarded nuclear technology secrets with its two allies and do away with the red tape.

At the same time, the administration vowed to ensure some restrictions remain in place to prevent technologies from being exported to rivals.

“We are therefore modernizing and strengthening our export control and investment screening mechanisms, and also pursuing targeted new approaches, such as screening of outbound investment, to prevent strategic competitors from exploiting investments and expertise in ways that threaten our national security,” it said.

The strategy calls for “integrated-deterrence” to thwart China’s ambitions.

The PRC is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it, it said.

One of the five pillars of this integrated-deterrence strategy is “investments in interoperability and joint capability development, cooperative posture planning, and coordinated diplomatic and economic approaches” with allies and partners.

In the Western Hemisphere, the newly formed U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, will form working groups to foster transatlantic coordination on semiconductor and critical mineral supply chains, trustworthy artificial intelligence, disinformation, the misuse of technology threatening security and human rights, it added.

The council is also forming working groups to develop technology standards, address supply chain issues — including semiconductors — and export controls, according to a State Department fact sheet.

The document calls for further international cooperation in common problems such as climate change and in areas such as the Arctic and space.

“Working with allies and partners …We will enhance the resilience of U.S. space systems that we rely on for critical national and homeland security functions,” it said.

Hand-wringing in the United States about China’s growing technological prowess, investments in emerging technologies and a growing number of science, technology and engineering students is often seen through a prism comparing the PRC to the United States.

The new National Security Strategy spells out how multi-lateral technology alliances can be more than the sum of their parts and give democracies an edge — if the United States can manage to create common sense export controls and establish trust with its like-minded partners.

Topics: Homeland Security, International

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