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U.S. brings standoff with China to the fore

From the first days of taking office, US President Joe Biden has been actively demonstrating that his policy will be radically different from Trump's, including in such an important area as national security.

The existing US National Security Strategy was adopted in December 2017 and focused on America's interests through the prism of global and long-term strategic competition from China and Russia. "A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad. A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war", the American president noted when unveiling the Strategy.

However, the new US president found such Trump's visions inconsistent with the global situation and the national interests of the country, resulting in announced preparation of a new NSS version this year. For the period of its elaboration, the White House proposes to follow the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance released on March 3.

In the preface to the document, Biden focused on revitalization of democracy as a fundamental advantage of the United States, working in common cause with the closest allies and partners, and also noted that "America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage". Those were the points that the US president delivered in his address at the Munich Security Conference on February 19, 2021, declaring that "America is back" and it "is determined to reengage with Europe".

Analyzing the Interim Guidance, experts note first of all that the Biden administration considers diplomacy, not military force, as the leading instrument for solving national security issues. "We will make diplomacy as our tool of first resort... the use of military force should be a last resort, not the first", the document says.

Of particular notice is the commitment to head off costly arms races and re-establish the U.S. credibility as a leader in arms control, starting with extending the New START Treaty with Russia. The document does not exclude the meaningful dialogue with Russia and China on a range of emerging military technological developments that implicate strategic stability. It is possible that the U.S. itself will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in strategic deterrence.

However, it would be wrong to speak of the peaceful nature of the new White House strategy. The United States will not reject the use of force if required, but "military force should only be used when the objectives and mission are clear and achievable, when force is matched with appropriate resources and as part of an integrated strategy". At the same time, the United States intends to put an end to "forever wars" (the war in Afghanistan), which are too costly for the economy and entail unjustified human losses.

Another area is clear priority in the defense budget. The Pentagon is recommended to reject obsolete military systems and invest in developing advanced technologies and creating the latest weaponry. The draft 2021 US Defense Budget includes $740 billion, but alterations are still possible since the final budget is scheduled to be published on May 3.

In the near future, the U.S. will invest not only in NATO, but also in military alliances with Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea, which can act as allies in deterring China. It is noteworthy that the new document calls China the only competitor potentially capable "to challenge the stable and open international system". In commenting on the new directions of foreign policy, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "the most critical is that America has to approach China from position of strength".

Therefore, we can say that the U.S. brings standoff with China to the fore – using diplomatic, economic and military measures.

Priorities reflected in the interim document will form the basis for elaborating the new US National Security Strategy, and then a National Defense Strategy, which will determine, first of all, the foreign policy and military activities of the main world center of power for the upcoming years.