The Biden administration has already brought a certain measure of normalcy to the management of foreign policy, that is to say upon the duopoly of two nations that challenge the national interests of the United States – Russia and China. Strategically, both of them are classified as “competitors” of the United States, a definition that does not relate to any present danger of confrontation and that in fact supports negotiable attitudes. In a conjunction of quasi-normalcy, one could argue that the competition with China is more about economic and technological issues than projection of military power while competition with Russia embraces well-defined strategic spheres of geopolitical and military influence. The question then is this: which is the competition that the United States should pay more attention to and act accordingly?
The answer is quite clear if the U.S. leadership attaches its priority to the ability to defend its security alliances and interests abroad.
Unquestionably, Russia is the greater threat as the Kremlin will continue to foment instability in Europe and in the “hot spots” of the Mediterranean area.
And yet, this judgment has to be connected to another priority that the new Biden administration has introduced in facing another kind of worrisome competition, the Chinese one. President Biden is calling for huge investments in energy, transportation, manufacturing and infrastructure that are essential to making the U.S. more competitive in the face of the massive Chinese investments in the same fields as pushed by President Xi Jinping. There is definitely an external angle in the action plan of the Biden administration to sell its ambitious recovery project to Congress.However, social stability in America comes first and one cannot fault the mass of Americans who are not preoccupied with foreign policy. It cannot be ignored that Americans have absorbed the shrill attacks by Donald Trump against China during the electoral campaign. They have left a mark on the normalization of trade relations with China, especially because trade wars, such as those pushed by the Trump administration, do not benefit American lives, leaving aside large sectors of the economy starting with the grain exporters in the Midwest. A ray of hope can now be found in the prospect of cooperation with both Russia and China on climate change issues, particularly if a way can be worked out within the wider international community.In the final analysis, however, competition is the right focus for America for the simple reason that it is needed to restore national strength in the face of strong adversaries such as Russia and China. The challenges from these powers and a host of other nations make it imperative for Americans to act in unity to secure both security and prosperity.