strategy session

U.S. National Security Strategy calls for global cooperation, including in Mideast

The long-awaited document lays out a vision for the Biden administration’s foreign policy that urges strategic cooperation to counter China and transnational threats like climate change, as U.S. faces Saudi Arabia tensions

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the economy after touring Volvo Group Powertrain on Oct. 7, 2022, in Hagerstown, Maryland.

President Joe Biden unveiled his administration’s long-delayed National Security Strategy on Wednesday, laying out a vision for American foreign policy that places global alliances and shared democratic values at its core — and setting the stage for how the U.S. may navigate partnerships with non-democratic allies. 

The 48-page document describes a “decisive decade” ahead, in which the U.S. expects strategic competition with China — “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge,” according to the report — to ramp up, and the worsening of transnational threats such as climate change and food insecurity that affect people around the world and Americans at home. 

“The need for American leadership is as great as it has ever been,” Biden said in an introduction to the document, which offers a vision of an America that views diplomacy and alliance-building as a key path forward, with military engagement only as a last-case scenario. 

Alliances are “at the core of this strategy,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday. The document praises cooperation in Europe and with NATO in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. It also describes Washington’s efforts to create a “latticework of strong, resilient, and mutually reinforcing relationships that prove democracies can deliver for their people and the world,” such as the Indo-Pacific Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the U.S.) and the so-called I2-U2 (India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S.). 

“We will work with non-democracies in service of defending these principles, as well as working with countries of every stripe when it comes to challenges like climate change,” said Sullivan, who added that promoting international cooperation in an era of great-power competition requires a “dual-track approach.”

“On one track, we will cooperate with any country, including our geopolitical rivals, that is willing to work constructively on shared challenges,” he explained. “Then on the other track, we’re going to deepen and sharpen our cooperation with like-minded democracies.”

The strategy called for de-escalation and regional integration in the Middle East, criticizing American foreign policy to this point as too reliant upon military force. “We have too often defaulted to military-centric policies underpinned by an unrealistic faith in force and regime change to deliver sustainable outcomes, while failing to adequately account for opportunity costs to competing global priorities or unintended consequences,” the strategy said. 

Instead, the strategy laid out a five-part approach to the Middle East: strengthening partnerships with countries that “subscribe to the rules-based international order”; protecting freedom of navigation in regional waterways; reducing regional tensions through diplomacy; advancing regional integration; and promoting human rights. 

The document pledges to “extend and deepen Israel’s growing ties to its neighbors and other Arab states, including through the Abraham Accords, while maintaining our ironclad commitment to its security.” It also reasserted the Biden administration’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Notably, the strategy does not mention Saudi Arabia, long a key American partner in the region. Its release comes a day after Biden pledged to reevaluate Washington’s relationship with Riyadh after OPEC+, over which Saudi Arabia exerts significant power, cut oil production to the lowest levels since the start of the pandemic. 

“One question [Biden] is going to ask is, Is the nature of the relationships serving the interests and values of the United States? And what changes would make it better serve those interests and values?” Sullivan said. The fact that OPEC+’s decision could help Russia, which benefits from higher global gas prices, “raises real questions,” he added.