Biden Carries on the Cold War Paradigm in the Caspian Region Through the New National Security Strategy
Oct 21, 2022
The Biden Administration unveiled its new, 48-page National Security Strategy on October 12, emphasizing economic competition with China, Russian aggression, and the faltering state of U.S. democracy. Global dynamics are reaching an inflection point, and we are in the “early years of a decisive decade,” entailing a new approach to international engagement; as the international order takes shape, this strategy is designed to confront the rising power of China, and Russia’s re-envisioned position in global affairs. Although Biden’s administration has clarified that current transnational challenges will not revive Cold War dynamics, the strategy emphasizes competition with Russia and the importance of broadening U.S. coalitions. Central Asia, Eurasia, and the South Caucasus are listed within the document as areas of interest, especially considering Russian aggression against its neighbors. Thus, the strategy argues that to "degrade Russia’s ability to wage future wars of aggression,” the U.S. will cooperate with democracies and countries that “may not be democratic” according to U.S. ideological standards to build a broad coalition that promotes a “freer and more open world.”
In every presidential term since 2000, the Executive branch has implemented National Security Strategies, detailing current U.S. policy aims, strategic priorities, and democratic promotion. In 2006, former U.S. President George W. Bush steered the strategy toward counter-terrorism and the Middle East, promulgating democracy abroad. In 2015, President Barack Obama highlighted the Asia-Pacific region and greater economic connectivity, and in 2017, President Donald Trump emphasized great power competition and rivalry with China and Russia. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine in March 2022, U.S. policy has cued a stronger presence in Russian-influenced regions. President Biden’s new National Security Strategy has been remarkably centered on relations East of Europe, and similar to Trump's National Security Strategy, it asserted the “great power competition returned.”
Initially, the strategy was set to be released early in 2022, but it was delayed after Russia began to threaten the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. Therefore, the document was adjusted to stress Russia’s renewed geopolitical role. In fact, the document emphasizes Russia’s redefined role and calls for NATO to implement a strategy of containment, a Cold War era term used to label U.S. foreign policy toward Soviet expansion. And although the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters on Wednesday that “The post-Cold War era is definitively over,” he also stated that we have now entered a “decisive decade” that demands “competition between the major powers to shape the future of the international order.” The U.S. will indirectly restrain Russian influence by seeking stronger relations with Russia’s Southern neighbors. Thereby confronting the previously established global order which has directed the region since the early 1990s.
For the past decade, Russia has been utilizing its “imperialist foreign policy” to destabilize and “undermine internal democratic processes in countries across Europe, Central Asia, and around the world.” And to counteract “dangerous” Russia’s “attempts to weaken and destabilize sovereign nations and undermine multilateral institutions,” the strategy states the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “will continue to support the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Central Asia.” The document also states that the U.S will continue to work through the C5+1 diplomatic platform “to advance climate adaptation, improve regional energy and food security, enhance integration” … “and build greater connectivity to global markets.” The strategy calls for far-reaching investments in technological and industrial products to enhance U.S. influence and shape a competitive advantage. While the reportedly insufficient defense budget cannot fix defense vulnerabilities, a strategy of integrated deterrence may mitigate climate change, inflation, and trade issues and reduce the capability gaps that have burdened potential partnerships. The critical realms of competition listed were “foundational technologies, cyberspace, trade and economics, and investment.” We can use our technological edge to deepen international investment partnerships through the modernization of these domestic industries.
In theory, this will help the U.S. build a collective of nations, or a “partnership of democracies,” to help drive its vision of a reformed transatlantic architecture. Through these measures, the U.S. will indirectly reduce Russia’s economic leverages and facilitate more robust cross-regional economic dynamics in a region historically directed by Russia.
Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor to the Biden Administration, spoke at Georgetown University on October 12 to expand on the strategy. And regarding the global market, he explained that U.S. adversaries are looking to reduce technological security advances held by NATO states. Specifically regarding spyware, cyber security, and trade agreements on security products. Therefore, he explained, the modernization of security technologies is vital to maintaining investment partnerships and leverage over China and Russia.
Jake Sullivan stated: “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.”
According to the strategy, to confront Russia’s aggravation of energy prices, food shortages, and global economic decline, the U.S. will advance economic partnerships and put “local partners in the driver’s seat.” This places Caspian region partnerships at the forefront of the U.S. strategy against Russia. Mainly as the document describes the aim to “reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels” and “strengthen European energy security,” the Caspian region has the potential to play a significant role in furthering this objective. To counteract Europe's dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, the U.S. is prepared to help “vulnerable nations” in Central Asia and Europe build resilience against Russian energy warfare tactics. To do this, the strategy plans to strengthen relations with the European Union (EU) through increased intelligence sharing, strategic alignment, and coordinated action. Additionally, the U.S. will assist “European aspirations of Georgia and Moldova,” “diplomatic efforts to resolve conflict in the South Caucasus,” and strategic, political, and institutional ties between Turkey and the West to ease the relationship normalization with the EU. Overall, the strategy points towards increased integration between Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and Europe to limit Russia’s regional destabilization abilities.
Although Jake Sullivan emphasized that the U.S. does not want to “carve the world into rigid blocs” and the U.S. is “not engaging each nation as a proxy battleground,” Sullivan’s rhetoric and the new strategy suggest the current global landscape mirrors the Cold War paradigm, entailing deeper engagement with states entangled with Russia. Serving as a Southern flank antagonist to the current global power struggle, the Caspian region is becoming a priority in the defense against Russian aggression. The new National Security Strategy formalizes this goal and will offer U.S. policymakers “a road map for seizing this decisive decade to advance America's vital interests, position America and our allies to outpace our competitors, and build broad coalitions to tackle shared challenges."