In its 2018 National Defense Strategy, released in January, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump correctly identified great-power competition as the United States’ central security challenge. In recent years, rival states such as China and Russia have increased their ability to project power and undermine the U.S.-led liberal international order, even as Washington has struggled to respond. Beijing and Moscow, moreover, share a vision of a global order more conducive to their own forms of authoritarian governance. As a result, today’s great-power competition is a contest not just of nations but of political systems.
Thus far, the Trump administration has largely focused on great-power rivalry in terms of economic and military might. Its strategy documents have outlined the loss of the United States’ competitive military edge as other states have made major investments in new power projection technologies. Washington has used tariffs and other penalties in order to fight China’s mercantilist economic practices, while Congress and the administration have imposed sanctions on individual Russians accused of international transgressions.
These responses, however, are not enough. To overcome its geopolitical rivals, the United States must go beyond building a stronger military or enforcing economic rules; it must double down on its support for democracy around the world. Authoritarian powers such as China and Russia are working to subvert democracy where it exists, snuff it out where it is new, and keep it away where it is lacking. They see their assault on democracy as a matter not of values but of strategic advantage, whereby they can enhance their own power by eroding the internal cohesion of democracies and the solidarity of democratic alliances. Beijing and Moscow are on the offensive; meanwhile, Washington is hardly playing defense, much less doing what it needs to: championing a robust agenda for protecting and enlarging the free world.
Read the Full Article at Foreign Affairs
More from CNAS
PodcastPopulist Politics and the COVID-19 Pandemic with Daphne Halikiopoulou and Paul Taggart
Daphne Halikiopoulou and Paul Taggart join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Carisa Nietsche to discuss the populist response to the crisis and what type of political blowback we can ...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche, Daphne Halikiopoulou & Paul Taggart
CommentaryHow China Is Exploiting the Pandemic to Export Authoritarianism
The Chinese Communist Party is now undertaking its most audacious effort yet at shaping international perceptions....
By David Shullman
PodcastChina, Europe, and COVID-19 with CNAS’s Ashley Feng and Kristine Lee
Ashley Feng and Kristine Lee join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to explain China’s response to COVID-19 on the latest episode of Brussels Sprouts. Feng is a Research ...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Kristine Lee & Ashley Feng
PodcastMacron and France's National Security Policy with Benjamin Haddad and Alice Pannier
Benjamin Haddad and Alice Pannier join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend on the latest episode of Brussels Sprouts to discuss France’s foreign policy and Emmanuel Macron’...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Dr. Alice Pannier & Benjamin Haddad