Moves by China, Russia add urgency to developing ‘2-pronged approach’

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has totally changed the world. It is reasonable that the United States has presented a realistic strategy to prevent a future situation in which authoritarian states further expand their territory by pushing forward with their military power.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has drawn up its national defense strategy and released the outline. In the strategy, Washington identified China as its “most consequential strategic competitor,” and pointed to Russia as an “acute threat.” It cited as priorities the deterrence of China and Russia and victory in the event of a conflict.

There is no doubt that China, which aims to maintain military and economic power comparable to that of the United States, is the most alarming country in the medium- and long-term. The Biden administration has indicated that it will deploy U.S. forces intensively in the Indo-Pacific region and put energy into deterring China.

However, the crisis in Ukraine has also made it an urgent issue for the United States to protect Europe from threats from Russia. The latest national defense strategy reflects the harsh reality that the United States has no choice but to take a two-pronged approach to dealing with China and Russia.

For that reason, it emphasized the need for “integrated deterrence,” which aims for dominance in all areas of warfare, including cyberspace and outer space, with maximum use of powers by allied and friendly nations.

There are limits to how much the United States alone can deal with China and Russia. It is important for Japan and other allies to strengthen their defense and technological capabilities and play an active role in stabilizing the world and regions.

The outline of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which serves as a guideline for U.S. nuclear policy, was also announced. It said Washington would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” to defend the vital interests of the United States and its allies, which is basically in line with previous administrations’ strategy of putting emphasis on nuclear deterrence.

The NPR left open the possibility for the United States to use nuclear weapons before its opponent when the damage caused by an attack — even if biological, chemical or conventional weapons are used — would be severe or when the United States faces an imminent threat.

In the NPR, Biden sealed his policy of limiting the use of nuclear weapons mainly to countering nuclear attacks. This is apparently because he took seriously the possibility of Russia using biological or chemical weapons, and heeded the voices of U.S. allies that are concerned about the deterioration of its nuclear deterrent.

Needless to say, nuclear disarmament and arms control remain important, but the first priority should be placed on creating a system that can cope with a Russia that threatens to use nuclear weapons, and a China that is stepping up its nuclear capabilities.

China has closely cooperated with Russia and is also trying to build a network involving Beijing and Moscow through active diplomacy with developing countries. The United States, Europe and Japan must further strengthen their alliances.

Japan needs to enhance its relations with India and Southeast Asian countries to prevent China and Russia from shaking up the region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 2, 2022)