Article

The US seeks greater security

US President Joe Biden has been forced to scale back plans to boost investment in green technology and tax credits for the worst off as defence becomes a priority.

| 6 min read

This month, the US Congress belatedly found a bipartisan way to pass the much-amended budget for the year to September 2022. A couple of weeks later, President Biden submitted his draft budget for 2022-23 – which will doubtless also go through various changes and arguments before Congress will finally give its approval.

These budgets are scaled down from the original idea of a major expansion of green investment and of income and tax credit support for those on lower incomes and with special needs. Nor has the left got its way with bigger cuts to defence. The President ‘s new mantra seeks to control borrowing, improve safety and security and only third to invest for a better America.

Like his predecessor Donald Trump, Joe Biden came to office keen to promote a domestic agenda with a wish to extricate America from too many damaging wars and hotspots around the world. Unlike Trump, he did not relish tough rhetoric against the world’s dictators.

His early decision to leave Afghanistan in a hurry overnight without consulting his hosts or allies led to the disastrous rapid capture of the country by the Taliban, the very people the US and allies had been fighting for two decades. Hope that in its second time round in government the Taliban might prove more tolerant of democracy, human rights, female education and employment has proved misplaced.

US war reticence

The tyrants of the world took note that this American President was keen to avoid military entanglements far from home. China tested out responses by intensifying military sallies against Taiwan, forcing Biden into a tougher response. The massing of troops by Russia on the borders of Ukraine gave good intelligence to the US which they shared with the world of an impending invasion. President Biden announced the US and NATO would not commit any forces to the fight, and wrongly implied a limited incursion by Russia would only elicit a modest response. As events have panned out, President Biden has had to firm-up his position and offer more assistance to Ukraine. The North Korean ruler returned to testing longer-range missiles.

The US can influence events or intervene across the globe with its carrier fleets, air bases and its deployable mobile army.

President Biden is discovering he cannot mute the US world view and world role. With the world’s most powerful military and largest military budget by far, the US can influence events or intervene across the globe with its carrier fleets, air bases and its deployable mobile army. Quitting Afghanistan after President Trump left Syria largely to Russia has reduced the US leverage over the oil-producing Middle East.

The US has its allies in Saudi and the Gulf states. President Biden wants to resuscitate a deal with Iran whose terms may be poor. Saudi is engaged in a proxy war with Iran by opposing the Houthi rebels in Yemen. That conflict delivered a Houthi attack on an oil depot close to the Formula One track last weekend and is leading to attempts to negotiate a new truce. Now the US is self-sufficient in gas and a large oil producer her interest in this volatile part of the world has reduced, along with her list of allies there.

Autocracy vs democracy

In his case for more defence spending, President Biden name checked both China and Russia as threats that need countering. The US retains carrier fleets that can seek to keep international waters open in the Pacific and South China Sea at a time of aggressive expansion by China.

China has occupied, expanded and fortified a range of islands deep into the South China Sea, and is seeking closer relationships with island groups such as the Solomons to yield more trade and potential bases. President Biden wanted to reduce involvement in Europe and make it more reliant on their own efforts for defence. The invasion of Ukraine has necessitated a stronger US commitment against Russia. More US troops have been sent to NATO countries bordering Russia. Military aid has been stepped up to Ukraine, and along with NATO fellow members the USA is committed to strengthening European defences. President Biden cannot afford an invasion of a NATO European country through failure to reinforce the NATO guarantee with troops and weapons ready against any incursion.

Russia is party to a series of conflicts and civil wars in eastern Europe, as Putin seeks to recreate more of the old USSR he loved and lost.

. Russia is trying to keep an uneasy peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan after their 2020 war. Russia wishes to extend its gains in South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia. Russia has sympathisers in eastern Moldova in the province of Transnistria which some thought Putin wishes to link to gains in southern Ukraine. Belarus now co-operates closely with Russia. Russia has recently assisted the government of Kazakhstan with troops. Russia works away at gaining trade and influence with the other Stan countries that lie between Russia and Afghanistan.

An uncomfortable alliance of dictators

The axis of autocratic states contains a range of different attitudes and ambitions and is not an easy alliance for China to lead or keep together. The North Korean leader is an outlier of embarrassment, but Putin’s ill-judged war is not making it easy for President Xi Jinping either. China seems to want longer to build its investments around the world and add to its global influence. But Beijing is having to accelerate links with Russia and its allies in a difficult situation.

The Ukraine war is an accelerant of the division of the world and is forcing the anti-US alliance to find new ways of working together to get round sanctions and investment reluctance by the democracies. All this reinforces the themes of countries and blocs pursuing greater self-reliance and needing to spend more on security of all kinds. There will be pressures on the non-aligned to offer clearer indications of which side they are on, and a rush to control energy and other important resources.

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The US seeks greater security

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