China, Russia to be termed ‘revisionist powers’ in Trump’s national security strategy

President Donald Trump is outlining a new national security strategy that refocuses the United States’ relationship with the rest of the world, essentially implementing his “America First” mantra on a global scale

world Updated: Dec 18, 2017 22:38 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,America First,National Security Strategy
FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he departs from the South Lawn of the White House via Marine One in Washington, to spend the weekend at Camp David in Maryland. (AP)

President Donald Trump will unveil his administration’s national security strategy on Monday, which will identify China and Russia as “revisionist powers” and competitors that threaten the US.

The strategy document will also reassure allies and partners around the world that his “America First” focus is not at their exclusion, it’s not “American Alone”.

The strategy will describe China and Russia as “revisionist powers” that seek to upend the status quo and the international order, a senior administration official told reporters previewing the president’s speech. They are among three groups the Trump administration will describe as threats.

The other two groups are “rogue regimes” such as North Korea and Iran and “transnational terrorist organisations”, which the official said export violence in support of their “wicked” ideology.

Reports based on excerpts of the document said China and Russia “are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”

“These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades — policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners,” the document will say, according to the reports. “For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.”

Of interest to New Delhi, a senior administration official said the strategy will reiterate what President Donald Trump said in his speech to APEC, as also secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s remarks at a think tank just days before leaving for India. “China, while rising alongside India,” Tillerson had said, “has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order – even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty”.

“China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for.”

Also of interest to New Delhi, the strategy will stress reforms of international bodies such as the United Nations and NATO. But the reforms for the UN will be focussed more on administrative issues such as cutting expenses and flab, not the sort of consequential changes India and other countries have sought: the expansion of the UN Security Council to reflect changing global reality.

The strategy, which is statutorily mandated for every administration, will present a bird’s eye view of Trump’s policies at home and abroad without getting into the weeds, country-wise. But the president will include broad-stroke takes on West Asia, Indo-Pacific and the West Hemisphere.

The document will identify China as a “strategic competitor” because it competes with America “across political, economic, military and informational domains in ways not duplicated by other competitors”, one of the officials briefing on background said, adding however, that the US is working with China and “we do not rule out cooperation”.

The official said the US recognises it needs China to work on the “DPRK problem”, referring to North Korea by its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The official also said the president will say in the speech “America First does not mean America Alone. Among our greatest strengths are our numerous allies and partners that share our interests and values”.

The strategy will be based on four broad pillars — “America’s vital interests”, as an official described them.

First, protecting homeland, strengthening the border, fixing immigration and dealing with the threat of terrorism, including internal radicalisation

Second, promoting American prosperity through trade deals.

Third, preserving peace through strength, which would entail sharpening military edge and readiness, increased lethality.

And fourth, advancing American influence around the world.

There is nothing terribly new from what previous administrations have done, an official said, but the emphasis would change, specially in the context of a competitive world in which, the strategy will argue, the US has not been competing as well as it should.

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 20:34 IST