U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Wednesday said that the U.S. and its allies must strengthen their militaries, improve readiness and maintain an effective nuclear deterrent as part of efforts to modernize alliances and respond to changing threats and actions being taken by China and Russia.
Keeping with the Biden administration’s broad view of national security, Blinken also told an audience at NATO headquarters in Belgium that the U.S. and its allies must counter these threats using more than just military might.
“We’ve got to broaden our capacity to address threats in the economic, technological, and informational realms,” Blinken said. “And we can’t just play defense, we have to take an affirmative approach.”
He cited actions by China and Russia to “drive wedges” between the U.S. and its allies through “access to critical resources, markets and technologies,” which in turn requires a unified response and continued integration of allied economies.
“That means teaming up to develop cutting-edge innovations, ensuring that our sensitive supply chains are resilient, setting the norms and standards that will govern emerging technologies [and] imposing costs on those who break the rules,” Blinken said.
Blinken’s visit to Europe follows one he took last week to Japan and South Korea to shore up U.S. commitments to two key allies in the Western Pacific.
The U.S. and its allies must also improve their capabilities and coordinate with each other to address broad threats stemming from climate change and pandemics, he added.
Regarding U.S. nuclear forces, Blinken said that they have to be “safe, secure and effective, particularly in light of Russia’s modernization” and to demonstrate the nation’s commitment to its allies, “even as we take steps to reduce further the role of nuclear weapons in our national security.”
Blinken outlined three categories of “urgent threats” facing the U.S. and its allies. These include military threats such as China’s militarization of the South China Sea, Russia’s interference in eastern Ukraine and “acts of intimidation” elsewhere, and the pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities by Iran and North Korea.
A second category of threats are in the non-military domain, he said, pointing to various tactics employed by China and Russia through technological means, economics and disinformation.
While the U.S. and its allies must “recommit” and “modernize” their alliances, Blinken also said that new threats require new ways of thinking about strengthening these partnerships. This means bringing in the private sector, localities and academia to thwart China’s efforts to use technology developed and supplied by its companies to spy globally.
“Consider 5G, where China’s technology brings serious surveillance risks,” he said. “We should bring together tech companies from countries like Sweden, Finland, South Korea, the United States, and use public and private investment to foster a secure and trustworthy alternative.”
Climate change and pandemics represent “global crises” that are transnational threats with consequences that lead to increasing human migration, health security and food security, he said.
U.S. foreign policy is not an “us or them choice” when it comes to its allies and their relations with China, Blinken said. While that country’s “behavior threatens our collective security and prosperity,” U.S. allies have existing relationships with China and have to work together in some areas such as “climate change and health security,” he said.
Global terrorism remains a threat even though it has been “significantly degraded,” Blinken said.