America Must Defend Free World From China and Russia, Report Warns

The U.S. must implement long-term strategies to meet the rise of China and Russia to better protect the established democratic liberal Western order, a new government report has warned.

The Government Accountability Office's (GAO) analysis of long-term threats facing America focuses on the emergence of a multipolar world, threatening Washington's long-held hegemony in international relations. The challenge to the global systems the U.S. has fostered, it suggests, will come mainly from Moscow and Beijing.

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The GAO surveyed 45 government organizations tasked with assessing emerging threats across the Department of Defense (DOD), State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

"Our adversaries may include foreign governments, violent extremists, transnational criminal organizations, and megacorporations," the report explained. "Threats may also come from events such as pandemics, human migration, regional conflict and instability, economic inequality, or the effects of climate change and environmental issues."

But two of the most pressing concerns are Russia and China. DOD officials in particular warned that "Western liberal democratic institutions around the world are being challenged in new and novel ways" by adversarial nations, led by Russia and China.

"The nature of warfare has evolved to include 'gray zone' conflict—defined as the area between war and peace—where weaker adversaries have learned how to seize territory and advance their agendas in ways not recognized as 'war' by Western democracies," the GAO report explained.

"China and Russia are pursuing gray zone strategies to achieve their objectives without resorting to military conflict," the analysis continued.

This strategy is evident in what the report described as "near-unrestricted thefts of U.S. intellectual property" by both Russia and China, "data theft, and penetrations of U.S. civil, utility, and military data and electoral voting systems."

Both nations have also employed more direct military operations to further strategic aims. The GAO report notes "Russian seizure of Ukrainian territory, namely Crimea" and "Chinese seizure of the South China Seas and the building of military islands in defiance of international court rulings."

More subtle diplomatic methods are also being used to expand influence from Beijing and Moscow. The GAO explained that Chinese trade deals and "debt-trap diplomacy" are creating vast economic networks "to marginalize U.S. multilateral frameworks in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific."

While America struggles with the isolationism of President Donald Trump's administration, China is investing billions to cultivate lucrative trading relationships and create mammoth infrastructure projects, for example the Eurasian Belt and Road Initiative.

Though Russia cannot compete with China and the U.S. on an economic level, it is still trying to expand its diplomatic influence by "attempting to resurrect former Soviet client state relationships with Syria, Egypt, and Libya, and potentially with additional countries in the Middle East and North Africa," the report suggests.

Moscow is also using weapons exports—one of the few industries in which Russia maintains top-level products—to cement political cooperation, even as far afield as South America. Indeed, earlier this month, Russian nuclear-bombers landed in Venezuela as the two countries work to improve bilateral ties in the face of U.S. sanctions on the beleaguered socialist state.

"DOD officials also said that the United States must adapt to challenges from adversaries and better link security objectives and economic objectives, or risk further erosions of U.S. influence to adversaries such as China and Russia," the GAO explained.

"China and Russia are working to define the United States as a 'status quo' power trying to preserve the old world order in what is becoming a multipolar world. These officials added that the nature of conflict has changed, and so the United States must evolve."

The analysis included a DOD statement responding to the report, which noted its "high quality" and described the conclusions as a "sobering macro picture of how the U.S. stands in the world against emerging threats."