- - Monday, February 1, 2021

We haven’t even reached the two-week mark in Joe Biden’s presidency but his serious mistakes in foreign policy and national security are already piling up.  

It’s not too early to detect a pattern in Mr. Biden’s decisions and the glimmerings of a policy that guides him. In his decisions to offer Russia a continuation of the New START agreement, rejoining the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and revoking former President Trump’s executive order preventing Chinese equipment from possibly dominating the U.S. power grid, Mr. Biden has given something and received nothing in return.

The 2011 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and Russia — “New START” — expires later this week. The treaty limits the number of nuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, sub-launched ballistic missiles (as well as the launchers for each) and the heavy bombers each nation can have. It provides for mutual inspections of weapons and the places they’re located to verify compliance. 

The New START Treaty can be extended for five years if both nations agree. Russian President Putin has offered an extension and Mr. Biden is also eager to extend the treaty. 

In seeking the extension, Mr. Biden has not made mention of the nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons Russia has fielded since the treaty was signed. In March 2018, Mr. Putin announced the deployment of the “Avangard” hypersonic missile, saying that it is invulnerable to interception by current or proposed missile defenses. Russia has strategic hypersonic weapons in addition to Avangard.



The New START treaty doesn’t specifically include hypersonic weapons such as Avangard. So why is Mr. Biden eager to extend the treaty without requiring that such weapons be included among the treaty’s limitations as are other strategic weapons? That’s not diplomacy: it’s gift giving. 

One of the first things Mr. Biden did as president was to rejoin the Paris Accord on climate change, which requires its signatories to reduce carbon emissions supposedly to reduce global warming. 

China is a signatory and Chinese President Xi Jinping has often praised the accord. But China, which emits almost double the carbon gases the U.S. does, is rapidly increasing its emissions by building hundreds of coal-fired electricity-generating plants. (India, third-largest emitter, is increasing its emissions as its economy grows.)

How does it benefit the U.S. to rejoin an obviously-failing agreement when the only result will be to restrain U.S. economic growth? 

Mr. Xi is reportedly seeking a high-level diplomatic meeting with the Biden administration, possibly a summit meeting between Messrs. Biden and Xi. Why wouldn’t Mr. Biden, if he is as serious about climate change as he claims, have delayed rejoining the Paris Accord and sought in that summit a Chinese commitment to stop building the coal-fired generation plants?

We expected Mr. Biden to be soft on China, but his action revoking one of Mr. Trump’s executive orders directed at China and our other adversaries so far takes the cake. 

Mr. Biden revoked Mr. Trump’s order that had prohibited foreign nations from supplying electronic equipment for our “bulk power supply”, i.e., the U.S. power grid. Mr. Biden’s revocation literally invites China (and other adversaries) to underbid other suppliers and provide computer systems that can control the power grid. That would give Chinese (or other adversaries’) cyberwarriors the ability to reduce or even shut off our electricity supply. Mr. Biden’s action created a significant threat to our national security and our economy. 

Some of the major actions Mr. Biden wants to take are, such as his commitment to rejoin the 2015 nuclear weapons deal with Iran, still in the planning stage. It seems altogether likely that Mr. Biden will renew that deal without demanding and obtaining from Iran the verifiable means of preventing it from achieving its nuclear weapons ambitions. 

What policy does Mr. Biden plan to pursue in the Middle East after he rejoins the 2015 deal? Does he believe, as Mr. Obama foolishly did, that Iran will increase stability in the region? How is he planning to deal with the foreseeable consequences of rejoining the deal including the inevitable Middle East nuclear arms race? 

Diplomacy is usually defined by bargaining, compromise and the achievement of results that benefits all parties to an agreement. So far, Mr. Biden’s diplomacy and executive actions have given much and received nothing in return. That isn’t diplomacy: it’s a display of weakness combined with a willful ignorance of our vital national security interests. 

National security and international diplomacy were virtually ignored in the campaign. Thus, we don’t know what Mr. Biden would do with Iran after rejoining the 2015 deal. We don’t know how he will deal with Russia. We have a good idea of how badly he will deal with Iran and China, but what about North Korea?

Mr. Biden may have a vision of what America’s place in the world should be, but we have no way to know what that is. 

From Mr. Biden’s nearly five decades in government, our allies and adversaries think they know him. From his actions to date they have learned that his mind doesn’t make the logical connections between domestic concerns such as the power grid to national security. That is an enormous weakness. 

As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was fond of saying, weakness is provocative. Aggression naturally follows.

• Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”

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