American safety at risk as Biden weakens deterrence

As Americans rang in the new year, regimes hostile to the United States made clear just how much President Biden has let US deterrence decay.

In his end-of-year press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his commitment to subjugating Ukraine in his effort to rebuild the Soviet Union — emphasizing, “The level of our ties with China is at an all-time high.”

North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un laid out his plan to accelerate nuclear-weapons production in 2024, saying conflicts elsewhere compelled his nation to “sharpen the treasured sword.”

And amid Iran’s multifront attacks on the Jewish state, the ayatollah’s officials declared America “will not be spared” if Israel’s campaign to eliminate Hamas continues — and we’ll be “faced with extraordinary problems” if we oppose Houthi disruption of commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

Four years ago, such statements would have been rightly seen as mere bluster.

Kim had stopped long-range-missile testing, Iran was isolated and weak, and the Trump administration’s model of deterrence kept Putin’s Ukraine ambitions at bay.

But the Biden administration’s complete lack of commitment to maintaining deterrence has encouraged these dangerous actions and placed the American people in peril.

Most concerning, it’s also emboldened China.

In his New Year’s address, President Xi Jinping issued a warning: “Reunification” of the Communist mainland with Taiwan “is a historical inevitability.”

That echoed what he told Biden just a few weeks prior, and his threats are far from empty.

On his watch, China’s military buildup has accelerated to heights that place every American’s economic well-being and security at risk.

A single shipyard on China’s Changxing Island is larger than all seven US Navy and Coast Guard shipyards combined, while the People’s Liberation Army Navy — already the planet’s largest naval force — possesses nuclear submarines with the capacity to threaten the continental United States from its strongholds in the South China Sea.

Xi does not seek peaceful reunification with Taiwan nor “competition, not conflict,” as Biden has put it.

Communist China sees American weakness as an invitation to reorder global security and economic structures in its favor.

The more American deterrence decays, the more Beijing will be convinced it can act with minimal consequences.

It may be tempting to dismiss these as faraway problems of no consequence to the average American.

Were it only so. These conflicts influence every American’s life, from Kansas farmers to Michigan factory workers to California tech entrepreneurs.

Failing to deter Iran in the Middle East has led to Red Sea commercial-shipping disruptions and volatile global energy markets, driving up costs to fill your gas tank and heat your home.

Letting Putin achieve victory in Ukraine would allow Russia to dominate the Black Sea and project naval power into the Mediterranean, carrying real consequences for shipping and industry, as well as energy exploration and maritime boundary disputes.

It would be a green light to other nations to violate their neighbors’ sovereignty, and it would put American soldiers stationed in Eastern Europe at greater risk.

Indeed, if Xi feels American deterrence has decayed to the point that his military can successfully conquer the free nation of Taiwan, the costs for the American people would far surpass those wrought by the crises of the past three years.

A world where the yuan replaces the dollar as the standard reserve currency, where Beijing controls technologies essential for nearly everything we use, alone administers access to vital resources and shipping lanes and wields its vast military and economic power to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s objectives would not only be far less prosperous for Americans but far less free.

If we allow US deterrence to continue to decay — if we embrace fatalism and decline — this is our future.

But American decline is far from inevitable. I know — we reversed it for four years in the Trump administration.

We can revive American strength and end or prevent these conflicts, but we must start now.

We must abandon the policies of appeasement that have emboldened our adversaries: by providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend its sovereignty, by aiding Israel so it can fend off Iran’s proxies, by deterring Iran with sanctions and hard power and by standing steadfast with our partners across the Indo-Pacific.

Yes, there will be costs — but they’re far outweighed by the consequences of allowing deterrence to further decay.

Every American who believes in the fundamental goodness and greatness of our country understands that a world the United States leads is far better than one in which China, Russia and Iran can do as they please.

In 2024, we should support and elect leaders who love our country, believe in our founding principles and know a strong and secure America can lead the free world to victory against the forces that oppose it.

Mike Pompeo is a former United States secretary of state.

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