Balancing Great Power Politics in 2021 and Beyond

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FROM GEORGE Washington through Ronald Reagan and beyond, America’s leaders have generally understood that one key to success in dealing with foreign adversaries is to operate from positions of strength, not weakness. This remains true today. President Donald Trump regularly touts the importance of strength in navigating through the world’s many dangers. His National Security Strategy reflects this belief: “Experience suggests that the willingness of rivals to abandon or forgo aggression depends on their perception of U.S. strength and the vitality of our alliances.” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden largely agrees. His foreign policy positions call for the United States to organize and lead the world’s democracies to “confront the rise of populists, nationalists, and demagogues” and counter “the growing strength of autocratic powers” by employing America’s formidable economic might and diplomatic savvy underpinned by “the strongest military in the world.”
Both Republican and Democratic leaders also concur that the world has entered an extended period of great power competition, with a rising China and a revanchist Russia standing out as our primary competitors. Admittedly, the two parties differ somewhat over the optimum mix of tools for marshalling our national strength to compete with rivals. …

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