Russia's Special Military Operation In Ukraine Term Paper

Trump, Biden National Security Strategies, and Russia


The U.S. has a National Security Strategy to protect the safety and security of the nation through cooperative efforts and partnerships with other nations and organizations. This strategy provides a comprehensive vision for the use of diplomatic, economic, military and intelligence efforts to protect U.S. interests abroad, deter potential adversaries, respond effectively to threats, and meet alliances and global responsibilities. The National Security Strategy also establishes a framework for evaluating security threats and assessing resources required to counter them.

Typically, U.S. National Security Strategy changes depending on the administration in power (Goddard, 2022). Each president has his own approach to national security policy and thus his own version of the National Security Strategy. Prior to the 2022 strategy released by the Biden Administration, the most recent version was released in 2017 by the Trump administration which focused on reinforcing economic security and a strong international presence. The Biden Administration, however, issued its National Security Strategy at a time when geopolitical tensions were at Cold War level highs, with record sanctions leveled by the West against Russia due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Yet, there are some similaritiesand differencesto be found in the strategies put forward by the two administrations.

How do the national security strategies of the Trump and Biden administration compare and contrast in their approach towards Russia? There is much that can be said on this topic. The national security strategy of the Trump administration, for instance, did not prioritize relations with Russia, and instead focused on issues such as counter-terrorism, immigration, and trade. The Trump NSS of 2017 had a distinctly America First tenor, as Dhanani and McBrien (2022) have pointed out: In other words, revitalizing the U.S. economy would take priority over U.S. engagement overseas in the Trump NSS (Dhanani & McBrien, 2022). The Trump administration imposed economic sanctions on Russia and expelled Russian diplomats in response to Russia's interference in the 2016 election and other malicious activities. The Biden administration has stated that it will take a more assertive approach towards Russia, particularly in response to its efforts to interfere in US elections and its aggressive actions towards neighboring countries. The Biden administration has also indicated that it will seek to address issues such as arms control and nonproliferation with Russia, and has called for a global summit on cybersecurity to address the threat posed by Russia and other countries in this domain. However, overall, the two national security strategies of the two administrations view Russia as a threat to security. In the Biden NSS, more focus is given to Russia as a threat actor.

The Trump Administrations national security strategy, which was released in 2017, focused on four main priorities:

1. Protecting the homeland and American people.

2. Promoting American prosperity.

3. Preserving peace through strength.

4. Advancing American influence.

The Trump administration's national security strategy also identified four main adversaries:

1. Rogue regimes, such as North Korea and Iran.

2. State actors, such as China and Russia.

3. Transnational terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

4. Cyber actors, including nation-states and criminal organizations.

To a large degree, the NSS did not change much from Trump to Biden; however, under Biden, Russia did receive more attention. Largely, the Biden Administration's National Security Strategy of 2022 focuses on restoring Americas global leadership and advancing US values abroad among democratic allies. The strategy emphasizes the need for collective action to address global challenges such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and pandemics. It also acknowledges that due to confrontations between Russia and the West, we are in the midst of a strategic competition to shape the future of the international order (Biden Administration, 2022, p. 1). Thus, Bidens NSS does give more attention to strengthening alliances with NATO allies, partners in the Indo-Pacific region, and other like-minded partners around the world than did the Trump NSS. Other important points highlighted in the strategy include:

1. A commitment to protect democratic values at home and abroad;

2. A focus on economic policies that advance shared prosperity;

3. Investments in advanced technologies to promote security;

4. A pivot towards more sustainable energy sources;

5. De-escalation in the Middle East

6. Guaranteeing a fairer international economic system;

7. Strengthening U.S. homeland security including securing critical infrastructure from cyber threats;

8. Collaboration with other countries to reduce global health disparities; and

9. Ensuring credible deterrents remain in place against possible aggression by state actors or terrorists organizations.

Overall, the Biden administration's national security guidance emphasizes the need for multilateral cooperation to address global challenges, while the Trump administration's national security strategy focused on protecting American interests and promoting American influence. The Biden administration's approach also places a greater emphasis on addressing the threat of disinformation and domestic xtremism. When it comes to Russia, however, the two NSS are in alignment.


In the Trump NSS, Russia was mentioned 25 times, 11 times in conjunction with China as though the two nations were seen as a dual threat. In comparison, the Interim Biden NSS of 2021 mentioned Russia only five timesbut it was also a much shorter document (Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, 2021). In the actual Biden NSS of 2022, finally released months after Russian-Ukrainian hostilities had escalated and the West had responded with sanctions, Russia received mention 77 timesmore than three times as frequently as in the Trump NSS. Thus, Bidens NSS focuses on Russia 3x more than Trumps NSS and it does so in 20 fewer pages (Trumps NSS is 68 pages versus Bidens 48-page document) (Adesnik, 2022). With fewer words, Biden zeroes in on Russia as a major security threat. In fact, the Biden NSS was said to be delayed from 2021 to 2022 as a result of intelligence received on a Russian invasion of Ukraine (Dhanani & McBrien, 2022). It is not surprising, therefore, that the 2022 NSS focuses more explicitly on Russia as a threat to national security, with much consideration given to the Russian-Ukraine war and its knock-on effects.

The Strategic Council on Foreign Relations (2022) has noted that the interim national security document of that Biden released in 2021 essentially focused on dividing NSS into five categories: the first category of threats are those that do not know the wall and border and confronting them needs a collective effort at global level. Climate crises, cyber and digital threats, international economic problems, humanitarian crises, terrorism and extremism, biological hazards and the spread of epidemics, as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are included in this category. This Interim document, however, merely set the stage for the much more robust and Russia-focused NSS of the following year. The Interim document, in other words, merely provides a sense of the direction that US NSS will take: there is little indication in it of divergence from the Trump era NSS. The 2022 NSS confirms the continuation of Trump era perspectives: Russia is consistently viewed in the Biden NSS as a power competitor opposed to Western democratic values and ideals. As Adesnik (2022) notes, in their perception of threats, the Trump and Biden strategies converge fully on the pivotal issue of great-power rivalry. Yet, in terms of how the US will deal with Russia, precise strategies are displaced by generalized principles (Adesnik, 2022). Still, both NSSs set the tone for US foreign policy with respect to Russia by viewing Russia as a main threat to US power abroad.


Recent National Security Strategies from the Trump Administration (2017) and the Biden Administration (2022) both note that Russia is a potential threat to American ambitions and interests. In fact, Adesnik (2022) points out that Bidens NSS has much more in common with Trumps NSS than it does with Obamas. The byline of Adesniks (2022) review of the Biden NSS is that the strategy offers a renewed focus on great-power rivalry [and] ratifies a sea change in U.S. thinking first delivered under the Trump Administration. The Biden NSS does nothing to depict Russia in the kind of glowing terms offered during the Obama Administration; on the contrary, it echoes the sentiment of Russia as a threat actor as seen in the Trump NSS (Adesnik, 2022). Instead, it highlights and magnifies the danger that is Russia, and proceeds to focus on the need to check the Russian threat (Mackinnon, 2022). Under Trump, US NSS was already oriented towards isolating Russia as an aggressor in global political and economic affairs. Under Biden, following new geopolitical developments, Russias invasion of Ukraine has caused a reorientation of US national security policy toward constraining Russia (Hamilton, 2022). Yet if the main goal of the Trump NSS was to put America first in terms of foreign policy, the main goal of the Biden NSS appears to be confronting Russia in the near-term while posturing for a long-term competition with China co-exists uneasily with a renewed focus on promoting democracy as a US national security goal (Hamilton, 2022). In other words, the Biden NSS puts Russia-as-enemy first, whereas the Trump NSS put America-as-greatest-nation first.

Both strategies nonetheless highlight Russian efforts to undermine U.S. democracy, disrespecting and disregarding international laws, as well as Moscows use of hybrid warfare capabilities such as cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, energy blackmail, and other means of aggressive behavior. For instance in the Trump NSS, it reads: A strong and free Europe is of vital importance to the United States. We are bound together by our shared commitment to the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law (Trump Administration, 2017, p. 47). It also asserts that With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrated its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region. Russia continues to intimidate its neighbors with threatening behavior, such as nuclear posturing and the forward deployment of offensive...…the need for increased cyber security in the face of Russian aggression (Jablanski, 2022). Indeed, part of the Biden NSS is to reshape security measures and supply chains in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war and the knock-on effects of pandemic lockdowns: We are securing our critical infrastructure, advancing foundational cybersecurity for critical sectors from pipelines to water, and working with the private sector to improve security defenses in technology products. We are securing our supply chains, including through new forms of public-private collaboration, and using public procurement in critical markets to stimulate demand for innovation (Biden Administration, 2022, p. 14). However, the Trump NSS also stated that part of the Trump era NSS is to increase counterterrorism and cybersecurity cooperation with NATO (Trump Administration, 2017, p. 48). So the issue of cyber security is not really a novel idea put forward by the Biden Administration in the 2022 NSS.

Peeks (2022) criticism of the Biden NSS is that Americans are left with a well-written compendium of wants: resources for this and that, and top-level attention on them all. While the Trump NSS pledged to counter Russian influence in the Western hemisphere by working with democratc states opposed to dictatorships like the one in Venezuela, supported by Russia, the Biden NSS pledged simply that we will support democratic self-determination for the people of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and any country where the popular will is suppressed (Biden Administation, 2022, p. 41). It comes across not some much as a strategy as it does a political party platform. Nonetheless, Fried (2022) comments that the Biden NSS addresses the current challenges: the rise of revisionist authoritarian powers China and Russiaespecially the present threat from Putins Russia. At the same time, Fried (2022) admits that the language used in the Biden NSS is consistent with the great-power competition language used in the Trump NSS. Jain (2022) argues that Bidens NSS does give more of a sense of the great-power competition being rooted in alternative visions for the world between democracies and revisionist autocracies. Still, Jain (2022) does note that the Biden NSS lacks a how-to visionparticularly when it comes to securing cooperation with states like Russia with regard to combating climate change: Jain (2022) asks if there is room in the Biden NSS for Russia to condition their cooperation on issues like climate change with the United States lifting sanctions or offering other concessions. But in spite of these questions, Iyer (2022) upholds that the Biden NSS is ultimately grounded in realismrealism informed by Vladimir Putins special military operation coupled with the breadth covered in this NSS serves as an invitation for the US national-security community and allies on multiple fronts. Ultimately, Bidens 2022 NSS differs from Trumps 2017 NSS on the matter of Russias special military operationwhich did not exist in 2017. Yet Trumps NSS sets the stage for the assertive rhetoric of Bidens NSS in response to the special military operation of Russia in the Ukraine.

Thus, it can be said that the difference between the two strategies is not really one of tone but rather one of focus: the Trump NSS only moderately focuses on Russia as a threat to American power. The Biden NSS places far more emphasis on countering Russian threats to sovereignty and democracy in the spheres of military, information, resources, politics, and so on. The Biden NSS is equal in assertiveness to the aggression perceive by Russia in the special military operation.


Both the Trump and the Biden NSS documents emphasize the importance of maintaining strong defense capabilities and partnerships in order to counter threats posed by Russia. Both highlight the need for increased pressure on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, for cyber security, and for economic and political security. Because the Russia-Ukraine war did not begin until the Biden Administration, there is no reference to it in the Trump NSS, nor is there the same degree of focus on Russia as a threat. The Biden NSS spends far more timethree times as much in facton the issue of Russia as a threat to US national security as the Trump NSS. The Trump NSS is ultimately inward focused while the Biden NSS is outward focused on building up cooperation with democratic allies against Russian aggression. Both include a commitment to working with the European Union to push back against this same Russian aggression. Both urge close coordination and joint action with allies in order to deter hostile Russian behavior. The two strategies are consistent in terms of talking points when it comes to Russia. The main difference is that the language of the Biden NSS is much more confrontational with respect to Russia. The Trump NSS used language to help give the impression of America being the greatest nation. The Biden NSS used language to give the impression that Russia is the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Adesnik, D. (2022). Biden’s New National Security Strategy: A Lot of Trump, VeryLittle Obama. Retrieved from

Biden Administration. (2022). National Security Strategy. Retrieved from

Cordesman, A. (2022). The new Biden national security strategy. Retrieved from

Dhanani, S. & McBrien, T. (2022). A Tale of Two Strategies: Comparing the Biden andTrump National Security Strategies. Retrieved from

Fried, D. (2022). Biden molds the US strategic tradition to new challenges. Retrieved from

Goddard, S. (2022). What’s in Biden’s National Security Strategy? Here’s the rundown.

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Hamilton, R. (2022). Biden’s NSS: A new era in Eurasia. Retrieved from

Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. (2021). Retrieved from

Iyer, A. (2022). A welcome focus on conflict. Retrieved from

Jablanski, D. (2022). Cybersecurity is front and center. Retrieved from

Jain, A. (2022). A success on defining core challenges. Retrieved from

Mackinnon, A. (2022). Biden’s White House Finally Unveils Its National SecurityStrategy. Retrieved from

Peek, A. (2022). A surreal strategy that doesn’t recognize reality for US power. Retrieved from

Skaluba, C. (2022). A non-strategy strategy. Retrieved from

Strategic Council on Foreign Relations. (2022). An analysis of Biden’s national securitydocument and its difference from Trump era. Retrieved from

Trump Administration. (2017). National Security Strategy. Retrieved from

Wechsler, W. (2022). A strategy in name only. Retrieved from

Cite this Document:

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