Commentary: Biden team must watch for global security threats

By Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

Now that the Trump White House has afforded the Joe Biden presidential transition team access to regular intelligence briefings, it is likely that the Biden personnel will be alerted to challenges and threats around the world, such as those identified below:

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

Asia: Without question, the biggest current worry in this region is China’s continuing crackdown on Hong Kong independence and its aggressive moves to solidify control of the South China Sea area. These moves show the intentions of Xi Jinping since his regular term was converted to lifetime control of the communist government. The U.S. should expect North Korea to quickly seek an attention-grabbing event to gauge the new president’s response. Moving to the south Asia area, the United States’ moves to withdraw completely from Afghanistan will surely have an impact on Pakistan, which, in turn, will adversely impact that country’s always testy relations with India.

Middle East: Iran is ready to conduct reprisals in the wake of the assassination of that nation’s leading nuclear expert. That Iran continues to pursue full nuclear status and backs terrorist groups throughout the region will foster instability, despite the move by several Arab nations to make peace with Israel. While the Trump administration clearly advanced Israel’s interests during the last four years, that policy has sacrificed negotiations between Israel and Palestinian representatives for a lasting peace. The Saudi incursion into Yemen to restore the previous government has brought the U.S. into the mess and has helped make Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A complete pullout from Iraq proposed by the Trump White House is not in America’s best interest.

Europe: The nations of Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Norway are among those most susceptible to political instability due to the economic shocks felt from the coronavirus pandemic. There have always been vocal and active groups on the periphery of both ideological poles here. The present and future hope is to minimize the economic fallout from the pandemic’s wake. Meanwhile, it will be necessary to monitor the Russian Federation’s behavior toward the region, as its president, Vladimir Putin, has exhibited a pattern of trying to split the European Union, as well as spreading disharmony between the U.S. and European Union members.

Africa: French and American troops have fought jihadists in Niger, and there is an active search for rebels in Mali. Somalian piracy continues to be an international problem. The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea deserves attention. The present economic crisis with Zambia is worrisome.

Americas: In Central America, the Northern Triangle region — constituting the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — is a region to focus on due to migration, human trafficking and economic issues. In South America, although large nations like Argentina and Brazil are now stable, political turmoil in Peru and Bolivia could upend security issues there.

Finally, the situation in North America is perhaps the most serious issue confronting the Biden team. Specifically, the constant attacks on the U.S. intelligence community by the Trump administration predictively backfired in the short term, but have done damage to the credibility of America’s intelligence infrastructure, which has the potential for long-term impact. That Joe Biden’s long career in the U.S. Senate taught him to have a healthy skepticism toward the intelligence community is one thing, but President Donald Trump’s “deep state” accusations toward the nation’s security apparatus have been poisonous. It is certain that the Biden White House will reverse the latter antagonism, which will result in secrets kept and lives saved.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is a George Washington Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history and political science at Delaware State University, where he served as ROTC director from 1993-99. He has taught and published extensively on military, national security, foreign policy and intelligence issues.