WASHINGTON—China is a much bigger adversary to the United States than Russia, says former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The statement is in contrast to the partisan rhetoric among many on the Democratic side, who have been pointing to Russia as the most urgent national security threat since it has “interfered” with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In a public interview with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius on Thursday, Albright—who served as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of State—voiced her disagreement with Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy, which was published in January and listed China and Russia as the principal adversaries of the United States in the years to come.
“The new [National] Defense Strategy of the United States has now said that Russia and China are our major adversaries. I think that is a gift to Putin, because they are not the equivalent of China,” said Albright, “China is really a power that is evolving in a big way, penetrating various places. The Russians are not there. But I am sure Putin was very happy to read that.”
By equating Russia with China, the newly outlined U.S. defense strategy could give Putin the justification to take a more aggressive posture toward the West, Albright said.
The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy mirrored the views of the White House National Security Strategy, which was unveiled by President Donald Trump in December 2016 and laid out the case for preparing to confront the “revisionist powers” of Russia and China that are challenging the United States and its allies.
By describing China’s threat to the United States as more serious than Russia’s, Albright distanced herself from the common view among Democrats and major media outlets, many of whom since the 2016 election have been relentless in portraying the narrative that Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidential election.
Albright’s interview was meant to introduce her new book, “Fascism: A Warning,” a book title that many observers see as a swipe at Trump and the political movement he generated. However, Albright also appears to suggest that Trump’s political momentum and his supporters are home-grown rather than the products of foreign interference from Russia.
Albright also said that the United States still needs to be active in pushing back against Russia’s expansion in Europe. “We have to know what we believe in and try to push back what the Russians are doing to undermine all those countries,” she said.
Retired from public service since 2001, Albright is the chair of her own Albright Stonebridge Group, a “global strategy and business advisory firm” that has been noted for providing consulting services to United States and international companies seeking to do business in China.