Since 1850, when California becomes a state, America has been at least a two-ocean country. With the rise of China in recent years, U.S. policymakers have placed a strong focus on, and devoted many resources to the Indo-Pacific – rightfully so. Compared to the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the U.S. enjoys relative stability and calm in the Atlantic region. However, the U.S. must not let complacency become an ill-suited substitute for a strategy.
It is in America’s interest to develop a coherent and coordinated strategy for the Atlantic region. While the geopolitical conditions of the Atlantic region may differ from those of the Indo-Pacific, a strategy is needed to mitigate the pernicious activities of the Chinese Communist Party. The aim of such a strategy is to make the Atlantic region resilient against malicious Chinese and Russian influence by expanding regional cooperation, and helping to make U.S. partners secure, sovereign, and prosperous. America is a global power with global interests and responsibilities.
A VAST REGION
The Atlantic region is the geostrategic and economic area that encompasses the Atlantic Ocean from Greenland and Iceland in the north to Antarctica in the south. The ocean itself is the second largest on Earth after the Pacific and covers approxi-mately 120 million square kilometers. In total there are 80 littoral nation states and dependent or autonomous territories in the region – all pursuing a diverse set of interests and all confronting diverse geopolitical challenges. The Atlantic region includes the world’s most prosperous industrial democracies, emerging nations marked by political and economic freedom, as well as nations of the Global South that need to be persuaded to securely join the Western camp.
Overlapping this huge geographical region are a number of intergovernmental organizations and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements in which the U.S. parti-cipates. Examples of intergovernmental organizations are diverse and include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is focused on collective defense in the North Atlantic region, and the Organization of American States, which is focused on promoting democratic governance, human rights, and regional stability in Latin America.
While countries bordering the Atlantic have different interests and challenges, together the integrity of the region is a common cause and is defined by the free, open, and peaceful access by all peaceful nations.
Depending on the particular area of the Atlantic region, different interests are at stake for the U.S. In the High North, the main challenges for the U.S. are deterring Russian aggression, reducing Chinese influence, and protecting the homeland. In the Southern Hemisphere, the U.S. is concerned with increasing Chinese influence, the weakening of the civilian institutions, as well as the rise of non-state actors involved in organized crime, human trafficking, and drug trafficking.
While China does not presently have the capacity to project sustained military power in the Atlantic community or to disrupt traditional American alliances, the U.S. cannot assume that these conditions will always prevail. The U.S. cannot forge the Atlantic region into a hardened sphere of influence, such as occurred during the Cold War, or the great power competitions of the 19th century. Instead, the U.S. has to prevail in open spheres of competition by materially contributing to make the Atlantic region resilient against pernicious Chinese influence or nations of the region feeling compelled to abandon the Western model of economic and political development. This requires sophisticated and coordinated statecraft by U.S. policymakers; diplomacy, the art of persuasion, and political artistry are the essential components of statecraft when hardened spheres of influence cease to exist.
An Atlantic strategy is not primarily a military strategy, but there is a military component accompanied with enhanced intelligence cooperation. In addition to providing strategic and conventional deterrence against China and other adversarial powers, the U.S. and partner nations have to maintain the capacity to ensure that the commons of the region (sea, air, space, undersea, and cyberspace) remain free, open, and able to sustain critical strategic basing to support those operations.
Economic engagement must be a critical component of any Atlantic strategy. The free world can best prevail by winning the race for post-COVID-19 economic cooperation. Much of that cooperation will come not through traditional government foreign assistance, but from private-sector investment that promotes growth and respects the need for good governance. Building the rule of law in the economic and trade arena is a critical component in building of enhanced economic engagement.
There are many other areas, from public health to environmental protection (such as safeguarding fisheries) to independent media, in which the U.S. can contribute to promoting the resilience and capacity of partner nations such as through good gover-nance initiatives.
The ultimate goal of an Atlantic Strategy is to create the conditions for a stable, prosperous, and secure Atlantic area that is aligned with, or at least sympathetic to America’s vision for the region. The short-term goal of this strategy is to preserve the comfortable geopolitical status quo that the U.S. enjoys. The long-term goal is to roll back the nefarious activities of China, Russia, and other adversarial non-state actors seeking more influence in the broader Atlantic region.
THE TROPIC OF CANCER DIVIDING LINE
To develop an American strategy in the Atlantic region, the area must be divided into two sections: the area north of the Tropic of Cancer and the area south of the Tropic of Cancer. This is not an arbitrary dividing line, but one that best reflects the different U.S. interests and challenges in the broader Atlantic region.
North of the Tropic of Cancer. In this region, U.S. strategic interests derive in large part from membership in NATO and the security obligations that entails. NATO is and will remain the bulwark of transatlantic security and, by extension, U.S security. The U.S. is obligated by the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty to defend other NATO members.
Article 6 of the treaty states that NATO’s area of responsibility is in “the North Atlantic area north of the tropic of cancer.” Due to the uniqueness of American security guarantees as a member of NATO, and due to the nature of the challenges in the region, the area north of the Tropic of Cancer must be treated differently from the South Atlantic region in any U.S. strategy.
The military threat to the North and Mid-Atlantic region remains Russia; overt Chinese military activities are rare, as China continues to focus militarily on its immediate vicinity. One exception however was the Chinese and Russian joint military drills in the Baltic Sea in July 2017. It was not China’s first time sailing in the Baltic: “In May of 2015 Chinese warships conducted exercises with the Russian Black Sea fleet in both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and later the same year a small flotilla of Chinese ships passed through the Kiel Canal for the first time on their way to port visits in Poland, Finland and Denmark.”
China instead wields trade and investment to garner diplomatic and political leverage in the region. For instance, China took advantage of a wave of privatization in Portugal following the debt crisis to secure positions at bargain prices. In addition to securing investments in key sectors on mainland Portugal, China has shown consistent diplomatic attention to the Azores and sought ways to gain footholds through real estate acquisitions or under the guise of scientific cooperation. Chinese investments in Spain have similarly targeted key sectors including energy, food services, industrial manufacturing, ports, and transportation.
China sees the Arctic region as another place in which to advance its economic interests and expand its diplomatic influence. As a non-Arctic country, China is mindful that its Arctic ambitions regarding international Arctic institutions are naturally limited – which has not stopped Beijing from increasing its economic presence in the region. It has also not stopped China from pushing dubious claims to phantom rights in the region, nor from declaring itself a “near Arctic state” – a made-up term that previously did not exist in Arctic discourse.
South of the Tropic of Cancer. The U.S. has a deep and abiding geopolitical interest in both Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean that stems from economic ties, shared security challenges, and historic diplomatic relations. Latin America’s geo-graphic proximity to the U.S., massive volume of trade with the U.S., prosperous energy markets, demographic ties, and destabilizing transnational criminal organizations make the region important to the United States.
U.S. engagement with Africa’s Atlantic littoral countries reflects America’s broader goals for the continent. Washington seeks to foster strong economies that can be good trade partners, consolidated democracies that are natural American allies, and stable countries that contain security problems and avoid humanitarian catastrophes.
Africa is critical to ensuring that the Atlantic Ocean does not fall under undue Chinese sway. Twenty-three of its 54 countries stretch for thousands of miles along the ocean. They include the continent’s two largest economies, its first -, fourth -, and fifth – most populous countries, and multiple countries boasting the world’s largest reserves of important minerals, such as bauxite, cobalt, and phosphate, and platinum-group metals. At its nearest point, the African coast is just over 4,800 kilometers from the U.S. mainland, making the U.S. East Coast closer to Africa than to Hawaii.
Yet there may be no other region on Earth more influenced by Beijing than Africa. China is the continent’s largest trading partner and source of bilateral loans. Its telecoms giant, Huawei, whose equipment is often riddled with exploitable security vulnerabilities, as of 2016 had built over 70 percent of the continent’s commercial 4G networks, giving it pole position in the race to provide 5G technology to an under-connected continent experiencing a population explosion.
Chinese companies dominate the construction sector and have built, often for free or at a subsidized cost, at least 186 African government buildings, increasing many African states’ vulnerability to Beijing’s espionage and influence operations. Chinese investors control the global supply chain for cobalt – 70 percent of which is produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – critical to many cutting-edge technologies.
While Africa is only a small part of China’s trade and overseas investment activity, its countries are key sources of support for Beijing’s foreign policy goals. They often vote with China at international forums, support Chinese candidates for leadership of important agencies within global organizations, and back Beijing on issues such as South China Sea dispute arbitration.
There are elements of Beijing’s engagements with Atlantic littoral states that require particular American attention. Chinese companies have already, or are in the process of financing, constructing, or managing 28 African ports on the Atlantic Ocean. While Beijing could try to build an Atlantic Ocean military base at a place like Walvis Bay, Namibia, its concept of civil-military fusion means that Chinese-involved ports may already be serviceable for Chinese military activity. The hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels that ply, often illegally, West African waters could also serve as a significant unconventional force for Beijing to harass U.S. or allied shipping or naval vessels, as Chinese fishing boats have done in the South China Sea.
China is undoubtedly the U.S.’s principal competitor in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and China has capitalized on the region’s proximity to the U.S. to gain leverage. China’s regional engagement is led by its statist economic policy and supplemented by its political agenda and military objectives. China needs access to Latin America’s primary products, such as oil and agricultural products, and new markets for its manufactured goods. Isolating Taiwan is a key objective, as is expanding Beijing’s influence in multilateral forums, and, more broadly, offsetting America’s traditional leadership role in the region.
Commercial engagement has significantly ramped up over the past two decades with two-way trade flows increasing from $17 billion in 2002 to $315 billion in 2018. While the U.S. remains the largest trading partner to most of the region, and the dominant source of FDI, China is the largest provider of credit financing. Lever-aging its massive financial resources, China has enticed a region plagued by stagnant growth rates with sovereignty-eroding investments. From 2002 to 2018, 62 percent of its commercial engagement was through mergers and acquisitions, obtaining companies in the critical energy, telecommunications, and infrastructure sectors. On Africa’s Atlantic coast, China runs 27 ports, including the main ports on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Panama Canal. In the past three years, the Chinese have aggressively poached three of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador, through opaque and corrupt deals. State telecommunications firm Huawei dominates the region’s mobile market share and is poised to lead its 5G development. Similar to Africa, Chinese tech firms have exported their surveillance state, with the majority of the region utilizing Chinese technology for public security measures.
While the U.S. remains the dominant military power in the region and China has no basing presence, its growing security engagement and the totality of its activities across all domains could compromise the U.S.’s Atlantic security interests in the future. The People’s Liberation Army sells arms and provides law enforcement assis-tance, technology transfers, professional military education, and humanitarian peacekeeping missions.
A SECURE ATLANTIC
America’s challenges and opportunities in the Atlantic region will be changing in the coming years. There is no question that left unaddressed; China’s actions present a long-term threat to the security, economies, and environment of the United States and other nations of the Atlantic community.
China’s activities in the Atlantic are not a conventional threat to the U.S., but their increasing engagement and footprint alter the strategic environment in a region close to the homeland. China’s growing market share means that Beijing is setting economic and political agendas that suit its interests, inevitably undermining regional perceptions of the United States. If not addressed, China’s expanding surveillance technology and military cooperation will undermine U.S. security and intelligence capabilities. Setting standards determines who has the competitive advantage. In order to ensure that the U.S. enjoys a stable, secure, and prosperous Atlantic region, there for a few policies that must be pursued.
First, the U.S. should establish an informal grouping of like-minded nations in the Atlantic region. This grouping could be modeled loosely on the Quad – consisting of India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. – in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. should also host an Atlantic Summit in 2022. Such a summit could serve as a useful forum to raise global awareness on ecological, economic, and security issues facing the Atlantic region. To begin with, this summit could be held at the foreign ministers level, and in the future possibly at the head of state or government level.
Secondly, the U.S. should also pressure partners to secure their 5G technology. Chinese companies are playing an outsized role in 5th Generation (5G) technology roll outs in key Atlantic countries. Such a presence would be a clear national security threat that could decisively compromise telecommunications and data infrastructure – including the communications integrity of the military and intelligence community.
Thirdly, the U.S. should establish a focused defense and intelligence cooperation agreement with appropriate countries in the Atlantic region. This could help to facilitate the free flow of intelligence as it pertains to the Atlantic region. If done responsibly and correctly, such an intelligence-sharing initiative could support policy objectives pertaining to an Atlantic strategy. At the same time, the U.S. could coordinate closely with NATO members that have territory in the Atlantic region when developing an Atlantic Strategy. Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and United Kingdom have Atlantic coastlines either as part of their contiguous state, or through sovereignty over or possession of dependencies and overseas territories in the Atlantic region. The U.S. should leverage its relationships with these countries to advance an Atlantic agenda within NATO.
Finally, the U.S. should recognize the global scale of the geopolitical challenge of China. Because of the variety of Chinese tools, it is necessary to recognize that the U.S.-China rivalry is not simply in the Indo-Pacific, but also in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. The U.S. therefore needs to have China expertise, or at least awareness, embedded in embassies around the world, and in various international organizations and bodies that focus on transnational problems (such as crime, climate change, and human trafficking). Furthermore, the U.S. must look beyond military aspects and responses in the Atlantic. China’s penetration of many regions is not focused on military capabilities and therefore cannot be countered simply by the appearance of a carrier battle group. China has employed its space program to build ties to Brazil and Argentina, and the Belt and Road Initiative to make inroads in Latin America and Africa. The United States needs to adopt a comparably multidimen-sional view of the competition.
The U.S. has the means to implement an effective Atlantic Strategy. What is required is political will and organizing U.S. strategy to best serves the ends. Rather than having federal agencies address new problems in old ways, all instruments of U.S. power must be redirected to serve as effective instruments to protect the free world from China and Russia.
The free nations believe in human rights, representative governments, and free enterprise. The Chinese Communist Party does not believe in any of these things. If the U.S. and its free world partners do not band together to protect those equities, they will always be at risk. If Americans cannot enjoy the freedom, peace, and prosperity of the Atlantic community, then their future will be in peril.
Heritage Romanian Paper KS edits March 2021
* Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E.W. Richardson Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC.
 When Alaska became a state in 1959, America became a three-ocean power with the addition of the Arctic Ocean coastline.
 For the purposes of this article, this estimate does not include the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, or the Baltic Sea.
 Canada, 27 European members, and the United Kingdom.
 Joseph Trevithick, “New Pentagon Map Shows Huge Scale of Worrisome Russian and Chinese Naval Operations,” The Drive, February 10, 2020, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/32145/new-pentagon-map-shows-huge-scale-of-worrisome-russian-and-chinese-naval-operations (accessed March 4, 2021).
 John Vandiver, “US to Monitor Russian-Chinese Naval Drills in Baltic Sea,” Stars and Stripes, July 20, 2017, https://www.stripes.com/news/us-to-monitor-russian-chinese-naval-drills-in-baltic-sea-1.478931 (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Magnus Nordenman, “China and Russia’s Joint Sea 2017 Baltic Naval Exercise Highlight a New Normal in Europe,” USNI News, July 5, 2017, https://news.usni.org/2017/07/05/china-russias-baltic-naval-exercise-highlight-new-normal-european-maritime (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Kochis, “Lajes Field: Why This Airbase Is Important to U.S. Strategic Interests.”
 United States Geological Survey, “Mineral Industry Surveys,” https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nmic/mineral-industry-surveys#P (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Finite State, “Finite State Supply Chain Assessment: Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.,” June 2019, https:// finitestate.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/FiniteState-SCA1-Final.pdf (accessed March 4, 2021); Daniele Lepido, “Vodafone Found Hidden Backdoors in Huawei Equipment,” Bloomberg, April 30, 2019, https://www.bloomberg. com/news/articles/2019-04-30/vodafone-found-hidden-backdoors-in-huawei-equipment (accessed March 4, 2021); and Bojan Pancevski, “U.S. Officials Say Huawei Can Covertly Access Telecom Networks,” The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-officials-say-huawei-can-covertly-access-telecom-networks-11581452256 (accessed March 4, 2021).
 “Huawei Looks to Africa to Cut Network Deals,” African Business Central, March 25, 2016, https://www. africanbusinesscentral.com/2016/03/25/huawei-looks-to-africa-to-cut-network-deals/ (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Joshua Meservey, “China’s Palace Diplomacy in Africa,” War on the Rocks, June 25, 2020, https://waron therocks.com/2020/06/chinas-palace-diplomacy-in-africa/ (accessed March 4, 2021), and Joshua Meservey, “Government Buildings in Africa Are a Likely Vector for Chinese Spying,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 3476, May 20, 2020, https://www.heritage.org/asia/report/government-buildings-africa-are-likely-vector-chinese-spying.
 Diana Kinch, “Chinese Dominance of DRC Mining Sector Increases Economic Dependence: Mines Chamber,” S&P Global, December 1, 2020, https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/metals/120120-chinese-dominance-of-drc-mining-sector-increases-economic-dependence-mines-chamber (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Meservey, “China’s Palace Diplomacy in Africa.”
 Judd Devermont, Amelia Cheatham, and Catherine Chiang, “Assessing the Risks of Chinese Investments in Sub-Saharan African Ports,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 4, 2019, https://www.csis. org/analysis/assessing-risks-chinese-investments-sub-saharan-african-ports (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Joshua Meservey, “China’s Strategic Aims in Africa,” testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, May 8, 2020, https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Meservey_Testimony. pdf (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Daniel R. Russel and Blake H. Berger, “Weaponizing the Belt and Road Initiative,” The Asia Society Policy Institute, September 2020, https://asiasociety.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/Weaponizing%20the% 20Belt%20and%20Road%20Initiative_0.pdf (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Enrique Dussel Peters, “Monitor of Chinese OFDI in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Mexico: Red ALC-China, March 31, 2019, https://dialogochino.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Monitor-OFDI-2019english-2.pdf (accessed March 4, 2021). China’s President Xi stated a goal of $500 billion by 2025.
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Douglas Farah and Caitlyn Yates, “El Salvador’s Recognition of the People’s Republic of China: A Regional Context,” Institute for National Strategic Studies Strategic Perspectives, No. 30 (March 2019), p. 7, https:// inss.ndu.edu/Portals/82/Documents/Strategic%20Perspectives/SP%2030%20FINAL%20190313.pdf?ver=2019-03-13-111658-973 (accessed March 4, 2021). While seven of these companies are considered private, Chinese companies are legally required to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts,” meaning that operationally there is no distinguishing between them and a state-owned enterprise. China Law Translate, “National Intelligence Law of the P.R.C.,” June 27, 2017, https://www.chinalawtranslate. com/en/%E4%B8%AD%E5%8D%8E%E4%BA%BA%E6%B0%91%E5%85%B1%E5%92%8C%E5%9B%BD%E5%9B%BD%E5%AE%B6%E6%83%85%E6%8A%A5%E6%B3%95/ (accessed March 4, 2021).
 Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “Global China: Dealing with Demand for China’s Global Surveillance Exports,” Brookings Institution, April 2020, p. 4, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/FP_202004 28_china_surveillance_greitens_v3.pdf (accessed March 4, 2021). Modeled after China’s identity card system, in February 2017, the Maduro regime introduced a smart-ID known as the “fatherland card” with the help of Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. Known in Spanish as the carnet de la patria, the card was modeled after the PRC’s social monitoring program in China by which the party keeps expansive databases on citizens’ economic, political, and social behaviors. Dahua and Hikvision are the leading providers and were recently blacklisted by the U.S. Department of Commerce for human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security, “Addition of Certain Entities to the Entity List,” Final Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 84, No. 196, October 9, 2019, p. 54002, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/09/2019-22210/addition-of-certain-entities-to-the-entity-list (accessed March 4, 2021).
 In Haiti, a Chinese peacekeeping mission was part of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission (MINUSTAH) from 2004 to 2012.