February 1, 2024 - 4:00pm

The US will prioritise threats in Asia over defending Europe under the next president, according to national defence strategist Elbridge Colby.

In comments made to UnHerd, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Donald Trump said Asia was the more important theatre, noting that Trump recognised and matched China’s confrontational approach during his first term and would continue that in a potential second term. Europe needs to recognise this move quickly to prepare for reduced American aid in the event of a Russian attack on eastern Nato countries, he argued. 

“We have to choose Asia,” Colby told UnHerd. He went on:

Given the geopolitics and the economic map today, Asia is the primary theatre, and China is far more of a significant threat than Europe. It’s just logical, and it’s based on empirical evidence. And I think it’s so compelling that any administration is going to have to follow it, hopefully, by having the discipline to preserve our resources for that decisive theatre, Asia, and ideally deter war or, if necessary, prevail in it.
- Elbridge Colby

Further involvement in European and Middle East conflicts would weaken the US in a potential conflict in Asia — which is exactly what China wants, according to Colby. The strategist expects that a second-term Biden White House would also recognise this and prioritise Asia over Europe. 

“Xi Jinping might induce Putin to go first against Nato in some way to try to draw the Americans down even further into Europe and then deliver the knockout blow in Asia,” Colby said. 

Russia has been prioritising military buildup over the civilian economy, and there’s a real risk that the country could expand its attack on Ukraine into eastern Nato countries with missile and cyber attacks — a situation for which the UK is unprepared, according to Colby. 

Americans have offered false assurances to Europe about the strength of Ukraine and the certainty of future US support. In reality, the US and Europe aren’t producing enough weapons, and looming Asian conflicts including a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan would further deplete America’s available stockpiles, Colby claimed. 

“The United States is not in a position to continue to play an overwhelming leading role in Europe at the same time as it’s challenged in Asia, not to mention the Middle East,” he told UnHerd. “So I think prudence really dictates for Europe a greater degree of readiness.”

The full video interview with Elbridge Colby is available here.


Laurel Duggan is UnHerd’s US correspondent.