The US is constantly accusing countries like Russia and China of carrying out cyberattacks, and comments from President Biden on Tuesday suggest he could use these claims as a pretext for military intervention. He warned that if Washington ended up in a “real shooting war with a major power,” it could be the result of a cyberattack on the US.
“You know, we’ve seen how cyber threats, including ransomware attacks, increasingly are able to cause damage and disruption to the real world,” Biden said in a speech during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “I think it’s more likely we’re going to end up — well, if we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power, it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence.”
The US and several allies, including NATO, recently accused China of being behind the hack of the Microsoft Exchange Server that was discovered earlier this year. Like similar claims against Russia, the US offered no evidence to back up the accusation. The accusation marked the first time NATO joined in on such claims against China. The alliance recently added cyberattacks to the list of reasons to make NATO invoke the Article 5 mutual defense clause, which would spark a war with all 30 of its members.
In his speech, Biden addressed the so-called “threats” from Russia and China. Taking a shot at Russia, Biden said President Vladimir Putin is “sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else. He said this makes Putin “even more dangerous.”
Biden spoke of his time with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Obama Administration, when both leaders were serving as vice presidents. Biden said Xi wants China to become “the most powerful military force in the world” as well as the “most prominent economy” by the 2040s.
Hyping the threat of China serves Biden to justify his spending bills, whether it’s the Pentagon budget or his infrastructure plan. Biden has repeatedly framed the relationship as competition for the 21st century, something he repeated on Tuesday. “You know, as we compete for the future of the 21st century with China and other nations, we have to stay on top of the cutting-edge developments of science and technology,” he said.