Expanding Russian and Chinese influence in the Middle East and North Africa threatens to foster extremism in countries with fragile political systems and undermines America’s ability to compete on the world stage, a task force headed by the leaders of the 9/11 Commission warned in a new report.
Published on the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the report says U.S. rivals Russia and China have exploited regional disorder, preying on the fragility of weak governments to grow their power and influence.
As Moscow and Beijing increase their economic, military, and political aid to the governments of developing nations—often without stipulations related to human rights or transparency—”predatory” regimes are able to avoid reforms that would stave off corruption. Local populations are then more likely to lose confidence in their governments, making them more likely to support alternative governance presented by extremists.
“Extremism and its persistence in fragile states, is not separate or distinct from the strategic competition the United States now confronts,” the authors wrote.
“As extremism mutates and spreads, the resulting chaos and conflict drain U.S. power, weaken our allies, and provide openings for our adversaries. We cannot effectively compete with strategic rivals unless we reduce extremism,” they continued. “Nor can we end the era of extremism inaugurated on 9/11 without confronting the ways that global and regional powers exploit and contribute to this threat.”