New U.S. military strategy: Recognizing reality

RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik:


A new version of the national military strategy has been published in the United States: the document that was last edited in 2004 has undergone substantial alterations.

The main change is that the strategy has a new objective. The 2004 document proclaimed its goal as defending the United States against a possible sudden attack and ensuring general military and technological superiority over the adversary. Now the basic task is seen as strengthening alliances between the United States and its partners abroad. Membership in international coalitions is considered the guarantee of security in modern world.

Despite its declared commitment to the coalition format, the United States reserves the right to act on its own, if needed.

Other goals included strengthening international and regional security, countering extremism, containing aggression and shaping “the future force.” A special emphasis is placed on the fact that the United States seeks a nuclear-free world.

Threats and allies

International terrorism continues to be seen as the main threat to U.S. security. This choice of threat also determines the selection of strategic aims: to defeat the Al Qaida and its supporters operating above all in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Russia is mentioned once in the new strategy. The authors propose strengthening cooperation between Russia and the United States: “We will increase dialogue and military-to-military relations with Russia, building on our successful efforts in strategic arms reduction,” the document reads.

Its authors also quote examples of common interest, such as countering the spread of nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism, and cooperation in space exploration and anti-missile defenses.

The United States will also welcome Russia’s more active participation in supporting stability and strengthening security in Asia.

China enjoys a separate mention in the new U.S. military strategy. The United States notes China’s growing might and its influence in the region and intends to cooperate with it in order to achieve better understanding and, through joint efforts, to stabilize the situation in Korea. At the same time, the authors of the strategy note that China’s growing military might is a potential threat to security in the region, and the United States “will be prepared to demonstrate the will and commit the resources needed to oppose any nation’s actions that jeopardize access to and use of the global commons … that threaten the security of our allies.”

Studying the text

What are some possible conclusions one can draw from the text? The United States has de facto recognized the loss of its status as an unchallenged global leader, one that defined the architecture of international security and the hierarchy of nations in this system. The load the United States took on in the 1990s has proved unbearable and strengthening ties with foreign partners has become a natural outcome of the problems the United States faces in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Still, the United States remains (and will remain for a long time still) the strongest military power on Earth. But it is not the only controlling force any longer, and the risk of destabilization has increased a great deal.

Threats to international security remain and even grow despite the formal end of the Cold War. Many of the difficult-to-control local wars and political processes in a series of Third World countries are increasingly affecting the security of global leaders, including the United States.

A separate subject is the dramatic growth of China’s influence and capabilities. In perspective, China may become a bigger threat to U.S. positions in the Asia-Pacific region than any other country since the breakdown of the USSR.

Actually, the change in priorities was natural and now only one crucial question remains: how well can the incumbent U.S. administration implement the provisions declared in the strategy? It is no secret that in the United States, as well as in Russia, people governed by Cold War stereotypes still rule the roost, and their decisions, for example in respect of Russia, are aimed not so much at understanding and cooperation as at Russia’s international isolation and its “removal” from the decision-making process.

As a result, the strategy, which demonstrates the new understanding by the country’s leadership in general and the U.S. military establishment in particular, will be of any value only if it is implemented by the people who really believe in the values written into it.

In the next two years, the new U.S. strategy will have to pass a tough test. Will it survive the next election in the United States and to what extent its declared commitment to cooperation will be realized in specific proposals and, which is equally important, in its readiness to seek compromises on disputed issues?

Failing this, the 2011 U.S. national military strategy will become just another grand declaration.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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