Pentagon Strategy for Military Confrontation with Russia and China
By Bill Van Auken [excerpts] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/01/20/ndst-j20.html
Trump’s defense secretary, former Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, rolled out a new National Defense Strategy in Jan. that signals open preparations by US imperialism for direct military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia and China. Mattis made clear that the strategy, the first such issued by the Pentagon in roughly a decade, represented a shift from the justification for US global militarism for nearly two decades: the so-called war on terrorism.
“Great power competition—not terrorism—is now the primary focus of US national security,” Mattis said as he released an 11-page declassified document outlining the National Defense Strategy. A lengthier classified version submitted to Congress includes the Pentagon’s detailed proposals for a massive increase in military spending.
It echoed terms in the National Security Strategy document unveiled the previous month in a fascistic speech by Trump. Mattis insisted the US was facing “growing threat from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models.”
The defense strategy accuses China of seeking “Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the US to achieve global preeminence in the future.” Russia, it charges, is attempting to achieve “veto authority over nations on its periphery in terms of their governmental, economic, and diplomatic decisions, to shatter NATO and change European and Middle East security and economic structures to its favor.”
“China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea,” it states. “Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations.” In what appeared to be a threat against both Russia and China, Mattis warned, “If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.”
Both Moscow and Beijing issued statements condemning the US defense strategy. A Chinese spokesman denounced the document as a return to a “Cold War mentality.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a UN press conference: “It is regrettable that instead of having a normal dialog, instead of using the basis of international law, the US is indeed striving to prove their leadership through such confrontational strategies and concepts.” A government spokesman in Moscow characterized the document as “imperialistic.”
Like the National Security Strategy, the defense strategy singles out North Korea and Iran as “rogue regimes,” charging them with destabilizing regions through their “pursuit of nuclear weapons or sponsorship of terrorism.” It accuses Tehran of “competing with its neighbors, asserting an arc of influence and instability while vying for regional hegemony.”
The document calls for the preparation for war across what it describes as “three key regions”: the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. The document also makes brief references to Latin America and Africa, asserting the necessity of US imperialism striving for hegemony on both continents. It makes clear that these continents are arenas for the global “great power” struggle that forms the core of the strategy, asserting that a key aim in Africa is to “limit the malign influence of non-African powers.”
What emerges is a vision of US imperialism besieged on all sides and in danger of losing global dominance. It reflects the thinking among the retired and active-duty generals who dominate the Trump administration’s foreign policy that the past 16 years of unending wars in the Middle East and Central Asia have failed to further US strategic interests, creating debacles while grinding down the US military.
“Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding,” the document states. “We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order—creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”
The Pentagon’s aim, according to the defense strategy, is to ensure that the US remains “the preeminent military power in the world” able to “ensure the balance of power remains in our favor,” “advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity” and “preserve access to markets.”
The thrust of the document is a demand for a vast buildup of the American war machine, which already spends more than the next eight countries combined, nearly triple the military spending of China and roughly eight times Russia’s. Despite having siphoned trillions out of the US economy to pay for the past 16 years of war, Mattis and the defense strategy present the American military as an institution that has been virtually starved of resources, unable to meet “readiness, procurement, and modernization requirements.”
The objective in terms of modernization is the buildup of the US “nuclear triad”— intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, capable of destroying life on the planet many times over. The Pentagon will seek to upgrade all aspects of its nuclear war-fighting apparatus, “including nuclear command, control, and communications, and supporting infrastructure.” It added, “Modernization of the nuclear force includes developing options to counter competitors’ coercive strategies, predicated on the threatened use of nuclear or strategic non-nuclear attacks.” In other words, the US military is prepared to launch a nuclear war in response to a conventional or cyber attack.
Mattis’s speech had a strong element of resentment toward civilian government and its constitutional control over the military. He described US troops being compelled to “stoically carry a ‘success at any cost’ attitude, as they worked tirelessly to accomplish the mission with inadequate and misaligned resources simply because the Congress could not maintain regular order.” Mattis warned that the war plans outlined in the document will require “sustained investment by the American people,” noting that “past generations” had been compelled to make “harsher sacrifices.” Sacrifices will no doubt include cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Driven by the crisis of their system, the US capitalist ruling class and its military are preparing for a world war fought with nuclear weapons.