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Opinion

January 26, 2018

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Bad old days

Bad old days

The Trump administration made both its National Security Strategy and the National Defence Strategy public in December and January respectively.

The new documents clearly reflect the priorities, intensions, aims and desires of the Trump administration. But they fail to outline the strategy, measures and tactics needed to achieve the stated objectives. The new security strategy is based on four main intensions, or rather objectives.

First is the renegotiation of trade agreements, including Nafta and WTO, on trade terms that are more favourable for the American economy. The Trump administration is desperately looking to reduce trade deficit as it wants to spend more on military activities. Second is restricted immigration, closed borders and harsher internal security measures. The third objective is to dominate the world energy market so it adopts a more aggressive oil drilling policy to increase oil production. According to the projection of the International Energy Agency, the US is likely to become the second largest oil producer in the world surpassing Saudi Arabia in 2018. It has already increased coal production to create more mining jobs. Fourth, the Trump administration is changing its focus from the so-called war on terror to countering the rising strategic challenge of China and Russia.

This is going to be the first major shift in the US military and strategic policy since 2001. The US wants to spend more on defence. It wants to start a new arms race to outplay both China and Russia in the military field and modernise its military force, nuclear arsenal and cyber and space capabilities. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis while presenting the new defence strategy – the first of its kind since at least 2014 – declared China and Russia, “Revisionist powers which seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models.” “We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists that we are engaged in today, but great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of the US national security,” Mattis said . However, the Pentagon, last week, released an unclassified 11-page version of the document that did not provide any details on how would the shift towards countering China and Russia be carried out.

The struggle to maintain and to gain more influence, domination and hegemony in different regions and countries of the world has already begun. But this power struggle will intensify in the coming period. The Asia Pacific, South China Sea, South and Central Asia would be the most likely battle grounds of this new intensified power struggle between different international and regional powers. It seems that different forces will use proxies in the first phase before confronting each other directly.

The new American defence strategy focuses on three main points which include containing the Russian influence in Central Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe, keeping economic pressure on Russia and further strangling its economic growth through different means including sanctions and trade embargoes. Russia can challenge the American military might and can also pose serious security challenges to it but its economic weakness stops it from going beyond its traditional sphere of influence.

The second aim is to contain Chinese influence in Africa, South East Asia and South Asia. China is a rising economic power and poses a direct challenge to the American economic domination and hegemony. But China still lags far behind in the field of military, it is yet to become a direct military challenge to the US. However, it is spending large amounts on the military front, to modernise it and to equip it with most the modern hardware. It will become a serious military challenge for America in the coming period. This is why the Obama administration saw the Asia Pacific region as pivotal to its strategic and defence policy. The US wants an alliance between India, Japan, Australia and Vietnam to counter Chinese influence in the region.

As for the third point, the US would build regional alliances to increase and maintain American dominance and hegemony in different regions. The US is seriously concerned about the rising economic clout of China in Latin America and Africa and to counter it, the US will need the support of major regional powers like Brazil, Mexico, Argentine in Latin America and Nigeria and South Africa in Africa.

Speaking at the UN, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that, “It is regrettable that instead of having a normal dialogue, instead of using the basis of international law, the US is striving to prove their leadership through such confrontational strategies and concepts. We’re open for dialogue; we’re prepared to discuss military doctrines.” The spokesman for the Chinese embassy in America also criticised the strategy, saying that, “If some people look at the world through a cold war, zero-sum game mindset, then they are destined to see only conflict and confrontation.”

One thing is clear: that the new American strategy will increase political instability, power struggle, internal strife, divisions and interference in internal matters of different countries. The US will use democracy as a propaganda tool to undermine the authoritarian regimes of China and Russia – the cold-war era rhetoric-free democratic world versus an authoritarian and tyrannical rule.

The new strategy will not bring peace, prosperity, democracy and stability in the world. The world is going back to the old days of cold war. The polarisation among the major world powers will increase in the coming days. Small and weak countries will be forced to take sides in this power struggle. We are heading towards new wars, alliances and rivalries.

America still enjoys political, economic, military and technological advantages. But the gap between America and other competing powers is reducing at a fast pace. Although differing in nature and magnitude, these rivals compete across political, economic and military arenas and use technology and information to accelerate these contests so as to shift the regional balances of power in their favour.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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