The recently published National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2015 outlines the current global security environment as very unpredictable. The document predicts current security threats on the continental level and highlights a list of countries and regions different from the previous edition.
The most important document in the hierarchy of the US security documents is the National Security Strategy (NSS) as a highly significant document delineating the wide-ranging goals of the nation. The second most important one is the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and in theory it concerns the role of defence in implementing the strategy underlined in the NSS.
Finally, at the third layer, comes the National Military Strategy (NMS), which is discussed below. In essence, NMS highlights the role of the military in supporting NDS and NSS, emphasising the roles of air, sea and land power.
The new strategy tends to be more concerned with the trend that global disorder has significantly increased and that the worldwide security environment is unpredictable. Nevertheless, the National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2011 indicates the evolution of a “multi-nodal” world characterized more by shifting, interest-driven coalitions based on diplomatic, military, and economic power, than by rigid security competition between opposing blocs.
The former strategy stressed institutionalising reform of the Defense Department and rebalancing urgent needs with preparation for future challenges. Moreover, 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) was considered an important stride toward this goal. However, the new document mainly focuses on international security challenges and threats, rather than on domestic reforms in the defence sector.
International security priorities have moderately changed. In the past, the Middle Eastern region and the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran was one of the top world threats along with South Central Asia and Afghanistan as a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and the epicenter of violent extremism.
In general, 9/11 rhetoric seems gradually loosened and the new National Military Strategy 2015 addresses the need to counter revisionist states that are challenging international norms as well as violent extremist organizations (VEOs) that are undermining trans-regional security. In terms of the US foreign strategic shift, certainly Asia is far more prevalent. For instance, strengthening alliances and deepening security cooperation with Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand and India are considered essential in order to maintain regional peace.
I will try below to illustrate five important security trends based on the new military strategy:
First, the US is more inclined to foster partnerships and alliances around the globe, hence, from the point of view of military strategy, success will increasingly depend on support of the US military instrument by other instruments of power. Nonetheless, in the past US policy defined its role as enabling capacity for assisting other nations to achieve security goals that could advance common interests. It is clear that the US has globally repositioned and become more explicit about its security intentions in a new strategy. Presumably, the importance of state actors especially beyond NATO and the European Union will increase. For example, the so-called “future newcomers” into NATO-Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova-could be secured in order to avoid political pressure from Russia. US political presence and support in Eastern Europe especially by “instruments of power” is expected.
Second, the future conflicts are appraised as long-standing processes that are not quickly resolved. New battlefields are considered more technically challenging and the control of escalation is assessed as more and more difficult and significant. The strategic environment is perceived as much accelerated due to globalisation resulting in demographic shifts, technological diffusion and competition for resources. In terms of natural resources, the last edition addressed this issue by illustrating specific cases of the scarcity of water (which is challenging for governments) especially in the Middle East, Africa and South Central Asia. Finally, an uncertain global climate change has been emphasised in terms of natural disasters and the weak ability of developing states to respond to it adequately is discussed. For instance, floods in Georgia's capital Tbilisi, resulted in the escape of wild animals after intensive water flow over the river Vere. Governmental response to this natural disaster was not adequate, rapid nor effective. As a result, the total death toll was 19 people.
Third, in previous US strategy, non-state actors, such as VEOs and non-state adversaries in the area of WMD proliferation and nuclear terrorism were clearly emphasized and it is still kept as a top priority. But the new strategy stresses state-actors, especially states challenging international norms. In this regard, Russia breached sovereignty of its neighbors and the achievement of goals for Russia's political establishment is perceived through the prism of military power. Russia’s military actions are considered as the violation of numerous agreements that Russia has signed. Moscow was committed to act in accordance with international norms after the signature of these agreements. Russia's aggressive attitude towards neighbouring states should strengthen US-Georgian ties and security co-operation between the US and Eastern Europe. As a result of the war in Ukraine, the West has realised that Russia is still a big threat to European security.
Fourth, Iran poses strategic challenges to the international community because of nuclear and missile ambitions. The actions of Tehran are marked as a source of destabilisation for many nations. From a geographical perspective, regional instability could affect the security environment and economic growth in the countries of the Caucasus.
Fifth, in the list of violent extremist organizations (VEOs) besides Al-Qaeda, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a source of regional destabilisation. Such radical groups serve to radicalise people, spread violence, and leverage terror to impose their visions of societal organisation. As a result, a number of Georgian nationals have been recruited by ISIL on religious grounds and recruits flow from the Caucasus to Middle East. There are currently fighters from all over the world in ISIL, but significant part of them come from the Northern Caucasus, including Georgia. Furthermore, ISIL has declared the formation of a new governorate, which means that ISIL will probably span several regions of Georgia and the Russian Federation. The tightening of the US-Georgian alliance is projected in order to tackle and take preventive measures against this issue.
Beka Kiria is as a senior specialist at Defence Policy and Planning Department at the Ministry of Defence of Georgia. He graduated from the University of Leicester.