Written by Dmitry Yevstafiev; Originally appeared at Eurasia.expert, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The statement made by Chairman of the Committee of Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the US General Joseph Dunford on the important conference on security issues for the American establishment in Aspen, attracted considerable attention from the MSM. His statement was widely discussed – Russia is militarily “the most serious threat” to the USA. Coming from the Pentagon, the statement could be “written off” as obsessive anti-Russian hysteria, which seems to control its initiators, if not for one “but”. Behind it, there are real reasons.
How does Russia Threaten the USA?
On the one hand, the statements from the Chairman of the Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reflect the understanding that Russia turned out to be the only country in the world that has comprehensive abilities to compete against the USA in the military sphere. It is precisely that that J. Dunford said by singling out Russia from the ranks of countries that he considers as “threats” to the USA (China, Iran and DPRK), noting her total capabilities. Not forgetting, of course, about Moscow’s possible dominance of cyberspace. The Chairman of the JCS acts fully in line with today’s political trends in the USA, where references of Russia as “main threat” are a prerequisite for survival of any major figures.
Russia is seen in Washington as a significant military threat not only because she has the capability to destroy the USA as an economic and social system.
Russia is a threat to the USA, primarily because she has the ability to restrain US aggressive military actions, and not only in relation to herself. And this is quite more difficult from the military-technical as well as from the political point of view.
Russia confidently restores the psychological aspects of nuclear deterrence, almost lost by the 2010s. There is an increasing understanding of past negative circumstances that nuclear strategic parity is important.
The recovery of the principles of the classical nuclear deterrence, which will occur in the next 3 to 5 years if the trends continue, and possibly sooner, will significantly curtail American “freedom of hands” in situations where either way Russia’s interests are affected or Russian business, affiliated with her government, as well as Russia’s allies. This type of situations will be more and more frequent.
Let us remember and widely discussed in the military-political and expert circles in the United States the concept A2AD (anti-access and area denial), which was interpreted as a strategy for restricting access to critical regions using a system of military and technological measures, which are attributed to Russia.
This situation is very uncomfortable for the American political elite, but even worse for the military that understand better than the politicians what this entails from an “operational” point of view. J. Dunford, with his statement, which cannot either in form or in fact, bring the American elite to recognise the unpleasant fact of the unconditional end of the era of unipolar global power of the USA. And the military themselves are facing the need for a wholesale revision of key tenets of the military doctrine that prevailed in the United States for the last 25 years.
Competition in the Market of «Stabilisation Services»
On the other hand, there is a deeper threat from Russia’s side. “Stabilisation services” of friendly regimes related to the use of military forces were one of the important “products” exported by the USA. The meaning of “stabilisation services” can be compared with the global expansion of the dollar (which in itself would hardly have been possible without American military dominance). Despite the need for significant initial investment in the development and production of weapons, this “growth” turned out to be fantastically lucrative. Especially if the tool was used for purely economic and not ideological goals.
However in recent years, Russia has become an alternative to the USA in the provision of services for the security and stability of important states in key regions of the world. Moreover, for several years of sanctions by proving relative resistance [resistance, for example the EU] to non-coercive (economic) and even limited military power to external pressure. Especially from the United States.
In the end, the USA is starting to lose their near-monopoly position is this “market”. The question is how ready are they for the “competition”.
But the US is the one that created this situation, inspired by the “geopolitical racketeering” of a number of important states, and not only in the Middle East, although this region was key in their strategy, especially considering that they operated there practically with absolute freedom. But let’s not forget the rather clumsy efforts to destabilise the generally neutral-friendly Washington regime in Brazil, brought to a long-term systemic crisis in this country, as well as deliberate increases of pockets of military tensions on the Korean peninsula and in East Asia. These actions, as it was seen then, were to rally around the USA their regional allies but it turned out to be counterproductive. The USA did not demonstrate a convincing example of successful stabilising military actions, although demands of loyalty from its allies were increasingly harsher.
After Russia literally brought Syria from the brink of collapse, states such as Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt are inclined for “expanded” relations with Moscow in the security sphere, not to mention influential forces in countries that are in a state of statehood crisis or collapse (Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, etc.).
Fight for Allies
Of course the scale of external stabilisation activities in Russia compared to the American global power activism is small and is unlikely even in the long run to considerably expand. The signs of “going to the head” in the Russian leadership are not observed and, objectively, Russian resources are not so great.
In any case, what is important is that Russia is third in the world after the USA and France, that in principle is capable of implementing stabilising events at a considerable distance from her territory (we will make allowances on the peculiarities of the French experience in the use of force). And only Russia in recent years has built significant experience of successful power stabilisation activities.
The USA and France can boast of only “controversial” subjects (Afghanistan, Mali), or failures (Libya, Iraq, Somalia and others, not excluding the situation in the Ukraine). China, regardless of its pretensions to global leadership, so far do not have notable achievements in this area.
The world market for stabilisation services using military forces and security with the use of military instruments of state and corporate interests, probably will only grow in the near future, because even if radical Islamism was defeated in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea only in the strength aspect (and that is very conditional), but certainly did not in the political or ideological aspects.
In varying degrees, the hotbeds manifesting in the Arab countries from 2010 to 2017 of Islamic radicalism will continue to occur and in the most unexpected places. In addition to Islamic radicalism new ideological radicalism can arise, which may be local or regional, and in fact, pose a threat to the world order. On the whole, the competition of the key players of the global economy can take much more intense forms.
Thus the “fight for allies” becomes in the emerging “hands-on” multi-polarity one of the key factors in the development of global policy.
The economic potential, still important, already is definitely not the dominant component, “nulling” all other factors of attractiveness of one or another global “centre of power”.
The evolution is easy to follow through the changes in the relations between Russia and China over the last five years. In the framework of the strategic partnership between the two countries in the security-military factors, the geopolitical “assets” of Russia played an increasingly significant role, effectively balancing the undisputed Chinese economic domination. The joint Russian-Chinese actions around North Korea are such an example. Perhaps these trends would be applicable to other global processes.
So, to clarify, the statements of the head of the JCS J. Dunford about Russia being, if not the main, then at least the central threat to the United States, then they are not too far from the truth as it seems initially.
Dmitry Yevstafiev, Professor, NRU, Higher School of Economics