Spotlight on Geopolitics

The Defense Strategic Review (DSR) released by the Pentagon on the 5th of January 2012 summarises the Obama Administration’s geopolitical agenda and strategic priorities. From it, experts can discern which country is considered the new enemy of the USA, although President Obama’s speech on the occasion does not mention China by name.

In France, the refocusing of the US strategy on the Asia-Pacific region is viewed by Professor Jean-Jacques Roche from ISAD as a positive development. Whilst he observes that some of the new EU members (countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and even Romania) might express their misgivings about the planned US troops withdrawal , Western suppliers of military hardware should supposedly rejoice. Professor Roche believes that the Pentagon’s DSR could kick-start the accelerated development of the European Defence Agency (EDA) and increase the mutualisation of the defence capabilities of the EU’s member countries.

The two reasons given by the US for the elaboration of the new military doctrine are the changed geopolitical environment and the radically different fiscal circumstances. In other words, the adoption of the new strategy is supposed to save the US some $450 billion over ten years, fiscal consolidation being nowadays regarded by Washington as a national security imperative…

We can also gauge from the document who the US’ current friends and enemies are. Unfortunately, China is identified as a potential foe, in the same paragraph with Iran. In the Middle East, America’s friends and allies are the Gulf countries and Israel. In Asia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan are the allies supposed to offer the US the means of putting in place – if needed – a balance of power mechanism against China. This time around, the US needs Russia on its side, especially in the wake of the upheavals in the Middle East – hence the reset.

Interestingly enough, the Indians are advised by their own experts to refuse bandwagoning on the issue. Thus R.S. Kalha, an ex-Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, notes that in the past the US had forced India to settle on Kashmir. He rightly observes that South-East Asian nations are loath to become close allies of either China or the United States, for such an option could prove disastrous for them. R.S. Kalha believes that the Indian leadership should be prudent on the matter, as a clear-cut alliance with the US might prove detrimental to Indian interests. He knows that the nature of the US – China relationship is very complex and that a military conflict between the two giants seems highly unlikely, as long as China needs the American export markets and the US needs China to continue to buy its T-bills. To be sure, the relationship between the two powers is deeper and more complex than the one established by Washington with its Soviet counterpart during the Cold War.

The reception of the Pentagon’s DSR by the Chinese government was a rather cool one. The Chinese leadership seems unwilling to intensify confrontation and to become a new cold war target for Washington. The People’s Daily has insisted that China should continue with its economic development and avoid being dragged into a military competition with the US, as the Russians had. Still, the Chinese intend to continue to take care of what they call their ‘peripheral security interests’, in spite of the new assertiveness of the new US defence policy in Asia. For all other issues, the Chinese apparently intend to cooperate with the US in solving potential tensions via dialogue. (sources: Le Monde, Pentagon Paper, People’s Daily, IDSA India)

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