Since the Cold War, the U.S. Navy has followed a well-worn template to deter aggression and respond to crises in the Middle East and the Western Pacific: a “one size fits all” carrier strike group and amphibious ready group. This approach won’t do the job any longer. China and Russia are violating international law and threatening U.S. allies even as ongoing operations in the Middle East are consuming the service lives of the Navy’s ships and aircraft. In response, the Department of Defense has deployed Navy and Marine forces longer and more frequently, creating what Navy leaders are calling a readiness crisis in the fleet. This is exacerbated by a reduction in the fleet’s size from 318 ships in 2000 to about 275 ships today.
Donald Trump wants to make a partner of Russia in Syria. One of Trump’s most consistently expressed foreign policy ideas, both during the campaign and now since his election, is that the United States and Russia are natural counterterrorism allies, and that the obvious place to begin such cooperation is in Syria, against the Islamic State. Both the United States and Russia are waging war against the Islamic State, Trump’s reasoning goes, so the best way to hasten the defeat of that organization, and perhaps to launch a broader U.S.-Russia rapprochement, is by bringing Russia into the counter-Islamic State fold and undertaking more coordinated military action targeting the group. In a recent Fox interview, in which Trump controversially drew a moral equivalence between the United States and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, he said “it’s better to get along with Russia than not and if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, major fight, that’s a good thing.”
President Donald Trump enters office facing a variety of foreign policy challenges. One of his largest and most consequential will be dealing with a resurgent and increasingly unpredictable Russia. Since the end of the Cold War, each new American presidential administration has sought to improve relations with Moscow – the last attempt being President Barack Obama’s “reset.” Trump, however, seems a bit too keen to follow this pattern, straying beyond diplomatic pleasantries to praise Vladimir Putin directly and vowing to “make some good deals” with him. In doing so, Trump runs the risk of both forgoing vital consultations with stalwart allies and partners in Europe and failing to grasp the danger that Russia poses to European and international security.
Why is newly confirmed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis making his first overseas trip to the Western Pacific to confer with two of America’s key allies, Japan and South Korea?
Believe it or not, President Donald Trump has a grand strategy. According to some analysts, Trump’s endless streams of erratic and apparently improvisational ideas don’t add up to anything consistent or purposeful enough to call a grand strategy. We see it otherwise. Beneath all the rants, tweets, and noise there is actually a discernible pattern of thought — a Trumpian view of the world that goes back decades. Trump has put forward a clear vision to guide his administration’s foreign policy — albeit a dark and highly troubling one, riddled with tensions and vexing dilemmas.
The Trump Administration began work this week on its promise of an across-the-board enlargement of the U.S. military. The President-elect has thus far described his plan only in the broadest of terms, but those terms portend a sustained period of higher defense spending—something Congress has been unwilling to approve since it passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) in 2011. Chief among those who will shape the future of the American military is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who waded into the debate last week with a strong, coherent outline that not only aims to restore the capacity of a significantly hollowed-out force, but also provides direction for how the force should evolve as it grows. There is a lot in this report, but we will restrict our comments to the larger context of the plan and its impact on American Seapower.