Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 09:50 (GMT+7)
Key points of the U.S. new national security strategy

In response to the complexity of the situation in the region and the world, in late 2017, US President Donald Trump announced the National Security Strategy (NSS). This is the first time the NSS of a super power has been published in the first year in office of a president. Following are the main points of Trump’s Administration’s NSS.

US President Donald Trump announces the NSS on
December 18th 2017 (photo: AP)

Threats to national security

Trump’s NSS emphasizes that “the United States faces an extraordinarily dangerous world, filled with a wide range of threats that have intensified in recent years”. The first threat is posed by “rival powers” which “were aggressively undermining American interests around the globe”. Those countries are striving to build a new global order in both military and economic terms and compete against the U.S. for influence. Moreover, the NSS considers Russia as a negative element in the international area, and Washington views Moscow as a rival. The second one is posed by “undesirable” states, including the People’s Republic of Korea and Iran. And the third one represents non-state factors like organizations causing trans-national threats, especially terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Putting America first

Though the NSS mentions the role of the U.S. allies, the sharing and protection of their interests, it is basically aimed to protect and serve the US interests. It repeats the phase “An America First National Security Strategy”. That once again reflects the US sense of realism as “It is a strategy of principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology”.

With regard to the issue of interests, this is the first time a US NSS has identified all 4 vital national interests at the same time in a competitive world in line with 4 pillars which Washington shall protect at any rate, namely (1). Protect American people, the Homeland and the American way of life; (2). Promote American prosperity; (3). Preserve peace through strength; (4). Advance American influence.

Paying regard to the Strategy for Indo-Pacific Region

According to the NSS, “The United States must tailor our approaches to different regions of the world to protect U.S. national interests”. Accordingly, in the NSS, there appears a new term “regional strategy” when the U.S. maps out five regional strategies and stresses that “The United States must marshal the will and capabilities to compete and prevent unfavorable shifts in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East”.

As for the Indo-Pacific Region, the U.S. believes that a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place. According to the Strategy, in this region, China’s efforts to build and militarize outposts in the East Sea endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability. Moreover, “China has mounted a rapid military modernization campaign designed to limit U.S. access to the region and provide China a freer hand there”. Consequently, the U.S. believes that “States throughout the region are calling for sustained U. S. leadership in a collective response that upholds a regional order respectful of sovereignty and independence”.

As for other relevant regions, such as Northeast Asia, the NSS points out that People’s Republic of Korea is rapidly accelerating its cyber, nuclear, and ballistic  missile  programs posing a global threat that requires a global response and prompts neighboring countries and the United States to further strengthen security bonds and take additional measures to protect themselves.

Besides, the NSS emphasizes the role of the U.S. allied countries: “Australia has fought alongside us in every significant conflict; “Our alliance and friendship with South Korea, forged by the trials of history, is stronger than ever”; India is a major strategic and defense partner. It is worth noting that the NSS mentions a number of Southeast Asian countries and underlines that “the Philippines and Thailand remain important allies and markets for Americans. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are growing security and economic partners of the United States. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) remain centerpieces of the Indo-Pacific’s regional architecture and platforms for promoting an order based on freedom”. In the NSS, the U.S. advocates a clearer policy towards these countries when announcing that “We will re-energize our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand and strengthen our partnerships with Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others to help them become cooperative maritime partners”.

Implementing “flexible” policy for “hostile powers”

Trump’s Administration believes that China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor. Notably, the NSS stresses that Russia seeks to restore its great power status and establish spheres of influence near its borders; and that Russia aims to weaken U.S. influence in the world and divide it from its allies and partners. As Russia views the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) as threats, it is investing in new military capabilities, including nuclear systems that remain the most significant existential threat to the United States, and in destabilizing cyber capabilities. According to the NSS, “Russia is using subversive measures to weaken the credibility of America’s commitment to Europe, undermine transatlantic unity, and weaken European institutions and governments”. “The combination of Russian ambition and growing military capabilities creates an unstable frontier in Eurasia, where the risk of conflict due to Russian miscalculation is growing”.

In spite of severe assessments, in the NSS, the U.S. presents a policy which is not too strict towards Russia and China and “stands ready to cooperate across areas of mutual interest with both countries”. As for China alone, the U.S. will maintain its strong ties with Taiwan in accordance with its “One China” policy, including its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide for Taiwan’s legitimate defense needs and deter coercion.

Further using the “soft power”, advancing influence in the international arena

Mentioning the “soft power”, the NSS emphasizes that a secure, prosperous, and free America will be strong and ready to lead abroad. The U.S. does not conceal the national pride when saying that “The whole world is lifted by America’s renewal and the reemergence of American leadership”.

In the NSS, Washington affirms that the United States offers partnership to those who share its aspirations for freedom and prosperity. It quotes Alexander Hamilton (the US first Secretary of the Treasury): “The noble struggle we have made in the cause of liberty, has occasioned a kind of revolution in human sentiment. The influence of our example has penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism”.

Nevertheless, the U.S. admits that “We are also realistic and understand that the American way of life cannot be imposed upon others, nor is it the inevitable culmination of progress”. The U.S. relationships with its allied countries, partnerships and alliances are built on aspirations for freedom and mutual interests; therefore, when offering partnership to other nations, Washington must pursue a policy that helps both the U.S and its partners achieve the goals.

The foregoing are the key points of the U.S. National Security Strategy. However, one thing that matters most is the way it will be realized in practice.

Duc Cuong - Duy Minh

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