Peace Through Strength: What Challenges the USA Fears?

In the new National Security Strategy of the United States Russia, along with China, is called one of the main threats. Valdai Club expert Pavel Sharikov believes, that the new strategy is in a sense a return to the so-called Bush doctrine with the main principle "peace through strength." "Obama used mainly soft power tools. Trump focuses on military and political instruments of power", he said in an interview with

In the new version of the US National Security Strategy, which was presented by the White House on December 18, Russia is mentioned more often than in previous editions. At the same time, it is noteworthy that the security challenges associated with Russia are often linked with China, for example, the "revisionist efforts of China and Russia." Moreover, Iran and North Korea are repeatedly mentioned as radical and terrorist organizations whose actions are aimed against America. At the same time the main focus of the strategy is not on geographical challenges, but on transnational threats such as terrorism, cyber threats, etc. This is also due to the fact that the Strategy focuses on tools to counteract challenges and threats.

"It is interesting that Russia is perceived as an adversary, a rival, while it does not directly speak of Russia as an enemy," said Pavel Sharikov, head of the Center for Applied Research of the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “In the text of the document Russia is mostly mentioned in together with China - this is one category of threats. Another category of threats are Iran and North Korea. That, in general, is new perception of challenges from Russia. In the national security strategy of the Obama administration in 2015 the Russian threat was compared with the spread of the ebola virus and the Islamic state, banned in the Russian Federation. In the sanctions law against US opponents, adopted this summer, Russia is on a par with North Korea and Iran.

Naturally, in the National Security Strategy the priority is given to nuclear weapons. In particular, it mentions that the US is deploying an echeloned missile defense system with aim to protect the American territory and American citizens from missile attacks of Iran and North Korea. At the same time, the expert notes, the document never mentions the INF Treaty, which in the near future may be suspended altogether. This means the collapse of the Russian-American arms control agreements.

Precisely the accusations of violating the INF treaty that Russia claims the United States are associated with the technical characteristics of missile defense systems. Obviously, the termination of the INF Treaty will provoke the cessation of other treaties and agreements in the arms control sphere. While there is no mention of the INF in the new Strategy, it states that deployed missile defense systems do not violate existing strategic stability agreements in relations with Russia and China.

Another major challenge to national security for the United States is the growing influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region. "The Strategy declares the US intends to strengthen cooperation with India, presumably in order to balance China in this region," Sharikov said.

In general, according to the expert, the new version of the National Security Strategy revealed and emphasized the contradictions between supporters and opponents of Trump. Thus, the document does not mention the idea of promoting democracy, whose adherents were both Bush and Obama. According to Pavel Sharikov, the antiglobalist Trump's thesis “America First” found its niche here, and now in the first place it is the American national security, and not the spread of democracy in the world.

Nevertheless, in addition to the realization of the American national interests and protection of economic interests, the main goal of the United States, according to the new National Security Strategy, is still its leadership in a multipolar world, the expert believes. However, you should not consider the Strategy as a direct guide to action - a step-by-step plan, what to do in this or that situation.

"This is a declarative document summarizing the attitudes that the foreign policy, military, intelligence structures, the White House, the executive branch and so on, plan to be primarily guided in carrying out their policies," the expert explained. "The document is designed to consolidate and streamline all previous decisions, explain the cause-effect relationship and formulate the ultimate goal."

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.