United States military puts 'great power competition' at heart of defense strategy

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday elevated protecting against a war with China and Russian Federation as the United States' primary security concern, stating "great power competition" has surpassed terrorism as the Pentagon's chief focus for the first time in two decades.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters at United Nations headquarters in NY that militaries frequently want more resources, but "it is regrettable that instead of having normal dialogue, instead of using the basis of worldwide law, the U.S.is trying to prove their leadership through such confrontational strategies and concepts".

"This strategy is fit for our time-providing the American people the military required to protect our way of life, stand with our allies, and live up to our responsibility to pass intact to the next generation those freedoms we enjoy today", he said.

China's National Defence Ministry said the USA should abandon a "Cold War" mindset and view Chinese national security and military efforts "rationally and objectively".

This then should make for the kind of targeted spending on defense related space technology such as pursued by the United States after the shock Soviet launch of Sputnik, the world's first man-made satellite, in 1957.

"The erosion of our military advantage is the problem that the strategy is trying to deal with", Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant Defense secretary for strategy and force development, told reporters in previewing the new strategy on Thursday.

The document also listed North Korea among the Pentagon's priorities, citing the need to focus U.S. missile defences against the threat from Pyongyang, which beyond its nuclear weapons has also amassed an arsenal of biological, chemical, and conventional arms.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' National Defense Strategy is the first NDS in a decade.

"If some people look at the world through a cold war, zero-sum game mindset, then they are destined to see only conflict and confrontation", an embassy spokesman said.

"It is clear that conflicts between China and the USA are heading in the direction of becoming more strategic, more serious. and more comprehensive", Shi said on Saturday.

That perception of American military strength is directly tied to the Pentagon's funding, Mattis said, placing blame for Defense Department fiscal struggles on Congress.

"We will continue to execute daily operations around the world - ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa and South Asia", the secretary said.

It asserts the USA military has lost major advantages it long maintained in the air, on the land, in space and in the nuclear arena.

Where the shutdown could potentially impact the military, though, is if the thousands of civilian officials and contractors who work for the Department of Defense in support of the military are furloughed. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails. "Our men and women in uniform need our help", he said.

He adds: "It's worth remembering that the National Defense Strategy is not just a policy document".

Mattis recalled traveling by commercial jet to his nomination hearing previous year thinking "how do I put "America first" into, in my mind, an alliance framework".

If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Mattis has urged United States lawmakers to avoid the shut-down, commenting on the recent standoff in the country's government over the adoption of the short-term budget to prevent government shutdown.

  • Jon Douglas