President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 18 his new National Security Strategy (NSS). Congress mandates that every US administration set out its policy on national security. The NSS is a formal document that each US president since 1987 produced usually every four years in accordance with the Goldwater-Nichols Act.
In his address the president said America had entered a new era of "strategic competition" against the rest of the world. President Trump asserts that "the US is leading again on the world stage" and "the whole world is lifted by America's renewal and the re-emergence of American leadership", despite the fact that polls are showing the United States image damaged globally.
The NSS says the country lives in "an extraordinarily dangerous world" with rival powers "aggressively undermining American interests around the globe.” Trump said his strategy sets important steps to deal with “new forms of conflict, such as economic and political aggression.” His plan calls for strengthening regional alliances to counter these threats to make America” lead again.”
The strategy hinges on four main components: protecting the homeland, promoting American prosperity, maintaining traditional military strength in its conventional, nuclear, cyber and space forces and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world. There are two areas of emphasis — an “unprecedented” focus on homeland security and the focus on the economy as a national security issue.
The US, the document asserts, will continue to be engaged abroad, where it serves American interests to counter instability; places like Afghanistan "where state weaknesses or failure would magnify threats to the American homeland".
At the top of the Trump administration's list of threats to the US are countries the president has branded as "rogue regimes": namely North Korea and Iran. The NSS contains no mention of warnings on climate change. The last national strategy document issued in 2015, declared climate change an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.”
The document envisions nations in constant competition and states that the United States will unilaterally defend its sovereignty, even if that means risking the existing agreements with other countries that have been a crucial part of the United States’ foreign policy since the Cold War. It offers no any specifics about funding, timeline or the ways to achieve the military goals.
“After being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned,” the document says. According to it, Russia and China “are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.” The strategy sets the objective of establishing a “great partnership” with "rival powers" - Russia and China - but only “in a manner that always protects our national security.” As an example of cooperation, the president referred to a phone call of thanks he received from Russian President Vladimir Putin for intelligence the CIA provided to the Kremlin about a terrorist act in St. Petersburg.
Actually, the language is rather confrontational, calling for rivalry and potential standoff with Russia and China. The NSS identifies the two nations as “revisionist powers” that represent economic and political threats to America. The document takes a hard line, singling them out for "attempting to erode American security and prosperity." It says they are trying to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests. "They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence," it states.
The NSS mentions Russia 25 times to paint it as a threat. "Russia aims to weaken US influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners," their nukes are "the most significant existential threat to the United States." Russia is attacked on all fronts again without evidence presented to bolster the accusations. “Russia uses information operations as part of its offensive cyber efforts to influence public opinion across the globe,” the NSS states. “Its influence campaigns blend covert intelligence operations and false online personas with state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’ The document also highlights Russia’s attempts to “undermine the legitimacy of democracies.”
President Trump himself has many times cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessments, but Russia’s alleged hostile activities are presented in the document as a given fact. It should be noted that President Trump's made no similar mention in his speech. The document does not speak of cooperation with Russia in tackling international security problems, such as North Korea and Syria, as the president has promised to do in the past.
So, the US does not view favorably the contemporary trends in the world and it wants to turn the tide. It is adamant to counter the emergence of other poles of power and sees the world as an arena for rivalry. Russia and China are depicted as rivals but not enemies and that’s a good thing.
The NSS is to large extent a propaganda document. Attacked from all sides, the president is trying to preserve the voters’ backing, so he turns to conservative Republicans. The picture is simple. There are bad guys in the world, such as Russia, China. N. Korea and Iran, opposed by America on its way to become great again.
At the same time, the US has a “heart big enough” to cooperate with Moscow despite the fact that it supports the “dictatorships”, like Venezuela, and intends to maintain the nuclear parity. Actually, it’s not that important for the future relationship. Then President Obama did not say anything negative about Russia at all in his NSS 2010 but the “reset policy” ended in failure. At least, the possibility of cooperation with Russia as well as China is not rejected. “The intentions of both nations are not necessarily fixed,” the NSS states. “The United States stands ready to cooperate across areas of mutual interest with both countries” and that sounds positive.
It’s also a good thing the document does not promote global “democracy” anymore. It’s a drastic change of policy. It means the American way of life does not have to be imposed on other countries, including the states of post-Soviet space. If so, it can be considered a positive factor for Russia-US ties in future.
The negative factor is the declared readiness to conduct preventive wars against the countries posing a threat to US national interests. It actually presupposes the right to strike whenever the US deems it appropriate without looking back at international law. It cannot but evoke concern of other nations. The document does not call for promoting cooperation with other countries on the basis of equality but on the terms favorable to America, which is to be “first” in whatever it does.
All in all, the strategy does not say anything new. The document is just another confirmation of the fact that the US global domination remains to be the goal and everything else is a means to that end.