In recent years, the Pentagon has elevated its concerns about Russia and China as potential military threats to the United States and its allies. But what issues could provoke actual conflict between the United States and either country? And how could such a conflict be contained before it took the world to the brink of thermonuclear catastrophe, as was feared during the cold war?
Defense expert Michael O'Hanlon wrestles with these questions in this insightful book, setting them within the broader context of hegemonic change and today's version of great-power competition.
The book examines how a local crisis could escalate into a broader and much more dangerous threat to peace. What if, for example, Russia's “little green men” seized control of a community, like Narva or an even smaller town in Estonia, now a NATO ally? Or, what if China seized one of the uninhabited Senkaku islands now claimed and administered by Japan, or imposed a partial blockade of Taiwan?
Such threats are not necessarily imminent, but they are far from inconceivable. Washington could be forced to choose, in these and similar cases, between risking major war to reverse the aggression, and appeasing China or Russia in ways that could jeopardize the broader global order.
O'Hanlon argues that the United States needs a better range of options for dealing with such risks to peace. He advocates “integrated deterrence,” which combines military elements with economic warfare. The military components would feature strengthened forward defenses as well as, possibly, limited military options against Russian or Chinese assets in other theaters. Economic warfare would include offensive elements, notably sanctions, as well as measures to ensure the resilience of the United States and allies against possible enemy reprisal.
The goal is to deter war through a credible set of responses that are more commensurate than existing policy with the stakes involved in such scenarios.
Michael O'Hanlon is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, and American national security policy. He is also director of research for the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia, Princeton, Syracuse, and the University of Denver. He is also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. O’Hanlon was a member of the external advisory board at the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011 to 2012.
The current conflict in Ukraine has spawned the most serious crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. It has undermined European security, raised questions about NATO's future, and put an end to one of the most ambitious projects of U.S. foreign policy—building a partnership with Russia. It also threatens to undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts on issues ranging from terrorism to nuclear proliferation. And in the absence of direct negotiations, each side is betting that political and economic pressure will force the other to blink first. Caught in this dangerous game of chicken, the West cannot afford to lose sight of the importance of stable relations with Russia.
This book puts the conflict in historical perspective by examining the evolution of the crisis and assessing its implications both for the Crimean peninsula and for Russia's relations with the West more generally. Experts in the international relations of post-Soviet states, political scientists Rajan Menon and Eugene Rumer clearly show what is at stake in Ukraine, explaining the key economic, political, and security challenges and prospects for overcoming them. They also discuss historical precedents, sketch likely outcomes, and propose policies for safeguarding U.S.-Russia relations in the future. In doing so, they provide a comprehensive and accessible study of a conflict whose consequences will be felt for many years to come.
The new security architecture would require that Russia, like NATO, commit to help uphold the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and other states in the region. Russia would have to withdraw its troops from those countries in a verifiable manner; after that, corresponding sanctions on Russia would be lifted. The neutral countries would retain their rights to participate in multilateral security operations on a scale comparable to what has been the case in the past, including even those operations that might be led by NATO. They could think of and describe themselves as Western states (or anything else, for that matter). If the European Union and they so wished in the future, they could join the EU. They would have complete sovereignty and self-determination in every sense of the word. But NATO would decide not to invite them into the alliance as members. Ideally, these nations would endorse and promote this concept themselves as a more practical way to ensure their security than the current situation or any other plausible alternative.
In today's U.S. defense policy debates, big land wars are out. Drones, cyber weapons, special forces, and space weapons are in. Accordingly, Pentagon budget cuts have honed in on the army and ground forces: this, after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seems like an appealing idea. No one really wants American boots on the ground in bloody conflicts abroad. But it is not so easy to simply declare an end to messy land wars. A survey of the world's trouble spots suggests that land warfare has more of a future than many now seem to believe.
In The Future of Land Warfare, Michael O'Hanlon offers an analysis of the future of the world's ground forces: Where are large-scale conflicts or other catastrophes most plausible? Which of these could be important enough to require the option of a U.S. military response? And which of these could in turn demand significant numbers of American ground forces in their resolution? O'Hanlon is not predicting or advocating big American roles in such operations—only cautioning against overconfidence that we can and will avoid them.
O'Hanlon considers a number of illustrative scenarios in which large conventional forces may be necessary: discouraging Russia from even contemplating attacks against the Baltic states; discouraging China from considering an unfriendly future role on the Korean peninsula; handling an asymmetric threat in the South China Sea with the construction and protection of a number of bases in the Philippines and elsewhere; managing the aftermath of a major and complex humanitarian disaster superimposed on a security crisis—perhaps in South Asia; coping with a severe Ebola outbreak not in the small states of West Africa but in Nigeria, at the same time that country falls further into violence; addressing a further meltdown in security conditions in Central America.