News By Country With Russia at war in Ukraine, America is back...

With Russia at war in Ukraine, America is back (and never left)


With Russia at war in Ukraine, America is back (and never left)

Maintaining pre-eminent superpower status has been an explicit US goal for 30 years. Withdrawal from Afghanistan didn’t change that goal, and the present tough stance over Ukraine and long-term competition with China confirm it.

On 23 February the Russian army invaded Ukraine. The West has responded with economic reprisals against Russia and military as well as humanitarian aid in support of Ukraine (see Russia and the West: between sanctions and war, in this issue). This stance, led by the United States, has clarified any perceived contradictions in recent shifts in American foreign policy: the US’s hasty, disorganised withdrawal from Afghanistan had suggested a great power in retreat, eager to shed its overseas commitments. In contrast, its muscular response to Russia’s military build-up around Ukraine was that of a more assertive power, prepared to deploy forces abroad. In fact, they are separate facets of one strategy — to restore America’s status as the world’s paramount superpower.

For US leaders, preserving this status is the overriding objective of national strategy and has been so since the end of the cold war. This first became an explicit goal of US policy in 1992, when the Department of Defense (DoD) laid out its strategic goals for the post-Soviet era. With the USSR no longer posing a major threat, the DoD asserted that ‘our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any future potential global competitor.’ As Pentagon strategists noted at the time, this meant ensuring the unquestioned superiority of US military forces and retaining a strong network of loyal allies.

At first, this seemed well within Washington’s grasp. The US easily defeated Saddam Hussein’s heavily armed forces in the 1990-91 Gulf war, and there were no other significant threats to American dominance at that time. By the early 2000s, however, US officials were starting to worry about China’s military modernisation and Vladimir Putin’s stated intent to rebuild Russia’s armed forces. When George W Bush became president in early 2001, his national security team was determined to counter those trends by increasing military spending and bolstering America’s ties with (…)

Michael T Klare
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