Defense strategy | Vulnerable, the American army?

Ukraine, the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific. Three regions far from each other. Three regions affected or threatened by conflicts. Three regions where the United States has interests. But does Uncle Sam have the military resources to intervene in the event of overheating?

The subject is recurring in the news, as shown by a report published in The world on January 15, 2024. “Faced with the multiplication of crises in Europe and the Middle East, and tensions in the Indo-Pacific, Washington must mobilize its forces on all fronts, which exacerbates the vulnerabilities of its military apparatus at a period almost pivotal,” it reads.

The situation is even more delicate with a division of elected officials in the American Congress where the Republicans are tempted by a return to isolationism. Joe Biden’s Democrats are struggling to release new funds to help Ukraine.


Delivery of American weapons to Ukraine, January 25, 2022, one month before the start of the Russian invasion

This situation in Congress is only one element of a complex problem. Other factors come into play: recruitment and retention problems, expensive maintenance of very sophisticated equipment.

As a result, military strategists have abandoned the idea of ​​managing two major conflicts simultaneously.

“The American army must be prepared to win a conflict and be ready to deter possible conflicts elsewhere,” said Colonel Patrick J. Sullivan, director of the Modern War Institute at the Military Academy at West Point, in an interview. Under this definition, we must be prepared against any threat of invasion in today’s global security environment. »

Coordinating the Efforts of the Free World

This is not the first time, adds Colonel Sullivan, that the United States army has faced such constraints. “Defense planning is a highly dynamic process,” he says. We constantly update our plans to deal with threats or challenges that may emerge. »

Outside the ranks, however, some are worried about the proliferation of places where things get hot. Because that’s a lot for the American military to manage.

And that’s not all, observes Raphael S. Cohen, director of the Strategy and Doctrine program at the Rand Corporation. Collaboration between the many states at odds with the United States is reaching an unprecedented level to date.

“We’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before,” he told The Press. We know of the long-standing cooperation between North Korea and China. But North Korea also sends weapons to Russia. Hamas cooperates with Russia. China and Russia have strengthened their partnership. The strengthening of these cooperations should translate into a response within the free world. »

Holder of a doctorate in political science and researcher in residence at the United States Observatory of the Raoul-Dandurand Chair, Julien Tourreille believes that the military power of the United States and its allies remains superior. We still need to agree to coordinate efforts.

“The advantage of the Americans and the West is that they have a potential military power probably greater than that of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea combined,” he said. But in democratic systems, the political power and the population must still want to move in this direction. »

Two theaters, two realities

The question of Europe clearly illustrates the question presented by Mr. Tourreille. Analysts agree that Europe is a territory where land armies dominate, while the navy and air force are omnipresent in the Indo-Pacific.

“For the Europeans to take more initiatives on the territory would suit the Americans,” said Mr. Tourreille. They count on their allies to help them. »

The very likely Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential elections, Donald Trump, recalled this in less polite terms recently by affirming that he would let Russia attack NATO countries that do not pay their share within the transatlantic alliance. These comments prompted Czech MEP Mikuláš Peksa to revive the old idea of ​​creating a European army.

A disengagement of the United States in Europe would make it possible to better concentrate on the Indo-Pacific region. But the American Navy must also remain present in the Mediterranean to prevent a conflagration in the Near and Middle East.

As of December 2023, the United States had two aircraft carriers, several ships and thousands of troops in the Mediterranean. In this context, the announcement made the same month of the creation of an international coalition including Canada, in the Red Sea, to protect commercial ships against attacks by the Houthis is not surprising.


American fighter taking off from the USS aircraft carrier Eisenhower stationed in the Red Sea on February 24

Worrying, all this? Julien Tourreille prefers to talk about vigilance. The power, like the presence, of the American army in the world remains superior. But the rise of competing states, notably China, must be considered by the Americans and their allies.

Mr. Tourreille refers us to an analysis by the diplomat and advisor François Heisbourg who, in a recent text, called “Trente Paresseuses” (a nod to the Thirty Glorious Years) the three decades of Europe’s strategic posture after the fall of the wall. from Berlin.

“We fell asleep on our laurels a little. Waking up is a bit brutal and destabilizing, says Mr. Tourreille. But (for the West), there are still capacities. »

Sources: The worldVoice of America News, Euractiv, War on the Rocks and Geopolitical Studies Group


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