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The Low-Intensity Conflicts in American Military-Political Strategy in the Early 21st Century

In the Introduction (by V.I. Batyuk) the main attention is paid to the U.S. apparent imperial overstrain and the lack of resources to meet the challenge of preserving of American global leadership. The growth of military- technical potential of such non-Western centers of power as Russia and China, forced official Washington to take a fresh look at the probability of low-intensity conflicts with both non-state actors and with another state, and the results of this conflict for the U.S. armed forces.

The low-intensity conflicts are forcing American military and political leadership to change not only doctrines, strategy, and operational art, but also weapons systems. In such conflicts the U.S. armed forces can face not only private, but also public and/or hybrid opponents, and in these circumstances, the American military could lose command of the sea, in the air and fire superiority on the battlefield. The American military- political leadership will have to reassess seriously its approach to low- intensity conflicts with non-state opponents.

The extraordinary rapidity with which yesterday’s Donetsk and Lugansk militias have become a regular and well-organized army (the same transformation at the same time, in the spring and summer of 2014, occurred with the armed forces of the so-called “Islamic Statte”), is a brand new military-political factor, and American political and military leadership will have to reckon with developments in a similar scenario in other regions of the world.

Chapter 1, “Prompt Global Strike: the US Strategic Systems and Low- Intensity Conflicts” (by T.B. Anichkina) considers the probability of use of American strategic and non-strategic carriers with high-precision warheads in the low-intensity conflicts. Since currently only the U.S. is capable of massive use of precision weapons with non-strategic carriers, Americans can take such a step in case of adverse development of the situation during the low-intensity conflict.

High efficiency of application of precision weapons has been proven in practice on a number of criteria: accuracy, reliability, minimal collateral damage, the best ratio of “cost-effectiveness”, the impact efficiency for single and group (with the use of warheads with cluster combat gear) purposes. Meanwhile, in order to maximize the potential of the high- precision warheads, a high level of information support is needed. Currently, among individual countries, only the United States has so many of the WTO on non-strategic carriers to provide its massive use.

Chapter 2, “US Missile Defense Concept and Low-Intensity Conflicts” (by O.O. Krivolapov) is focused on the probable use of ballistic missile by the U.S. military during low-intensity conflicts. According to the official documents on the US military policy, the use of missile defense systems is possible, first and foremost, in a regional context. From the point of view of many American high-ranking military, the ballistic missile defense is the central instrument of regional deterrence in such a conflict.

Currently, all non-strategic Missile Defense elements both planned and already deployed in Europe, in the Middle East, and East Asia, can be used by the United States for regional deterrence purposes. A low-intensity conflict, in the opinion of the US military and political leadership, may arise, in particular, due to the fact that some countries may try to influence the decision-making of the United States through the threat of a missile strike on the territory of the United States, on the American troops, deployed in various regions of the world, or (more likely) on American allies.

Chapter 3, “American military policy in Europe” (by V.I. Batyuk) examines the Washington’s attitude to the military balance there, on the European continent. In Europe, the U.S. and NATO leadership had had to abandon the condescending attitude of the Russian armed forces, rejecting the widespread belief of politicians and the military in the West that the modern Russian army is a pale shadow of the mighty and fearsome Soviet Army, and that under these conditions Moscow has to rely on the pitiful remnants of the Soviet nuclear arsenal to maintain its international status. The Crimea and Donbas have shown that the armed forces of the Russian Federation obtained great potential for both conventional war and low- intensity conflicts – and Washington and Brussels will have to reckon with this. The official Washington has to recon with not only a further escalation of a “hybrid” conflict in Ukraine, but also with the emergence of a similar conflict with its NATO allies in the Baltic States, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences. And, last but not least, the American nuclear strategy in Europe has undergone major revision: now there is no question about the elimination of American nuclear weapons in Europe. The Russian conventional superiority in Eastern Europe made the American nuclear warheads indispensable factor in ensuring the reality of the US and NATO security guarantees to the Eastern European members of the Alliance.

Chapter 4, “The U.S. military policy in the Middle East” (by Y.V. Morozov) is focused on the American military and political strategy in that vast region. The author believes that one should not expect that under President Donald Trump the United States would reduce its involvement in the other countries’ domestic affairs. Policies and strategies carried out by previous U.S. administrations cannot be changed overnight. On the world stage in general and the Middle East in particular there would be further polarization between various centers of power. While America and the West defend the current unilateral world order with the dominant role of the United States, others will try to consolidate the emerging multipolar world. The Pentagon, being in readiness to use military force in the Middle East, will continue to use actively the peacekeeping potential of the United States, trying to establish peace in the “hot spots” of the region on American conditions. The American strategy in the region would be concentrated on the military defeat of the ISIS and the Taliban, which are considered to be the most dangerous radical groups in the Middle East countries and Afghanistan.

As it is pointed out in the Chapter 5, “American Military Strategy in the Asia-Pacific Region” (by V.I. Batyuk), the United States also face serious challenges there. Currently the U.S. Pacific Command has to prepare for, in the first place, to armed confrontation with military powers such as North Korea, China, and Russia. A danger of the American-Chinese conflict in the Chinese coastal areas is particularly high. So far, however, Washington is not ready to declare Beijing its enemy: the degree of economic and financial interdependence of the two largest economies in the world is very high. However, the absolute American military superiority in the Asia Pacific region face a serious challenge, and the U.S. military have to count with that. According to the Pentagon estimates, the Chinese armed forces can use successfully the Anti-Access/Area Denial strategy against the American military in the Chinese costal areas. In any case, the American military- political leadership will have to prepare for war (albeit a non-nuclear and local) with great military power – although quite recently, the belief dominated in American ruling circles that no one but the Islamic extremists will dare to challenge the “sole superpower.”

Chapter 6 “U.S. Military Policy in the Arctic” (by D.A. Volodin) examines the American military and political strategy in the in the region. The author believes that the American military presence in the Arctic has increased in the recent years. The importance of the Arctic in the U.S. military policy has increased especially after the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. In conditions of a sharp aggravation of relations between Russia and the U.S., the region begins to be seen as an important area of the military balance of forces between Russia and the West.

The Conclusion (by V.I. Batyuk) points at the changes in the U.S. approach to the local conflicts under the Trump’s administration. Judging by the public statements of senior administration officials, the low-intensity conflicts will continue to be the center of attention of the American military- political leadership. So, according to the statement of the Secretary of Defense George Mattis before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the most important problem the Pentagon faces now, is the U.S. military involvement in local conflicts. Thus, the military-political situation in different regions of the world, simply will not allow official Washington to ignore the factor of low-intensity conflicts and the participation of American armed forces there.

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