‘Tagging’ the Major Powers: US National Security Strategy
Kartikeya Pandey

The new National Security Strategy of the United States, the first of Biden's administration, outlined the government's intentions for dealing with China, Russia, and its consideration of India, as well as its perceptions towards these countries. It mentioned Russia as an aggressor, China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” and India as the “world’s largest democracy and a major defence partner of the US”. The mention of the relationship with India was restricted largely to the Indo-Pacific region, while in regards to China the US maintained a cautious stance, claiming to compete with it without dividing the world into rigid blocs or pursuing a new Cold War. But, what it doesn’t mention is the strategy which America pursues towards the three major powers– India, Russia, and China – by tagging them onto their smaller neighbours, Pakistan, Ukraine, and Taiwan, respectively with whom they share contentious territorial issues. The White House approved a string of military aid for these minor countries just before the 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, is a case in point.

The ties between the USA and Pakistan have recently deteriorated severely to the point that the former Pakistani Prime Minister accusing the US of meddling in Pakistan's political affairs. Instead of responding to all of these charges, the White House moved quickly to repair ties and recalled its "obligation" to maintain Pakistan's fleet of F-16 fighter jets by allocating USD 450 million to a programme for fleet sustainment in the name of "counterterrorism". It is important to keep in mind that this is the first defence and security exchange between the US and Pakistan since 2018 because the Trump administration had previously halted all defence and security aid to Pakistan.

Further, the US announced a USD 1.1 billion package of armaments for Taiwan shortly before the SCO summit because they were regarded as "essential for Taiwan's security", despite the fact that the US also supports the ‘One China’ policy. Next, the US announced USD 650 million in extra military aid to Ukraine just before the summit to counter the Russian offensive. Notwithstanding the fact that Democrats’ obsession with Russia is well known, military aid was not surprising. But announcements of military weapons and aid to the small powers right before the SCO summit explain a lot about the US’ geopolitical strategy of limiting foreign policy manoeuvrability of the major powers, and thereby, maintaining a regional power balance in US’ favour.

The US strategy of taking advantage of the major powers’ conflicts with the minor countries and aiding the minor powers in opposition to the major countries has proved to be highly effective. This strategy of tagging the major power not only helps the US to play on their insecurities but also keep them constrained in their respective regions and prevent them from looking beyond. It is the intricacy of the US relationship with the major powers which determines the degree and kind of financial or military assistance given to the smaller powers.

Notably, this tagging strategy is pursued in tandem with the other major US security strategy that of the hub and spoke relationship with its allied partners, especially in East Asia. The hub and spokes strategy was mainly crafted in the Cold War period to contain the spread of Communism under the Soviet Union. But this strategy also helped the US to clip the powers of its allied partners, like South Korea and Taiwan from undertaking any adventurism that would unnecessarily drag the US into a larger regional conflict. In other words, while the hub and spokes strategy is pursued mainly with its allied partners, tagging strategy is followed with the non-allied countries like Russia and China which since the beginning of the last two decades have been posing a potential threat to America’s interests and global hegemony.

The incipient beginnings of tagging strategy could be traced to the US Marshall Plan in the Cold war era whereby, the US, in the name of economic recovery of the Western European economies prevented the spread of Communism and countered the Soviet Union presence in the region. A whopping USD 13 billion was infused into this plan. Though the success of the plan in the rapid recovery of the European economies is still debatable, it successfully projected the US global preponderance. Later, a military component was added to the Marshall Plan with the formation of the NATO, an intergovernmental military alliance for collective security. Over the years, the membership of the NATO also expanded drastically which helped the US to increase its influence and counter its non-allied countries, especially Russia. In the current scenario, more than half of the G20 members are close allies of the US leaving only a few major powers which are non-allied and hence, are eligible to be ‘tagged’.

Since the Cold War era, Russia has been a principal ‘adversary’ of America; so it is pretty obvious for the US to tag it with Ukraine. China, of late, is being unmistakably viewed as a ‘challenger’ to the American liberal hegemonic order. Therefore, Taiwan is propped up in a major way against China. India, during the entire Cold War period, was viewed as an adversary, and so, the US supported Pakistan against India. However, in the post-90s decade, with India emerging as a significant player in the global economy with a large market and a strong voice in the international community, the US has adopted considerably a friendly position towards it. However, India continues to maintain an independent foreign policy stance in the world politics much to the chagrin of the US. This has caused the US to prop up Pakistan in order to leverage its interests against India. Hence, America’s strategy of providing assistance to the "bothersome neighbours" of the majorpowers is a critical security strategy that allows it to maintain a global preponderance.

In the light of this, it could be concluded that tagging the major powers is part of America's broader national security strategy, wherein the bilateral hegemonic relations with its allied partners go hand-in-hand with tagging strategy with the non-allied major powers. Therefore, the significance of the new US National Security Strategy should be seen not only from the prism of America’s alliance structure but through the strategy of tagging the major powers.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

Image Source: https://www.chinausfocus.com/d/file/202210/1beff832d43140021ac5926adbfc4c8f.jpg

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