US Department of Defense redraws its military map
Starting on January 24 in Miami, where the headquarters of the Southern Command is located, Esper told reporters that this year he could begin the long-awaited global reorganization of the Armed Forces
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper began a trip to Latin American countries. The main purpose of the trip of the head of the Pentagon is to conduct an inspection of military units located there. This action is part of a global Pentagon review of the appropriateness of deploying US forces at military bases in various regions of the world. According to the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, this check will identify troops in the presence of which in various countries there is no strategic need and which can be sent to countries of the Asia-Pacific region (APR) or sent to permanent deployment bases in the United States.
The Pentagon Bases
Starting on January 24 in Miami, where the headquarters of the Southern Command is located, Esper told reporters that this year he could begin the long-awaited global reorganization of the Armed Forces as part of the latest version of the Pentagon strategy, in which Russia and China are identified as the main sources of threats to the national US security.
In an interview with media representatives, the minister explained that the revision of the map of the location of American troops in different parts of the planet and the movement of the liberated forces in the Asia-Pacific region are carried out as part of efforts to reorient the Pentagon to the challenges to America coming from Beijing and Moscow. He also said that MoD specialists are currently analyzing the state of affairs in the military department and are preparing a document entitled “Defense-Wide Review”. The main objective of this review is to determine the timelines, allocations and human resources that can be transferred to the highest priority category to ensure compliance with the requirements of the National Defense Strategy (NDS) for the financial years 2021–2025.
Esper emphasized that he did not intend to set a strict time frame for completing the drafting of this document, after which most likely the rearrangement of US troops around the world will begin. “Before determining the end date (revision), I want to make sure that we will be in the best position by the beginning of the next fiscal year (begins October 1, 2020. – IEE),” the Minister of War said in an interview with reporters.
As many American experts note, the need for such decisions has long been ripe due to the growing military capabilities of Russia and China, and the successes that Beijing has made in the Asia-Pacific Region over the past two decades, while Washington has been more focused on counter-terrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries.
At the same time, it is still unclear, given the increased tension in relations with Iran and with the armed groups supported by Tehran, how large-scale changes can occur on the map of the location of US military bases in the world, especially in anticipation of the presidential election.
The review of the deployment of American troops is especially closely watched by supporters of the preservation of US forces in Latin America (USSOUTHCOM) and in Africa (USAFRICOM). These commands, as a rule, receive the smallest appropriations to finance their troops and operations.
The main part of the military contingent of the Southern Command (SC) is the US Army. The land component in the South Caucasus is represented by the United States Army South (ARSOUTH). His area of responsibility includes 31 states and 15 territories of Central and South America and the Caribbean – from Guatemala in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south. In addition, the South Caucasus includes the commands of the Air Force, Navy (4th Fleet), Marine Corps (ILC) and Special Operations Forces (MTR).
The African Command (AK) is responsible for all countries of the continent, with the exception of Egypt, for whose actions Central Command (USCENTCOM) is responsible. This command conducts operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
It was planned to deploy the Pentagon in Africa on January 24. Observers expect at least a moderate reduction in the US military presence in West Africa, where, as many administration officials fear, Islamist forces are growing. But so far no final decisions have been made on this issue.
Esper tried to dispel these concerns. “Everyone always suggests that when we talk about revisions, that means a reduction. Not necessarily … This is one of the ideas that I am trying to dispel … Although this may mean a change in size (presence of the armed forces. – “IEE”), it can also mean sending additional forces to the region if we need them there, ” – the minister noted.
At a time when the US military is trying to more aggressively respond to challenges from China, the leadership of the South Caucasus is trying to prove that Latin America should play a more serious role in this process.
According to the Pentagon, over the past five years, the number of calls by Chinese naval vessels in the regional ports of Latin America has increased by 70%. Beijing is increasing arms sales, investment in infrastructure and trade with Latin America.
One of the administration’s employees, speaking with the press on condition of anonymity, noted that the UK had already been reduced and experienced certain difficulties in connection with the redistribution of financial resources.
He also said that a intelligence unit existed in Colombia ten years ago. “A whole division of analysts working in Colombia. Now we have only two analysts dealing with this country, ”the source noted and added that reducing the number of experts in certain areas and reorienting efforts to control the growing threats from Russia and China means that“ we take risks in a number of areas, to deal with an existing problem. “
Yesterday and today
The normalization of relations with the USSR in the second half of the 1980s allowed China to forget about the “threat from the north” and concentrate entirely on the internal creative problems in which it had succeeded.
However, China, which has become one of the world’s economic leaders and is actively reforming its armed forces, has become a source of concern for the United States and countries competing with China in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Indian Ocean region, where more than 40% of the world’s population lives and 60% of world GDP is produced. In turn, the strategy of military-political deterrence of China, pursued by the United States and China’s rivals in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Indian Ocean region, cannot but cause concern among the PRC itself. The inevitable contradictions arising from this between the PRC and the USA, between the PRC and its opponents make these regions today the main focus of China’s military-political attention.
At the end of 2009, speaking in Tokyo, then then head of America Barack Obama announced that the United States will move the center of its strategy in the Asia-Pacific region as part of the concept of “return to Asia.” In addition, Obama assured APR countries that the US strategy of “rebalancing forces” in the region is a reflection of the fundamental interests of the United States. In a speech at the ASEAN summit in Laos in September 2016, he emphasized that the U.S. attention to the Asia-Pacific region did not arise yesterday, it is not instantaneous and reflects American interests, and the political forces in the United States are united in the fact that the importance of the Asia-Pacific region for the new century America and the world will become even more important. The fact that the United States is turning the APR into the central focus of its military-political strategy is well understood in China and is considered a confirmation of this trend by the US decision to redeploy 60% of its naval and air forces to the APR.
With the advent of Donald Trump, the essence of the US military-political strategy in the Asia-Pacific region, aimed at maintaining and strengthening the American military presence here, remained the same, but the methods for its implementation underwent important changes. During an Asian tour in November 2017, Trump repeatedly spoke about the US Indo-Pacific strategy, which includes not only the Asia-Pacific Region, but also the Indian Ocean region in the zone of US geopolitical interests.
The Obama strategy of “rebalancing forces” in the Asia-Pacific region relied on the creation of an amorphous anti-Chinese “belt” in the Asia-Pacific region, formed by countries with different levels of military potential and commitment to US policy – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines (before Rodrigo Duterte came to power), Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia. Now the “skeleton” of Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy is becoming a military-political quadrangle: the United States, its closest allies, Japan and Australia, as well as India, a strategic partner of the United States. Chinese military experts aptly dubbed such a military-political configuration “small NATO.”
This strategic “rhombus” with its tip – Japan – is directly aimed at China, relies on Australia and covers mainland China with powerful “wings” – the USA and India. The emerging framework of “small NATO” is increasingly taking on concrete outlines. So, already at the end of 2017, as part of the meeting of leaders of the countries of the Organization of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam, the first quadripartite negotiations of the heads of the United States, Japan, Australia and India took place. And the naval exercises “Malabar” with the continued participation of the naval forces of the USA, Japan and India and with the periodic involvement of the Navy of Australia and Singapore have been held annually since 2002.
APR is controlled by the United States Joint Command in the Pacific (USPACOM or the Pacific Command (TC). The responsibility of this command includes not only the Pacific Ocean, but also Alaska, the Arctic, coastal regions of South Asia and the Indian Ocean. There are 36 states, whose population is more than 50% of the world’s population, and now the Pentagon wants to further strengthen its troops in this zone.