Changing times call for changing measures. In the face of an intensifying great power competition with Russia and China, the United States is expanding its efforts to refocus its global strategy, force deployments and resources to better position itself in a new struggle. But recalibrate as it might, the United States’ enduring commitments, along with global flashpoints, will continue to sap the country’s attention and resources as it wages a new global battle for influence.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the advent of the so-called global “war on terrorism” in 2001 ushered in a change in the United States’ strategic defense posture, which shifted from a primary focus on defeating a great Eurasian power toward a more diffuse, enduring and amorphous effort against violent non-state actors and “rogue” states. As part of this transformation, the United States significantly bolstered its force presence in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, altered its training structure and prioritized different sets of military capabilities. At the same time, the United States greatly reduced its presence in Europe, decreased its capabilities in the Pacific and shuttered a large number of headquarters primed for a potential war with Russia.
But after years of unceasing conflict in the Middle East and South Asia, the United States has come to recognize the profound shift in the global strategic balance. Observing China’s growing strength and efforts to modernize its military, the Obama administration attempted to rebalance toward Asia with the “Pacific Pivot” in 2011. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2014 also completely altered the United States’ direction in Europe, as Washington rushed additional forces to the Continent as part of increased rotational deployments under the European Reassurance Initiative after it had begun to withdraw forces from the region.