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Nov. 4, 2020

13. Competing Visions and Actions by China, Russia, and the United States in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Arctic

This chapter reviews the contours of Great Power competition across Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Arctic; it traces the motivation and scale as well as receptivity to, and potential repercussions of, Chinese and Russian activities across these regions. It finds the challenge of these two competitors to be distinct, the risks to U.S. interests to be uneven across and within each region, and, ultimately, regional states’ cooperation with China and Russia to rarely be grounded in an ideological commitment to Beijing’s global vision or Moscow’s cynicism. This points to the need for parallel strategies that appreciate the diverse challenges China and Russia pose, a broader recalibration of U.S. regional interests that moves beyond the post-9/11 focus on counterterrorism, and a discerning strategic approach that avoids pulling U.S. regional partners into an unrestricted, zero-sum competition.

Nov. 4, 2020

11. Counterterrorism and the United States in a New Era of Great Power Competition

This chapter addresses the likely impact of Great Power competition on future counterterrorism missions by the U.S. military; it argues that the military should prioritize preventing external operations, directed or virtually planned by foreign violent extremist organizations (VEOs), against the U.S. homeland and minimizing the ability of foreign VEOs to inspire attacks by sympathizers in the West, commonly referred to as homegrown violent extremists. Yet the chapter also observes that, over the next 3 to 5 years, Great Power competition will likely constrain the ability of U.S. military forces to achieve even these more limited counterterrorism objectives. The U.S. Government, therefore, will need to cooperate closely with allies and partners to manage global terrorist threats. The military also will need to preserve its ability to conduct unilateral operations to protect the U.S. homeland. Given these requirements, this chapter recommends that the U.S. military revisit its risk threshold for small-footprint deployments, especially force protection requirements. It also should reconsider counterterrorism authorities, technologies, and other tools in light of the new realities created by Great Power competition. And, in this context, the U.S. Government should explore more ways to deter actions by surrogates and proxies against U.S. forces engaged in counterterrorism and to hold sponsors accountable.

Nov. 4, 2020

10. Rogues, Disrupters, and Spoilers in an Era of Great Power Competition

This chapter reviews the interests and behavior of Russia, Iran, and North Korea, so-called rogue, disrupter, and spoiler states. Motivated by goals ranging from a desire for regime survival to aspirations for regional dominance and even global relevance, these countries threaten to divert U.S. attention and resources away from the imperatives of Great Power competition and draw the United States into escalating and destructive crises. At first glance, then, there might appear to be strong incentives for China to form enduring, fully cooperative relationships with each of these countries. Yet this chapter also finds that Russian, Iranian, and North Korean provocative behavior is not uniformly beneficial for China, and the prospect of a robust and fully cooperative anti-U.S. axis in 2020 remains remote. U.S. policymakers should anticipate the threat from each of these states to persist, but not necessarily to become more pronounced, as U.S.-Chinese competition intensifies.

Nov. 4, 2020

9. The Indo-Pacific Competitive Space: China’s Vision and the Post–World War II American Order

This chapter examines the major strategic goals, interests, and policies being pursued by Washington and Beijing—the two major Great Power rivals in the Indo-Pacific region. It highlights the divergence of strategic interests between America’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision and China’s “community of common interest” framework. This divergence and the strategic importance of each country’s regional interests make the Indo-Pacific region the most hotly contested geopolitical space at the dawn of the 2020s. An analysis of U.S. and Chinese critical power tools for attaining strategic outcomes finds a mix of relative advantages. China has clear advantage in economic leverage across the region and has developed some meaningful advantage in military tools necessary for success in conflict within the First Island Chain. On the other hand, the United States continues to possess demonstrable advantages in alliance diplomacy, ideological resonance, informational appeal, and broad military capabilities. Despite great and growing regional tensions, there are opportunities for collaboration between the Great Power competitors so long as both accept relative power limitations and rejuvenated American regional leadership provides a clear signal to Beijing that accommodating a continuing U.S. presence is a better choice than stoking conflict.

Nov. 4, 2020

7. Social Media and Influence Operations Technologies: Implications for Great Power Competition

Nation-states have increasingly been waging foreign propaganda campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Such campaigns are enticing because they are cheap and easy to execute; they allow planners to identify, target, and reach specific audiences; and the campaign’s anonymity limits the associated political and foreign policy risks. Russia, China, and the so-called Islamic State are three key U.S. adversaries that have exploited online technologies for propaganda. This chapter reviews the aims, capabilities, and limitations of online propaganda for each of these entities. The chapter also highlights key recommendations that the United States should adopt in order to counter adversary use of online propaganda.

Nov. 4, 2020

6. Emerging Critical Information Technology and Great Power Competition

Over the past few decades, the foundation of Great Power competition has changed. Where control of industrial resources was once the key to geopolitical power, today control of information resources is most important. China is currently investing heavily in three critical new information technologies—5G wireless, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence—that, as part of its information strategy, will vastly increase its control of the global information flow. The United States has a short window to contest China’s state-led ascent in these technologies, as well as in the underlying conditions that are allowing China to outpace the United States in this wider field. If the United States does not prevent China from dominating global flows of information, China will attain a clear advantage in its rise to replace the United States as the world’s leading Great Power.

Nov. 4, 2020

5. Key Technologies and the Revolution of Small, Smart, and Cheap in the Future of Warfare

The convergence of fourth industrial revolution technologies is making possible smaller, smarter, and cheaper weapons systems that will challenge the few and exquisite systems of today’s militaries. Based on land, sea, and air, these small, smart, and cheap weapons will fundamentally change the character of war and may come to dominate Great Power conflicts.

Strategic Assessment 2020 Nov. 4, 2020

4. Contemporary Great Power Technological Competitive Factors in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The convergence of new technologies is creating a fourth industrial revolution that will transform almost every aspect of 21st-century life. Even as the new technologies generate much greater wealth, the revolution will reshape trade patterns as it returns both manufacturing and services to home markets. The United States is particularly well positioned to take advantage of these changes—but only if it revises its immigration policies to attract and retain the best minds from around the world. China is also well positioned, but it must overcome increasing distrust of its government. Russia is dealing with an ongoing demographic crisis even as foreign and domestic investors have lost trust in its potential for growth.

Nov. 4, 2020

3b. Contemporary Great Power Geostrategic Dynamics: Competitive Elements and Tool Sets

The chapter assesses the hard and soft power tools of the three contemporary Great Powers. It focuses on the tools that each has today and is likely to attain in the coming 5 to 7 years, analyzing how each might use these tools to advance its major interests and strategic aims in the five major categories of state interaction: political and diplomatic, ideological, informational, military, and economic. The chapter observes that the tools of competition traditionally associated with one category of interaction in less rivalrous eras will be used more often in other categories in this era of Great Power competition. It assesses that for the foreseeable future, Russia’s tool kit makes it an urgent but transient security challenger to the United States, while China’s growing power tools make it the true challenger to American national interests and global policy preferences. An assessment of both gross and net power indicators between the United States and China indicates that Beijing’s ongoing power transition timeline is longer than some now fear. This allows American and Chinese leaders time to negotiate mutually acceptable changes to contemporary international norms, rules, and institutions in order to prevent what would be a truly unwelcome and destructive direct military clash, should such accommodation be elusive.

Nov. 4, 2020

3a. Contemporary Great Power Geostrategic Dynamics: Relations and Strategies

This chapter provides a comparative assessment of the strategic objectives for the three contemporary Great Powers: the United States, China, and Russia. It first traces the evolution of each power’s strategic interests from 2000 to 2017, indicating where important milestones transitioned the powers’ relations from relative cooperation and collaboration into de facto rivalry (by 2014 to 2015) and then a formally acknowledged rivalry (in 2017). The chapter next outlines the Great Powers’ current strategic viewpoints and how they contrast across the five major categories of state interaction: political and diplomatic, ideological, informational, military, and economic. It demonstrates that each power has many divergent strategic interests, making rivalry inevitable. The chapter indicates where varying strategic interest intensity combines to make risks of Great Power clashes most worrisome in the coming 5 years: the Indo-Pacific, cyberspace, outer space, and, to a receding degree, the Middle East. It concludes that Russian strategic aims make Moscow a transient security risk to U.S. geopolitical dominance, while China’s ideological vision and aspirations make it the most important, albeit presently less threatening, rival to the U.S. status as the head of the global liberal international order.