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The U.S. and the Multi-Faceted Threat Landscape

By Wesley Smith1501270278745

It has been an eye-opening week for the United States and the adversaries who seek to diminish the influence of America, embarrass the nation and threaten our national security. On Monday Chinese fighter jets intercepted and harassed a U.S. military plane in international airspace.  On Tuesday, Iranian gunboats attempted an unsafe approach to a U.S. Navy vessel operating in the Persian Gulf, one of over thirty such incidents this year.  The next day Iran fired a ballistic missile into outer space under the guise of launching a satellite, a clear violation of United Nations limitations placed on Iran’s ongoing attempts to perfect an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Iran’s missiles are constructed with North Korean parts and North Korean assistance.

North Korea launched another ballistic missile on Friday, July 28th, while the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) revised their previous timeline as to when North Korea might possess a nuclear-tipped ICBM:  North Korea now may have a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM, capable of striking the United States, by early 2018.  The Army’s chief missile defense officer, Lt. General James Dickinson, says potential adversaries, including but not limited to North Korea, are expanding missile and space offensive capabilities, as well as offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt American defensive networks. 

China’s duplicity and its meager actions in reining in North Korea are obvious and ominous.  China continues to exert control in the South China Sea.  It continues to harass ships, including the Impeccable, a U.S. surveillance ship and threatening ships from Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. It has constructed over 3,000 acres of land on artificial islands in international waters.  Despite Chinese President Xi’s claims that it has no intention of militarizing the South China Sea, it has transformed these man-made islands into military bases, complete with runways, barracks, anti-aircraft guns and missiles.  While the United States continues to send aircraft and ships into the area in Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercises, it is clear that China intends to exert control of the South China Sea and domination in the western Pacific.

Meanwhile, Russia continues opposing the United States on multiple fronts.  A new Institute of Land Warfare paper shows the growing global influence of Russia and Vladimir Putin, a move that creates vexing problems for the United States.  This report predicts that “Putin will continue to attempt to weaken NATO in order to put Russia in a better position as leader of a ‘multipolar world.’”  Putin “will not only try to resist NATO but will also endeavor to create a rift in the alliance by attempting to demonstrate to its members Russian diplomacy and military superiority over the United States.”  Russia will do this by taking total control of Ukraine, expanding its presence in the Middle East, defying U.N. demands that it relinquishes its illegal occupation of Crimea, threatening the Balkans and other NATO nations, and by attacking U.S.-backed forces in Syria, as it partners with Iran to keep a military presence in Syria as it props up the Assad regime.  As long as Russian forces are present in the region, the fight against ISIS is hampered and Assad will remain in power.  All the while, Russia is improving relations with Turkey (a NATO ally that has descended into Islamic authoritarianism, as more completely explained in Jay Sekulow’s new book Burning Bridges), and is in the process of improving its economic and political ties with China. 

Although, the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelming approved this week new sanctions against Russia, the European Union has responded by threatening economic retaliation against the United States. Russia responded by confiscating two U.S. facilities in Russia and is expelling numerous U.S. diplomats from the country. 

Because of this uncertain threat landscape, the U.S. commander of forces in Europe, Lt. General Ben Hodges, announced that large scale military exercises in Europe  have shifted from an assurance mission (reassuring our NATO allies) to a mission of deterrence against Russian posturing and the threat it poses to other nations in the region.  As a part of this changing strategy, the U.S. will permanently keep an additional Brigade Combat Team (BCT) in Poland.

While radical Islamist jihad remains a threat to America and Western civilization, the above threats are not from disparate terror groups.  Each of these threats come from other nation states whose goal is to weaken the United States and to threaten our vital strategic interests at home and abroad.  Russia, Iran and North Korea are not our friends. China’s cooperation is unreliable. Whether it is political mischief, cyber-attacks, Russia’s newly-developed long-range artillery, Iran’s support of terrorism and its short and medium-range strike capabilities, China’s new anti-ship missile, or North Korea’s ICBM and nuclear weapons program, these threats are designed  to counter America’s global power.

These multi-faceted threats to the strategic interests of the United States, as well as to the safety of its military personnel and its citizens, demand clear, concise and continual diligence and strength on the part of our nation and its leaders.  America must use the full arsenal of diplomacy, influence, sanctions, and the projection of military force to oppose the malevolent intentions of nations and groups, whose goal is to eliminate our status as the world’s only remaining super-power. 

Our citizens, and all freedom-loving people of the world, depend on the United States to be the honest broker of liberty and stability, the defender of international boundaries, the guarantor of freedom of navigation, and the barrier to nations whose quest for power, territory and domination would bring unprecedented conflict and chaos to the world. 

While we are not the world’s police force, we are freedom’s guardian.

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