From Tomas Valasek, the Center For European Reform: The Pentagon’s ‘strategic guidance‘, released on January 5th, makes three key changes : it establishes Asia as the focus of US military efforts, with the Middle East a close second. It foresees fewer ‘nation-building’ missions such as the one in Afghanistan, and more strikes from afar and from the air, sometimes in cyberspace. And the guidance strongly implies that the US military will have to prioritise: regions such as Europe, which the US regards as peaceful, will see fewer American troops. . . .
Whatever the Europeans say, the US will persist with troop cuts in Europe. It believes that it can handle the remaining problems in Europe through diplomacy. And that may be the greatest flaw of the new US defence strategy. The assumption that Europe is free from violence seems unduly optimistic. While the Pentagon may be right that ‘old’ dangers such as instability in Ukraine or the unpredictable strategies of Russia’s rulers require talks, not force, a new danger is emerging. The increasingly severe economic crisis may have strategic consequences.
As voters lose faith in their governments’ capacity to halt the decline in living standards, xenophobia and nationalism may become widespread in some countries. A ‘Balkanisation’ of parts of Europe, with a government becoming a threat to its citizens and possibly neighbours, cannot be excluded. Nor can the collapse of a democratic government and the restoration of authoritarian rule. If any of these scenarios came to pass, and if lives were in danger, the US would be under tremendous pressure to intervene, as it did in the Balkans in the 1990s. In complete contradiction to its new strategic guidance, the Pentagon’s attention could once again shift to Europe, though for all the wrong reasons. (photo: Center for European Reform)