By Konstantin Garibov
US President Barack Obama and the Pentagon head Leon Panetta have unveiled a new military strategy envisaging the reduction of defense spending while shifting focus from Europe, Africa and Latin America to the Middle East and Asia and the Pacific.
Washington is revising the strategy due to budget cuts. The Pentagon needs to reduce almost $500 billion in 10 years beginning from 2013. This is quite a cut, believes the head of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis, Sergei Oznobishchev
“This is quite a sum and what’s most important is that the US is cutting some military essentials crucial for large-scale campaigns like Iraq or Afghanistan. A number of military projects will certainly be shut down.”
The new strategy already delays several large-scale weapons projects like constructing a new aircraft carrier and strategic submarines of a new generation. The US will also be buying fewer expensive F-35 fifth generation fighters.
The new strategy envisages downsizing America’s 570,000 ground troops by 10% and its 202,000 Marine Corps by 25,000 people.
Thus, America’s presence in Europe, Africa and Latin America will shrink, more of its army units may be withdrawn from Europe, and more of its European-based warheads may be removed.
But the United States will remain vigilant, especially in the Middle East, stated Obama when presenting the strategy. The choice of the region is obvious, believes the deputy head of the Center for Political Conjuncture Alexei Zudin
“The Middle East has always been a hot spot and it is now having a bigger say amid recent uprising in North Africa. Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are now being fought for by the US and China. America wants to prevent the latter from gaining strength in the region and plans to expand its presence in Asia and the Pacific.”
The US believes that China should express its strategic intentions clearer to avoid tension in the region. Beijing considers this as a deterrence attempt and also doesn’t like US plans to build cooperation with India which, under Obama’s plan, is to ensure security in the Indian Ocean. This measure is to counterbalance China’s influence.
As for Russia, the new strategy calls for closer cooperation in the spheres of bilateral concern. Now, Russia-US relations are being worsened by the Iranian crisis. On January 5, when Obama presented his strategy, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were discussing Iran’s nuclear problem and the Middle East, namely Syria, in their telephone conversation. Both presidents believe that the Middle East troubles may be settled only via a political dialogue involving all the parties concerned. Medvedev was happy that Iran had praised Russia’s initiative on gradually restoring trust in Iran’s nuclear program. Earlier, the US threatened Iran with preemptive strikes on its nuclear facilities. The recent Iranian drills in the Strait of Hormuz and US deployment of its Fifth Fleet in the area preventing Iran from closing this vital transport route add oil to the Gulf fire.
Washington’s plans to carry out joint Navy and ABM drills with Israel make things even worse.