Carter: US in “strategic transition” in response to Russia, China

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The United States must embrace new defence strategies to protect the country and strengthen international order in the face of Russia’s provocations and China’s rise, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Saturday.

“We must ensure we and our partners are postured to defeat threats
from high-end opponents in a complex set of circumstances,” Carter said at a defence forum in California. “After 14 years of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism … we are in the middle of a strategic transition to respond to the security challenges that will define our future.”

Carter said Russia “appears intent to play spoiler” by flouting the principles that underpin the international order, while China is growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities.

Given Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine and Syria, the US is investing in technologies including new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber and technologies such as cyberspace, “including a few surprising ones,” he said, without providing details.

But at the same time the US continues to hold out the possibility that Russia will assume the role of a responsible power in the international order, he said at the Reagan National Defence Forum.

On the US relationship with China, Carter predicted it would be complex as the two countries balance competition and cooperation.

China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea has raised the prospect of further militarization and a greater risk of miscalculation, he said.

The US navy has conducted two sail-bys in the South China Sea and is expected to carry out more such operations.

In Europe, NATO remains the “cornerstone of a principled order,” but needs to be better suited for 21st century hybrid warfare and cyber-threats, Carter said.

He cited the positioning of tanks, infantry-fighting vehicles,
artillery and other equipment in eastern NATO states as part of the transformation of the posture in Europe to be more agile and sustainable.

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