Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Department of Defense (DoD) has not had to consider the possibility of great power competition, crisis, or direct armed conflict with a nuclear-capable peer. Unfortunately, the current environment no longer affords us that luxury. The implications of today’s competition and the associated risk of great power crisis or direct armed conflict are profound; they affect nearly every fundamental assumption we make about the use of armed force in the defense of the nation and its allies. Until we, as a department, come to understand, if not accept, what we are facing and what should be done about it, we run the risk of developing plans we cannot execute and procuring capabilities that will not deliver desired outcomes. In the absence of change, we are on the path, once again, to prepare for the conflict we prefer, instead of one we are likely to face. It is through this lens that we must take a hard look at how we intend to compete against and deter our adversaries, assure our allies, and appropriately shape the future joint force.
1.”Ukraine Conflict: Putin ‘Was Ready for Nuclear Alert’,” BBC News, 15 March 2015.
2. Sam LaGrone, “Russian Su-35 Fighter Makes ‘Irresponsible’ Intercept of Navy P-8A over Mediterranean,” USNI News, 4 June 2019, and Sam LaGrone, “Video: Russian Destroyer Put U.S. Cruiser at Risk with ‘Unsafe’ Maneuver,” USNI News, 7 June 2019.
3. Press statement by Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, “The United States Condemns Russian Cyber Attack Against the Country of Georgia,” 20 February, 2020, www.state.gov/the-united-states-condemns-russian-cyber-attack-against-the-country-of-georgia/.
4. Pompeo, “The United States Condemns Russian Cyber Attack.”
5. Arguably, we were close with Operation Desert Storm—right adversary doctrine and capabilities, but still wrong theater.