This work will discuss the comparative impact the two ‘greater’ Caspian littorals have on global stability based on strategic objectives backed by military power and intervention. The comparison analyzes the United States, China, Russia, Iran, and Israel.
The key areas reviewed are strategic objectives, military power, military intervention, and terrorism support. The information gathered is used to create an ordering system designed to highlight each nation’s impact on global stability. In assessing military might, the following military strength indicator chart was used to measure each nation’s capacity. This chart should be referenced throughout:
Scoring for the ordering system was based upon a scale of one to five, with five representing the highest threat measure. In strategic objectives a score of five was the most globally assertive and intrusive nation. Military power was scored from strongest being a five to lowest being one. Military intervention was based on global intervention operations and resultant instability. In scoring terrorism, a score of five is a nation that is a designated state supporter of terrorism, either directly or indirectly. Finally, the scores were combined to determine most threatening to least threatening for global stability.
Threat Assessment Ordering System
|Country||Strategic Objectives||Military Power||Military Intervention||Terrorism Support||Impact on Global Stability|
The United States outlined in its security strategy that it will lead with purpose, strength, by example, with capable partners, with all the power of the nation, and with long-term perspective. As outlined in Nabudere:
The U.S. believes that as a leader of the “Free World” it has the responsibility to ensure global peace and security and to do this, it needs to develop the resources in the entire world on a “free trade” basis. But, as we have seen, this has been achieved through manipulation and the use and threat of use of force against its weaker opponents in the Third World.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States expanded its perceived responsibility to ensure global peace. The events of 9/11 sparked the United States to embark on a ‘Global War on terrorism’ and the execution of this policy centered on preemptive strikes. As the undisputed world military superpower, the United States has used the preemptive strike policy since 9/11 to weaken Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. However, this has protracted into a fifteen year global war which has often crossed over into Pakistan. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein has resulted in instability within Iraq with regional implications most vividly seen in the DAESH threat. Finally, the United States has implemented a highly controversial drone program to attack and kill terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.
The strategic objectives of China revolve around regional interest. At present, China is pursuing three core security objectives in East Asia: exerting control over its near seas, promoting China-centered regional economic integration, and defending and advancing Chinese sovereignty claims. China exerts regional leverage while attempting to keep from direct confrontation with the United States. According to the military strength indicator chart, China ranks number three. China has embarked on a long military power buildup over the previous three decades. While China has steadily professionalized its army and naval forces, the emphasis has been on regional power and security. While China still relies on Russia for many key military technologies, China has made its greatest technology strides in space as outlined in Office of the Secretary of Defense:
China possesses the most rapidly maturing space program in the world and is using its on-orbit and ground-based assets to support its national civil, economic, political, and military goals and objectives. China has invested in advanced space capabilities, with particular emphasis on satellite communication (SATCOM), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), satellite navigation (SATNAV), and meteorology, as well as manned, unmanned, and interplanetary space exploration. Continued strides in space will lead to future technology advances that will benefit China’s military. These advances will allow China to have less dependence on Russia in the future.
China has been involved in both maritime and territorial disputes at various times with Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. However, China chooses to handle these disputes using “Deng Xiaoping’s dictum from the early-1990s: that China should observe calmly, secure its position, cope with affairs calmly, hide its capabilities and bide its time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.” While China does not directly support terrorism it is guilty of supplying arms to nations that are clear sponsors of terrorism.
Russia’s strategic objectives under Putin have been to regain legitimacy on the global stage. Russia’s current strategy has revolved around undermining American interests and to attempt to climb back to world power status, politically, diplomatically, and militarily. Russia is the number two military power on the military strength indicator chart. Russia is not afraid to use military might to achieve its objectives. Russia continues to defy the international community with military and technological support being supplied to North Korea. North Korea has been under the watchful eye of the international community for its nuclear weapons ambitions for years. However, since it is the United States leading the effort to deter these nuclear ambitions, Russia has taken actions to assist North Korea. In addition to North Korea, Russia has also provided nuclear technology and military hardware and advisors to Iran. Russia is currently leading a coalition in Syria with its own elite special forces, Iranian Quds Force members, Hezbollah fighters and Assad’s Syrian troops, all supported by Russian air power. Russia continues to embark on a global effort to reassert itself to the top of the world stage and seeks to gain international legitimacy at least on par with the United States.
To define Iran’s strategic objectives it must first be understood that Iran sees itself as the leader of the Islamic Shi’a world. Iran’s strategic objectives, therefore, are built around four overall objectives: export the Islamic revolution; regional dominance in the Middle East; gain nuclear weapons; and lastly overwhelming, if not outright destroying, Israel. Iran’s conventional military power did not make the list on the military strength indicator chart. Jane’s Defense Weekly offers this overall assessment of Iran’s military:
“Iran’s armed forces are limited, despite their size, by a very poor maintenance record caused by lack of spare parts and very poor training, [t]here is little doubt that, at the moment, Iran is not capable of presenting any credible external threat and conventional force projection is almost certainly limited to within its own borders.”
Iran’s military is old and poorly maintained and most of its conventional forces are centered on national defense via missile systems. The key to Iran’s projection of power is through the desire to acquire nuclear weapons and the exportation and support of terrorism against ‘enemies.’
While the nuclear ambitions of Iran have been slowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), the unintended consequence has been financial assistance for the possible support of terrorism:
But as those U.S. officials well know, Soleimani and a host of his Quds Force underlings and proxies are due to have international and EU sanctions lifted on their involvement in Iran’s supposedly now-resolved nuclear program, thanks to the contentious, American-spearheaded Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), more commonly known as the Iran deal. Sanctions relief, commingled with the $150 billion “signing bonus” Iran is set to get upon implementation of the JCPA, means an inevitable cash infusion for the Quds Force, enabling it to better prop up whatever’s left of the House of Assad, not to mention its other proxies, from Hezbollah to the Yemeni Houthis.
Israeli strategic objectives revolve around an aggressive defense of the state. Israel as a nation is surrounded on all sides by perceived enemy states or terrorist groups. Israel sees itself in a daily struggle for survival. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has embarked on a political propaganda campaign to gather support against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to stop the United States from signing the JCPOA. The prime minister even accepted a controversial invitation to speak before the United States Congress from Speaker of the House Boehner. This was against the wishes of the White House, which saw this move as an attempt to undermine the administration and ruin the JCPOA deal. Israel is prepared to use any measure to defend its state. While Israel ranks as number fourteen on the military strength indicator chart, in reality it is one of the most advanced forces in the world. Israel backed by the United States is easily the best military in the Middle East.
In addition to superior equipment and training, Israeli forces are proven. “Israel also has one of the region’s most battle-ready armies, a force that has fought in four major engagements since 2006 and has experience securing a few of the most problematic borders on earth.” (Rosen, Bender, and Macias). Israel uses its forces to intervene or conduct preemptive strikes anytime there is a perceived threat. This has included invasions into Lebanon and air strikes on suspected Syrian nuclear facilities. Israel combats terrorism daily and has been in a consistent fight since the creation of its state.
In conclusion, Russia is the most threatening state to global stability. Russia scored a seventeen, placing it two points ahead of the United States. The major difference between Russia and the United States hinged on the indirect support Russia gives to states that sponsor terrorism, support to North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions, and direct military interference to assist in the destabilization of Ukraine and support of Syria’s Assad regime. Perhaps surprisingly, the United States scored the highest in most categories, but its high anti-terrorism agenda arguably makes the United States less a stability risk than Russia. While Iran was the leader in state support of terrorism, it is currently isolated as a regional power and severely hampered by a non-modern military. Some may be even more surprised to find China tying for last place in this assessment, but this ranking must be read with a grain of salt: two of its low scores (strategic objectives and military intervention) admittedly are fueled by an historical strategic philosophy that emphasizes stealth and subtle influence over aggressive overtness. For example, if an economic power used for military coercion factor was included in the study, China would undoubtedly score extremely high, challenged only by the United States. This is why all such studies have to be humble in the assessments made: while the information provided here is hopefully enlightening, it must never be taken as a be-all-end-all assessment of global instability and the states that act as the motor of that chaos. Nevertheless, this study shows that the Caspian ‘greaters’ are indeed major factors on the global stage and can choose to be either a force for good or for chaos when it comes to the ways of war and peace.