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Major Factors Determining National Military Strategy Of United States

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Major Factors Determining National Military Strategy Of United States

The cover picture was provided by Luís Garcia

Written by Major General M. Vildanov, candidate of military sciences, associate professor; 1st Rank Captain N. Bashkirov, candidate of military sciences, professor of the Academy of Military Science; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2021 #1, translated by Mona Lita exclusively for SouthFront

The National Military Strategy (NMS) (1) of the United States is one of the key documents that ensure the implementation of the provisions of the US National Security and National Defense Strategies. Based on the unfolding international situation, the National Armed Forces make concrete the tasks of the American armed forces (AF), determine the current and long-term military goals and form the conceptual foundations of the use of the armed forces. The document regulates the adoption of strategic decisions on the assessment of threats, the allocation of state resources, the mobilization of the armed forces and the choice of theater of operations, as well as the planning and organization of military operations.

Foreign experts supplement these provisions with higher-level categories – “political strategy” and “grand strategy”, which take into account non-military conditions affecting military planning. Thus, the “grand strategy” is designed to assess military preparations in the perspective of both peaceful and military development of the international situation as a whole.

The main stages in the evolution of the US National Armed Forces after World War II:

  • From 1945 to 1991 – from atomic blackmail (“nuclear deterrence”) under the conditions of monopoly possession of nuclear weapons (NW) to “containment” and “flexible response” strategies (achieving combined superiority in conventional and nuclear weapons)
  • From 1991 to 1995 – “selective use of force” of a regional orientation with a reduction in the number of armed forces
  • From 1995 to 2001 – “preventive defense” with the revival of hegemonic tendencies against the background of unpredictability and multitude of threats. At the forefront is not containment of a potential adversary, but a conflict prevention policy. US leadership in the world with globalization of interests and readiness to participate in military conflicts of any intensity with any enemy anywhere in the world

The term “strategy” is ambiguous in American studies and is found in various combinations: “grand strategy”, “political strategy”, “national security strategy”, “national defense strategy”, “nuclear strategy”, “naval strategy”, “strategy of actions in theater of operations. ” and etc. Military planning within the framework of the “grand strategy” is carried out in a broader context, taking into account internal political, foreign policy and economic factors, as well as the capabilities of the allies. At the same time, the ultimate goals, means and limits in which military force can be used are determined. In contrast to military strategy, “grand strategy” is oriented towards subsequent peaceful development.

“Political strategy” basically means the preparation for war: the allocation of sufficient financial resources, the strengthening of the military-industrial base, the training and mobilization of military personnel and the armed forces of the state.

The National Security Strategy (2) defines the tasks of creating conditions that ensure the security of the nation, as well as the main provisions for the use of military force in cooperation with other components of national power.

The National Defense Strategy defines the goals and directions of the US Department of Defense in the interests of solving the strategic tasks outlined in the National Security Strategy.

Definitions such as “nuclear strategy,” “naval strategy,” “theater strategy,” etc., have some convention and are not independent parts of military strategy. There are also narrower interpretations of the strategy, implying any component of the military strategy:

  • plans for the use of forces and means to achieve strategic goals
  • plans for the involvement of the US Armed Forces in a potential theater of operations
  • organization of hostilities in special conditions (low-intensity conflicts, peacekeeping operations, military operations outside the conditions of war)
  • planning and control of military actions in specific theaters

Thus, the Theater Strategy sets out the goal of the campaign (operation), the priorities of military activity and the sequence of actions, as well as the order of interaction of the US Armed Forces.

– From 2001 to 2018 – “preventive (preemptive) actions” with a pronounced offensive nature of the US Armed Forces (the most radical strategy since the 1950s). The unilateral right of the state to conduct preventive wars

– Since 2018 – a globally integrated campaign (“hybrid wars”), “controlled chaos” and multi-range operations

After the end of the Cold War, in the absence of a worthy military adversary, the strategic goals of the war became achievable for the United States at the operational-tactical level. The country’s national armed forces have always assumed the preservation or progressive build-up of the combat power of the American armed forces even with large reductions, which meant only a reduction and optimization of the number of the armed forces without damage to their combat effectiveness.

The reforms of the US Armed Forces undertaken at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries were focused on:

  • the creation of small mobile forces to achieve strategic goals in a short-term war of a regional scale while minimizing their own losses based on the ideas of network control, high-precision destruction in real time
  • the creation of a global military infrastructure and a military presence abroad
  • strategic mobility of military formations for carrying out an operation anywhere in the world, etc.

The transformation of a component of the strategic nuclear forces – nuclear strategy – after the Cold War is characterized by a slight decrease in the role of strategic nuclear forces in the context of an increase in the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons by regional powers and an increase in the number of states possessing weapons of mass destruction. This led to an increase in the role of tactical nuclear weapons as an element of deterrence and at the same time a weapon against opponents with significantly less capabilities in this area (both in terms of types and means of delivery) or not possessing them at all. At the same time, the reduction of strategic nuclear forces was accompanied by the preservation of the so-called reentry potential due to non-nuclear high-precision systems, which were entrusted with the task of hitting targets previously assigned to nuclear forces.

The peculiarities of the development of the US military strategy are determined both by the patterns and originality of the stages of its historical formation, and by the specifics of the views of the White House. (3) The study of these aspects of the National Armed Forces reveals a number of the most important factors of a political, ideological and technological nature that determine its direction and content. An analysis of ideological attitudes (4) within the framework of the “grand strategy”, which have a serious impact on the nature of US military-strategic actions, makes it possible to identify the following components in this area:

  • the messianic and imperial character of the ideas of American superiority – moral, economic, technological, military, etc.

The United States strives for world domination regardless of the country’s ruling political party. The only difference is the model: the “democrats” strive for a monopolistic world of domination by the world financial elite, and the “republicans” – for a monopolar world dominated by the American elite.

The influence of economic factors was expressed in such consequences of globalization as the domination of transnational corporations (TNCs) and banks (TNBs) and their representatives in the American establishment and government, (5) information and financial spheres at a level that allows the United States to pursue a policy of desovereignization of the United States and use American military potential in the interests of transnational capital (shadow structures of world power).

  • the principle of active involvement of the United States in solving international problems
  • definition of military force as an effective tool for the formation of the desired world order and a new world order
  • readiness to use military force to implement such ideas – from the global export of the political and economic model to the complete “democratization” of the rest of the world
  • the idea of ​​a universal and large-scale desovereignization of the states of the world, which generally does not correspond to modern realities, but is used as a political instrument of the West, led by the United States
  • the use of military force to ensure its own energy security, control the international energy market and its resources, etc.

The prevalence of such ideological attitudes determines an increased level of irrationality when the White House accepts political-military and military-strategic plans, which, as history shows, can turn into the most disastrous consequences. Irrationality always introduces inadequacy in decisions on issues of war and peace, especially in conditions of stress and tensions between states.

After the end of the Cold War, the United States’ grand strategy entrenched a tendency toward hegemony based on superior military power and reinforced by Washington’s military strategy. Contrary to the official rhetoric about the democratic principles of the new world order, the “grand strategy” implements the principle of “free hand” (6), when American hegemony, according to its apologists, has become a universal means of ensuring stability of the international system, the cornerstone of international security.

Experts in the field of international policy and strategy distinguish between five variants of the “grand strategy” of the United States:

  1. Neo-isolationism with a narrow interpretation of vital interests with minimal military expenditures, the size of the armed forces and the scale of the use of military force abroad. Refusal to impose their values ​​and active participation in NATO and other international organizations.
  2. A variant of neo-isolationism – offshore balancing. The transition of the world to multipolarity makes the active participation of the United States in military conflicts all the more dangerous and costly. The main component of the country’s military power is the naval and sea-based missile defense system with compact ground forces.
  3. The strategy of selective engagement (7) with limited demographic, economic, military resources in ensuring the leadership of the United States in a unipolar world. Proactive actions are possible in case of unfavorable development of events.
  4. Strategy of cooperative security. (8) Justifying US military interventions (short victorious wars at the expense of technological advantages) in the “interest of preventing chaos in the world.”
    When using allied forces, it is not required to maintain numerous armed forces.
  5. Strategy of superiority (primacy, one of its adherents was 3. Brzezinski) – confidence in the sufficiency of the country’s resources for undivided domination in the world and complete strategic freedom of action, maintaining a unipolar world order. Achievement of undeniable military superiority in the world. Further expansion of NATO and a significant military presence abroad.

It should be noted that in an era when military superiority does not always guarantee security, the main feature of the American strategy has become the preventive nature of the use of military force, ignoring international law, as well as the principle of the widest possible use of all power capabilities to defeat any enemy (capabilities-based strategy ).

When forming the US military strategy, it is necessary to take into account the socio-psychological factors in the global economy, when the socio-economic and political stratification deepens and the American society is split, which does not contribute to its solidarity in the face of a possible external threat. The society of the postmodern era is accompanied by the alienation of the political elite from its own armed forces, since the latter, based on the corporate spirit, do not fit into the modern tendencies of extreme individualism. The American liberal elite, which defends the ideas of feminism and multiculturalism, is contemptuous of traditional identity and the army with its corporatism.

At the same time, the American Armed Forces are characterized by a deficit of such traditional qualities of a serviceman as motivation for service and the ability to self sacrifice. The question of their approval of the decisions of the country’s leadership on participation in certain wars and conflicts, and of the American population on support of the war in the face of significant human losses, is also controversial. In connection with these, the United States is striving for more and more technologization of war, mainly in an effort to neutralize the factor of the morale of the Armed Forces. Today, no more than 30% of the personnel in the combat area operate on the battlefield, and 70% or more in support units. One of the main results of the technological approach to war is the tendency for a person to leave the real battlefield and “virtualization of war” associated with an increase in the degree of robotization and informatization of military operations.

In the same capacity, in an effort to neutralize the morale factor of troops, as well as to avoid losses and compensate for the reduction of the Armed Forces personnel, a reliance on the strategy of non-traditional (hybrid) war, when irregular formations of rebels, opposition and terrorists are used as the ground component of a grouping of troops (forces), international crime and other extremist organizations. This is where there is a large-scale use of mercenary activities as an involvement of private military and intelligence companies.

In the preparation and implementation of the American military strategy, a significant role is assigned to the processes of informatization of the armed battle. The development of a qualitatively new, post-industrial type of economy, based on the achievements of computer science, generates new sources of power (information power) and corresponding new ways of using the US Armed Forces. Foreign experts refer to the transition from confrontation on the battlefield to the fight of information and communication technologies (ICT) as new signs of a change in the nature of modern warfare, when the means of information confrontation become the most important component in the structure of the Armed Forces, and information superiority over the enemy turns from an instrument into a goal of war. The most important aspect of introducing ICT into military affairs is the emergence of a qualitatively new control system for the entire course of combat operations in real time, which links the tactical and strategic levels of operations into a single complex.

In addition, ICT makes it possible to achieve the transfer of many countries under external control with a minimum level of military violence due to concentrated pressure in the financial, economic, information and psychological spheres and the use of cyber weapons, among other things. There is the focus of the military strategy on the full use of US dominance in ICT, the field of information warfare in order to achieve control of the world information space is noted. (9) At the same time, the efforts of the American leadership are focused on suppressing the enemy’s will to resist, while using civilizational, cultural, spiritual aspects and waging an unconventional (hybrid), proxy, network and chaosocentric, cognitive war, (10) which allows achieving political goals with minimal costs.

The most optimistic forecasts by American military specialists can be seen in the concept of strategic information warfare, in which the set strategic goals are achieved by exerting powerful psychological pressure on the enemy, forcing him to make the decisions necessary for the United States.

Finally, Washington connects the prospects for the development of the National Armed Forces with the maximum implementation of the achievements of the scientific and technological revolution in military affairs, the introduction of means of armed struggle based on new technologies.

Genetic engineering, robotics, biological, information and communication, cognitive technologies, nature-like convergent technologies, etc. are actively developing.

The following list of high priority military-applied technologies can be cited: hypersonic, kinetic, laser weapons; directed energy weapons; space; molecular nanotechnology; artificial intelligence; information-technical, information-psychological and psychophysical impact, etc.

At the same time, the danger of a possible merger of nano-, bio-, information technologies and cognitive sciences, the threat of the interconnected development of genetics, nanotechnology and robotics is of particular concern.

Among the fantastic (today) projects are the creation of “robot bugs”, cyborgs from dogs, rats, insects and birds, as well as the massive use of appropriate nanostructures introduced into the human body, or even the creation of remote interfaces between the brain and the computer with the possibility of complete control over physical and mental state of a person, etc.

On the other hand, it would be an oversimplification to see the prospects for the development of a modern national military strategy primarily in military-technical improvement, that is, to reduce it only to technologies. There is an understanding among some American specialists that even the most modern military combat control technologies and the latest weapons do not by themselves ensure victory in a war, and in some cases cannot be used at all. And victory, as such, is by no means always a self-sufficient goal of the entire military campaign.

Thus, the United States is purposefully forming the Armed Forces as the superior military force in the world and the main factor in the victory in the war. At the same time, American military strategies are guided by:

  • operations to change the national consciousness and the expansion of their value foundations and cultural code with the simultaneous forcible seizure of footholds of control in various regions of the world
  • maintaining the world in a state of chaos of one’s own problems and “managing this chaos”, since “managing order” is much more costly and difficult
  • the creation of a world order, consisting of henchmen (neo-colonial) states, always ready to solve “world” problems to the detriment of their interests

Along with this, the US military strategy envisages the systematic strengthening of the military infrastructure around the borders of Russia, depriving it of the advantages of strategic depth, as well as the intensification of the policy of creating and maintaining hotbeds of tension along the perimeter of the Russian Federation.


1. According to the views of the US administration, military strategy is the ideas underlying the coordinated use by the state of the Armed Forces and other foreign policy vessels for solving the tasks set in the theater of operations and achieving national (coalition) goals. The NAF makes it possible to judge when, how and under what conditions the armed forces of the state will be used. The main provisions of the US strategy are set out in the periodically published and updated document “National Military Strategy”, which is developed within the framework of the system of joint strategic planning and approved by the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff.

Description of the National Military Strategy//Office of Primary Responsibility: Strategy Development Division, Deputy Directorate for Joint Strategic Planning, Directorate for Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J-5). The Joint Chiefs of Staff. – 2018.

2. There are published and periodically updated strategic guidelines for the use of the US Armed Forces, called “National Security Strategy” and “National Defense Strategy”:
National Security Strategy of the United States of America // SEAL of the President of the United States. The White House, Washington, DC. – December 2017.
Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge // U.S. Department of Defense. – January, 2018.

3. That is, the military-political goals and military-strategic tasks formulated by Washington, the perception of threats to national security, the assessment of the ratio of the potential of the United States and other states of the world, as well as views on the nature of today’s and projected wars and military conflicts, etc.

4. Ideological attitudes are a formalized ideology, fixed in certain “dogmas of faith” (primarily in official strategic concepts, statutory documents, etc.), as well as an unformalized ideology, often half-realized by the “political class” and even more so by society as a whole, but however, existing in the mass consciousness, including in the form of stable socio-political stereotypes, myths and socio-political instincts.

5. In this regard, most countries of the world are no exception, and first of all, the most advanced economically and technologically. Increasingly, the role of shadow structures of world power is manifested in world politics – the coordinated policy of TNB and TNC, acting indirectly through the governments, primarily of the Western states, led by the United States. The basis for such a statement is, among other things, the fact that the assets of the 20 largest TNBs in the world at the beginning of 1992 amounted to more than 425 trillion dollars. For comparison, the aggregate GNP of African countries with a population of 1 billion people is $ 1 trillion. Moreover, the total trade turnover of African countries in 2010 is 3% of the global one.

About 90% of all TNCs and TNBs are based in the developed countries of the West. The annual production volume of only one largest TNC General Motors in 1998 was more than $ 160 billion (for comparison, the GNP of Greece – 137, Israel – 96.7, Ireland – 59.9, Slovenia – 19.5, Nicaragua – 9, 3 billion). Therefore, it is not surprising that we are witnessing the loss of the rights to jurisdiction on our own territory, the legitimacy and continuity of state power in the overwhelming majority of countries in the world, when the state is essentially becoming a kind of commercial and industrial company.

6. Ignoring the norms of international law, systematic violation of the principle of sovereignty of other states with the proclamation of the unilateral right of the United States to preventive military action.

7. There are three aspects to this:

  • firstly, about protecting the territory and citizens of the United States. The main threats to internal security are rogue states and fanatical terrorists with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Military force can be used to destroy the military and other infrastructure of the enemy, retaliation in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction. Struggle for its nonproliferation
  • secondly, about ensuring peace between the great powers. The United States must intervene to prevent the conflict from escalating into a military phase. Strategic nuclear forces – an additional guarantor of stability
  • third, about the guaranteed US access to oil resources, stable world oil prices.

Diversification of oil supply sources.

To exclude for a potential aggressor the very idea of ​​the possibility of political advantages based on military force.

8. The idea of ​​cooperative security develops the idea of ​​collective security in terms of intolerance to any aggression. It is believed that democracies can effectively solve the security problem by joint efforts through international institutions by creating security regimes.
Since most of the great powers are liberal-democratic, supporters of cooperative security believe that the risk of confrontation between the great powers is minimal, and Russia and China are politically “temporary deviations” towards authoritarianism.

9. One of their decisive aspects is the creation of successful prerequisites for total control of the individual in relation to the majority of the population of the countries of the world on the basis of implanting the concepts of “digital government”, total “digitalization” of all spheres of human activity, etc.

10. There is an increasing reliance on asymmetry and controlled chaotization of the victim country with the destruction of the public administration system, socio-cultural systems, civilizational foundations, the economy, destabilization of social life, split and atomization of society, etc. with a further “smoldering”, sluggish nature of armed struggle against periodic escalations of violence.


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