Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, was the keynote speaker at the Reagan National Defense Forum earlier this month. Secretary Carter addressed two major concerns facing America and global order including threats posed by Russia and China’s military growth and influence.
During his speech, Secretary Carter accused Russia of endangering world order based on both recent and past events alluding to the incursions in Ukraine and the discussion surrounding nuclear weapons. In an effort to combat these concerns, Carter stated that the U.S. Defense establishment is looking for alternative solutions to avert Russian threats.
“We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia,” Carter explained. “We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all.”
In regards to identifying ways to protect America and its allies, Secretary Carter provided some insight into current focuses.
“We’re investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations, such as new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones I can’t really describe here.”
The Secretary reassured that neither Russia or China can overturn world order, but remained consistent that both countries “present different challenges for it.” For example, Secretary Carter implicated that Russia is responsible for causing contention in Europe and the Middle East.
“In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose. We are adapting our operational posture and contingency plans as we – on our own and with allies – work to deter Russia’s aggression, and to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners.”
A few days before the Reagan National Defense Forum, Secretary Carter found himself on an American aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. The trip was designed to show the U.S. objection to China’s “claims of territorial limits around disputed artificial islands.”
Secretary Carter described the shift in U.S. focus towards the Asia-Pacific, and he also added he believes China is the most influential leader in Asia’s future.
“As a rising power, it’s to be expected that China will have growing ambitions and a modernizing military, but how China behaves will be the true test of its commitment to peace and security,” Secretary Carter said.
To combat these concerns, Secretary Ash said that the U.S. has sent its best naval military weapons, ships, and equipment to the Asia-Pacific region.
Secretary Carter pointed out that the infrastructure he believes should be defended as it pertains to international order regarding issues presented by Russia and China include: peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom from coercion, respect for state sovereignty, and freedom of navigation.
Highlights of interviews and panel discussions held at the Reagan National Defense Forum can be viewed here.