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#42 - Reactive Double Containment
反应双遏制 - Fan3 Ying4 Shuang1 E4 Zhi4 - Reactive Double Containment
Sino-Russian rapprochement represents the clearest danger to American security today. China has been fully supportive of Russia since the Ukraine invasion, and is almost certainly sending military supplies. Yet there has been almost no discussion of what the US should actually do about this situation at a global level in either the news or open analysis communities. Now is not the time to simply dust off old alliances contrived for different purposes and attempt to rework them towards a different goal.
Reactive Double Containment (RDC) of the Eurasian Heartland
The answer to the Russia-China challenge is to contain both countries simultaneously along with the help of US allies and partners.
The strategy is reactive because the US does not seek to be an aggressor, and neither does it have accumulative goals. Washington and the American people have a strong preference for engagement of Russia and China over confrontation. However, engagement is impossible due to the hostile actions of Moscow and Beijing. There must be a price to pay for waging wars of aggression (and supporting them) in the international system, or else it will become commonplace such as it has been for most of human history.
The strategy is also reactive in that it can be ratcheted up or down. If Russia decides to attenuate its war in Ukraine, it should be incentivized with a lean toward détente. If Russia contemplates escalation, it must be made clear that the US will lean towards rollback.*
The strategy is doubled because it is not the containment of a single region or country. It is the dual contaminant of two countries spanning two continents - thus the Eurasian Heartland.
The strategy is containment because it seeks to “check the expansion or influence of a hostile power or ideology, as by the creation of strategic alliances or support of client states in areas of conflict or unrest.”
*Containment is not détente, which seeks generally friendly relations and often a robust trade relationship. Washington’s strategy towards China has been détente since roughly 1978. Containment is also not rollback, which is a strategy of directly undercutting or attacking the target regime in order to make it collapse.
How to pursue Reactive Double Containment
1. The Ring of Defense
In deciding how to execute a strategy, we must return to foundational principles. Russia is primarily a European problem and China is primarily an Asian problem. It is not the US’ role to shoulder the majority of the burden in containing both malign actors.There must be an organization to act as the first ring of defense. These are the allies and partners directly adjacent to Russia and China, and therefore those that have the most skin in the game.
This list includes the country of Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, the US state of Alaska, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand. As the first line of defense, the US must create an international security organization to manage information and resource sharing among and between these key entities.
As Russia and China shift their focus of effort east or west, the first line of defense must be ready to respond quickly. Limiting the organization to only those entities directly under the threat of Russia and China enables rapidity of response, something lacking from NATO, ANZUS, ASEAN, the UN Security Council, or other existing organizations.
This ring of defense acts as the contact layer which deals with Russia and China on a day-to-day basis. These entities will generally have the best picture of what is happening on the ground, and will maintain the most ready posture. The US is then able to act as a blunting layer, enabling the ring of defense through intelligence, supplies, or even troop deployments to slow down Russia/China and buy more time.
2. Backed by Traditional US Security Agreements
While the ring of defense is the first to respond, the US does not want to eschew its traditional and reliable security partners. These countries are formal US treaty allies with the capability to support the ring of defense: the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, and most of Europe. Through the Rio Treaty, NATO, and ANZUS, the US must do the diplomatic work to define what is expected of these treaty allies under the scenario where another Ukraine happens unexpectedly.
The above countries can offer vital support in the surge layer. Once hostilities have commenced and the ring of defense buys time, traditional allies can begin surging material to where it is most needed.
3. Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Reinvigorated and Friendshored
As the US has learned time and time again, industrial capacity is key to victory in war. This capacity is enabled by a circle much wider than the ring of defense or even the ring of traditional security allies. The US, its allies, and partners must begin a larger effort to friendshore the DIB and hammer out what economic relationships with key countries like Mexico and Indonesia look like going forward. The DIB must be resilient, in friendly hands, assured, and much higher output than China/Russia in order to facilitate victory.
4. National Defense Strategy Applied to the Diplomatic Framework
The current US national defense strategy employs a Global Operating Model (GOM) featuring four layers (that have been referenced above). The first is a contact layer of light forces forward deployed to furnish intelligence and a rapid reaction to adversary actions. The second is a blunting layer of heavier combat forces designed to quickly deploy to a contested zone and drag out the fight long enough to buy time. The next layer are the surge forces, usually positioned farther back closer to friendly logistics nodes. These surge forces move forward in order to deliver the decisive blow, attempting to achieve an early defeat of the adversary. If the outcome is still uncertain and the US is forced to move into protracted war, the homeland layer is mobilized to carry the war to its conclusion.
The GOM must be weaved into the various layers of allies and partners involved in reactive double containment. For example, which part of Poland’s military is the contact force? Is it all contact force? Is Warsaw able to countenance trading space for time and portioning a section of the Polish military to join in the later blunting effort? Which specifically are those surge forces dedicated to a Polish contingency? And what does the DIB look like that supports this effort? There are myriad issues to work out all across the ring of defense.