April 2021


As much as US challenges in developing the force it wants in the Indo-Pacific are technological or fiscal or political in nature, perhaps the biggest challenge ahead is diplomatic. Very few countries are willing at this point to pick a side, and impressions of US ambivalence toward the region’s core needs and declining clout have only deepened this reluctance. Thus, in the Pentagon’s view, at least, nudging countries off the fence starts with proving that the US is more than capable of deterring China, more than willing to expand the scope of its partnerships with regional states beyond the military realm, and more than willing to stick it out for the long haul. It’s a tall order, but the US appears serious about making its case.

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