President Donald Trump and his administration face an array of security threats and challenges around the world as the new president seeks to refocus U.S. government policies on putting America first.
Immediate priorities for the new president include revamping the military and intelligence policies toward the Islamic State terrorist group.
The IS has been hit hard by military strikes on its redoubts in Iraq and Syria. But the ultraviolent terror group has shown no signs of diminishing its growing influence around the world — it is inspiring small-scale terror attacks linked to what is being called by the new administration as part global jihadist movement and not individual, unlinked attacks.
Mr. Trump has tasked military commanders to draw up new plans for attacking and defeating what he has called the radical Islamist threat.
During his inaugural address Jan. 20, Mr. Trump vowed to “reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”
The president’s new counterterror policies are expected to utilize a much more ideologically driven offensive action against terrorism, based on the many new officials at the top levels of government who have criticized the past Obama policy of killing terrorist leaders but largely ignoring the Islamist extremist ideology that motivates the terrorists.
Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, will be a key player in leading the administration’s new counter-ideological offensives. The counterterrorism expert has been critical of the Obama administration’s failure on this front in the war on terror.
In forming new alliances, Mr. Trump will attempt to reset America’s relations with Russia. The president wants to join with Russia in a battle against Islamic terrorism.
But Russia under President Vladimir Putin remains staunchly anti-American. In recent months, Russian military and civilian leaders have made unprecedented threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States. Moscow’s military forces have carried out provocative, saber-rattling nuclear exercises and bomber flights near U.S. borders.
Moscow’s favorable view of the new president and its efforts to seek closer ties with Washington are not based on a desire to counter common threats. Russia’s main goal is to see a loosening of crippling international economic sanctions imposed on Moscow for its 2014 military take over of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
On China, Mr. Trump also has thrown down the gauntlet against Beijing. In public statements prior to his inauguration, he made clear that relations with China will not be based on the status quo of recent years, when trade relations dominated and growing concerns about threatening Chinese military activities were played down or ignored.
The next political battleground with China will be the South China Sea, where China is seeking to take control of the strategic waterway. Beijing has built 3,200 acres of new islands in disputed waters and has begun building missile emplacements and other military facilities on them.
Mr. Trump and key aides have vowed that the South China Sea, where some $5 trillion in trade flows annually, will remain international waters and not become a Chinese lake.
For Iran, Mr. Trump has criticized the Obama administration’s foreign policy centerpiece: the nuclear deal with Iran that limits Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, but only for 10 years.
The international agreement likely will not be renegotiated despite its flaws — such as not limiting Tehran’s ability to build long-range nuclear missiles. An attempt to renegotiate the accord will more than likely produce a collapse of the agreement, which gave Tehran $100 billion in payments frozen since the 1970s.
Domestically, the new president has vowed to undo Congress’ Budget Control Act, which choked defense funding by several hundred billion dollars and prompted a budgetary crisis for the U.S. military that is unable to meet its global requirements.
Revoking the defense sequestration will require tough congressional horse trading. Mr. Trump plans to add $500 billion in new spending, a plan that will be expected to challenge the president’s announced effort to focus on building up the American domestic economy and infrastructure.
Another major challenge facing Mr. Trump is America’s aging nuclear arsenal. Nuclear weapons modernization was stifled for the past eight years under the Obama administration’s anti-nuclear policies.
Mr. Trump has vowed to rapidly build up the nuclear arsenal as part of policies he has called Peace Through Strength — similar to the policy of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s that posits that a strong military is the key to maintaining world peace and stability.
A major priority for the new administration should be the development of new cyber and information warfare policies — capabilities needed to counter the growing information threats posed by hacking and influence operations undertaken by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State.
Mr. Trump has ordered his administration to draw up new and more aggressive cybersecurity policies.
In the Information Age, such capabilities to challenge foreign information and cyberthreats are urgently needed.
• Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and author of “iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age.”
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