Since assuming office in July 2019, the defence secretary has repeatedly warned about the alleged dangers posed by Washington’s near-peer competitors on issues ranging from cybersecurity and artificial intelligence to troops on the ground in competitive regions like Africa.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper has presented a laundry list of problem nations which he said Washington must confront, calling out traditional US foes like North Korea and Iran, while classifying Russia and China as dangerous competitors who threaten the global order.
Speaking at Johns Hopkins University’s school of international studies on Thursday, Esper cited the 2018 National Defence Strategy, which he said “outlined the United States’ plan to maintain competitive advantage in a new era of great power competition, where revisionist powers seek to rewrite the international rules based order and the norms of good behaviour.”
“Take China and Russia,” Esper continued. “Both countries have violated the sovereignty of their neighbours, and routinely used coercive strategies against smaller states to gain strategic advantages.”
Accusing China of engaging in intellectual property theft, Esper suggested that the country was trying to “control the economic and security decisions” of other countries with its Belt and Road trade route investments.
“Meanwhile, Moscow has turned to hybrid warfare as a means to expand regional…