U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper unveiled a new initiative to strengthen U.S. alliances with “like-for-like democracies” through arms sales in part, in an effort to reduce Russia’s and China’s influence in the world.
Esper said the Pentagon will systematically monitor and manage its relations with partner countries to find other ways to coordinate armies and improve U.S. arms sales.
The initiative, called Guidance for Development for Alliances and Partnerships (GDIP), comes two weeks before the U.S. presidential election.
The initiative also followed nearly four years of Trump’s efforts to restructure and even dismantle some of them, including the NATO threat.
“America’s network of allies and partners provides us with an unequal advantage that our adversaries cannot match,” Esper said Tuesday, describing the network as “the backbone of a rules-based international order.”
“China and Russia probably have fewer than a dozen allies combined,” he said.
China was using coercion and financial deception to build alliances with vulnerable countries such as Burma, Cambodia and Laos.
“The smaller the country, the greater its needs and the greater the pressure from Beijing,” he said.
He has made several visits to build defense ties with Malta, Mongolia, and Palau, as well as U.S. plans to strengthen the U.S. defense presence in Eastern Europe, including the stationing of troops in Poland.
He stressed the need to build closer ties with “like-for-like democracies like India and Indonesia,” adding that “they all know what China is doing.”
A key part of this effort, Esper said, is expanding U.S. arms sales, helping allies improve defense capabilities and support the U.S. defense industry in the face of Russian and Chinese competition.
He said he has taken steps to ease restrictions on exports of “sensitive” weapons systems and speed up approvals, and will use the GDAP initiative to identify arms sales opportunities and protect U.S. markets.
For example, he noted the recent easing of U.S. restrictions on the export of battle-front aircraft, which the United States could sell to Taiwan and the UAE.
China and the United States differ on trade and human rights and China’s growing global technological ambitions in recent years
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