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A European Perspective on Anti-Access/Area Denial and the Third Offset Strategy


Over the past two decades, China, Russia, Iran, and others have developed anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as ballistic and cruise missiles, offensive cyber weapons, electronic warfare, and more. A2/AD capabilities undermine the key foundation of the global liberal order and threaten the U.S. military’s global freedom of access presence across all operating domains: air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.

In order to overcome or at least mitigate the impending global A2/AD challenge, the U.S. Department of Defense began to roll out its third offset strategy in late 2014. The aim of this offset strategy is to leverage U.S. advantages in technologies such as big data, stealth, advanced manufacturing (3D printing), robotics, and directed energy, with a view toward sustaining and advancing U.S. military-technological superiority for the 21st century. Arguably, the key driver behind the third offset strategy is Chinese advances in A2/AD capabilities. Strategic developments in the Asia-Pacific region will likely set the pace and evolution of U.S. military-technological innovation for years or even decades to come.

Why, if at all, should Europeans care about offset? At times of financial strain and geopolitical upheaval in eastern Europe and across the Middle East and Africa, it might be tempting for Europeans to seek comfort in the assumption that the kind of military and geopolitical challenges the United States faces in the Asia-Pacific theater are very different from the ones Europeans face. However, that assumption is highly problematic. As I argue in an upcoming article in the Journal of Strategic Studies,  Europeans face their own set of A2/AD challenges.

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