By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, November 20, 2015 — Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work is on his way to the annual Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, where military and strategic thinkers representing 60 countries will gather to discuss global security and prosperity.
Speaking last night with reporters traveling with him to Halifax, Work said that he will participate in a plenary panel focused on Russia and titled, “Cooperate, Contain or Conquer: Prioritizing Strategy 70 Years On.”
Joining him will be speakers from Eastern European and European countries.
The deputy secretary also will hold bilateral meetings with representatives of Colombia, Montenegro, Georgia, Ukraine and Albania, he said.
In September, Work made a weeklong visit to Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom to discuss regional security issues.
During a roundtable there, he said, “It was very interesting to me to hear their perspective on what Russia is doing. Do they perceive it as a threat to their countries? Do they perceive it as a more general competition? So I'm looking forward to doing the same thing [at Halifax].”
Work said that during the panel he’d talk about the current era of what he called great-power politics. Great powers, according to scholars and other experts, are sovereign states recognized as exerting influence on a global scale.
“I would call Russia a resurgent great power that still is declining over the long term,” he said, “and China is a rising great power.”
The deputy secretary added, “I think we're coming out of a 25-year period where we've been focused on regional adversaries.”
Now, Work said, “we have to think about grand strategy again. We have to think about globally approaching these great powers. We need to up our strategic game. We need to think about maintaining technological parity if not superiority with them, which is why we talk about the Third Offset.”
And more important than ever, Work said, in great-power competitions allies are critical.
“The thing you see right now is that Russia and China are not accumulating allies,” he said. “That's a good thing and it speaks to the power of the liberal world order that we have helped create over the last 70 years, which is a rules-based, open-economy, free-trade type of order.”
Allies and Partners
Work says he feels confident about the chances of the United States in long-term competition with other great powers because of the strength of U.S. alliances and partners.
In a Nov. 16 National Post essay previewing the Halifax Forum, Sir Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London and one of Work’s favorite authors, advanced a similar view.
“The main strategic priority of the West must be to maintain the structures that have served them well over the past 70 years, especially the network of alliances and systems of international trade and finance,” Freedman wrote.
“Other powers might be frustrated by their existence but they can’t match them,” he added, “and in the end if they want to prosper they need to adjust to their presence.”
Something else also bolsters Work’s confidence in the United States’ competitive great-power advantage.
Russia and China are authoritarian great powers, he said, “and we believe quite strongly that an enduring competitive advantage we have is in our people, because they've grown up in this open order.”