Advance American Influence & the Strategy in a Regional Context

National Security Strategy of the United States of America (December 2017)

Pages 37-55





International Affairs Academy


Our America First foreign policy celebrates America’s influence in the world as a positive force that can help set the conditions for peace and prosperity and for developing successful societies.  ere is no arc of history that ensures that America’s free political and economic system will automatically prevail. Success or failure depends upon our actions. This Administration has the confidence to compete to protect our values and interests and the fundamental principles that underpin them. During the Cold War, a totalitarian threat from the Soviet Union motivated the free world to create coalitions in defense of liberty. Today’s challenges to free societies are just as serious, but more diverse. State and non-state actors project influence and advance their objectives by exploiting information, democratic media freedoms, and international institutions. Repressive leaders often collaborate to subvert free societies and corrupt multilateral organizations. Around the world, nations and individuals admire what America stands for. We treat people equally and value and uphold the rule of law. We have a democratic system that allows the best ideas to flourish. We know how to grow economies so that individuals can achieve prosperity. These qualities have made America the richest country on earth—rich in culture, talent, opportunities, and material wealth.


The United States offers partnership to those who share our aspirations for freedom and prosperity. We lead by example. “The world has its eye upon America," Alexander Hamilton once observed. “The noble struggle we have made in the cause of liberty, has occasioned a kind of revolution in human sentiment. The influence of our example has penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism.” We are not going to impose our values on others. Our alliances, partnerships, and coalitions are built on free will and shared interests. When the United States partners with other states, we develop policies that enable us to achieve our goals while our partners achieve theirs. Allies and partners are a great strength of the United States. They add directly to U.S. political, economic, military, intelligence, and other capabilities. Together, the United States and our allies and partners represent well over half of the global GDP. None of our adversaries have comparable coalitions. We encourage those who want to join our community of like-minded democratic states and improve the condition of their peoples. By modernizing U.S. instruments of diplomacy and development, we will catalyze conditions to help them achieve that goal. These aspiring partners include states that are fragile, recovering from conflict, and seeking a path forward to sustainable security and economic growth. Stable, prosperous, and friendly states enhance American security and boost U.S. economic opportunities. We will continue to champion American values and offer encouragement to those struggling for human dignity in their societies. There can be no moral equivalency between nations that uphold the rule of law, empower women, and respect individual rights and those that brutalize and suppress their people.


Through our words and deeds, America demonstrates a positive alternative to political and religious despotism. Encourage Aspiring Partners Some of the greatest triumphs of American statecraft resulted from helping fragile and developing countries become successful societies. These successes, in turn, created profitable markets for American businesses, allies to help achieve favorable regional balances of power, and coalition partners to share burdens and address a variety of problems around the world. Over time, the United States has helped create a network of states that advance our common interests and values. This historical record is unprecedented and exceptional. American support to aspiring partners enabled the recovery of the countries of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan, as well as the ongoing integration of Central and Eastern Europe into Western institutions after the Cold War. In Asia, the United States worked with South Korea and Japan, countries ravaged by war, to help them become successful democracies and among the most prosperous economies in the world.


These achievements were products of patient partnerships with those who aspired to build prosperous societies and join the community of democratic states. They resulted in mutually beneficial relationships in which the United States helped states mobilize their own resources to achieve transitions to growth and stability. Working with these countries made the United States wealthier and more competitive. This progress illustrates how effective foreign assistance programs should reach their natural endpoint. Today, the United States must compete for positive relationships around the world. China and Russia target their investments in the developing world to expand influence and gain competitive advantages against the United States. China is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure across the globe. Russia, too, projects its influence economically, through the control of key energy and other infrastructure throughout parts of Europe and Central Asia. The United States provides an alternative to state-directed investments, which often leave developing countries worse off. The United States pursues economic ties not only for market access but also to create enduring relationships to advance common political and security interests. The United States will promote a development model that partners with countries that want progress, consistent with their culture, based on free market principles, fair and reciprocal trade, private there is no arc of history that ensures that America’s free political and economic system will automatically prevail. Success or failure depends upon our actions.



PILLAR IV: ADVANCE AMERICAN INFLUENCE sector activity, and rule of law. The United States will shift away from a reliance on assistance based on grants to approaches that attract private capital and catalyze private sector activity. We will emphasize reforms that unlock the economic potential of citizens, such as the promotion of formal proper rights, entrepreneurial reforms, and infrastructure improvements—projects that help people earn their livelihood and have the added benefit of helping U.S. businesses. By mobilizing both public and private resources, the United States can help maximize returns and outcomes and reduce the burden on U.S. Government resources. Unlike the state-directed mercantilism of some competitors that can disadvantage recipient nations and promote dependency, the purpose of U.S. foreign assistance should be to end the need for it. The United States seeks strong partners, not weak ones. U.S. development assistance must support America’s national interests. We will prioritize collaboration with aspiring partners that are aligned with U.S. interests. We will focus on development investments where we can have the most impact— where local reformers are committed to tackling their economic and political challenges. Within this framework, the United States will also assist fragile states to prevent threats to the U.S. homeland. Transnational threat organizations, such as jihadist terrorists and organized crime, often operate freely from fragile states and undermine sovereign governments. Failing states can destabilize entire regions. Across Africa, Latin America, and Asia, states are eager for investments and financing to develop their infrastructure and propel growth. The United States and its partners have opportunities to work with countries to help them realize their potential as prosperous and sovereign states that are accountable to their people. Such states can become trading partners that buy more American-made goods and create more predictable business environments that benefit American companies. American-led investments represent the most sustainable and responsible approach to development and offer a stark contrast to the corrupt, opaque, exploitative, and low-quality deals offered by authoritarian states.


Priority Actions: Developing Countries

MOBILIZE RESOURCES: The United States will modernize its development finance tools so that U.S. companies have incentives to capitalize on opportunities in developing countries. With these changes, the United States will not be left behind as other states use investment and project finance to extend their influence. In addition, the U.S. Government must not be an obstacle to U.S. companies that want to conduct business in the developing world.


CAPITALIZE ON NEW TECHNOLOGIES: We will incorporate innovative technologies in our diplomatic and development programs. For example, digital technologies enable millions to access financial services through their cell phones and can connect farmers to markets. Such technologies can reduce corruption, increase transparency, and help ensure that money reaches its intended destination.


INCENTIVIZE REFORMS: The United States will use diplomacy and assistance to encourage states to make choices that improve governance, rule of law, and sustainable development. We already do this through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which selects countries that are committed to reform and then monitors and evaluates their projects.


Prioriy Actions: Fragile States

COMMIT SELECTIVELY: We will give priority to strengthening states where state weaknesses or failure would magnify threats to the American homeland . For instance, engagement in Afghanistan seeks to prevent the reemergence of terrorist safe havens.


WORK WITH REFORMERS: Political problems are at the root of most state fragility. The United States will prioritize programs that empower reform minded governments, people, and civil society. As the United States designs its efforts, inputs from local actors improve the likelihood of enduring solutions, reduce costs, and increase accountability to the American taxpayer.


SYNCHRONIZE ACTIONS: The United States must use its diplomatic, economic, and military tools simultaneously when assisting aspiring partners. We will place a priority on economic support that achieves local and macroeconomic stability, helps build capable security forces, and strengthens the rule of law. Achieve Better Outcomes in Multilateral Forums The United States must lead and engage in the multinational arrangements that shape many of the rules that affect U.S. interests and values. A competition for influence exists in these institutions. As we participate in them, we must protect American sovereign and advance American interests and values. A range of international institutions establishes the rules for how states, businesses, and individuals interact with each other, across land and sea, the Arctic, outer space, and the digital realm. It is vital to U.S. prosperityand security that these institutions uphold the rules that help keep these common domains open and free. Free access to the seas remains a central principle of national security and economic prosperity, and exploration of sea and space provides opportunities for commercial gain and scientific breakthroughs. The flow of data and an open, interoperable Internet are inseparable from the success of the U.S. economy. Authoritarian actors have long recognized the power of multilateral bodies and have used them to advance their interests and limit the freedom of their own citizens. If the United States cedes leadership of these bodies to adversaries, opportunities to shape developments that are positive for the United States will be lost. All institutions are not equal, however. The United States will prioritize its efforts in those organizations that serve American interests, to ensure that they are strengthened and supportive of the United States, our allies, and our partners. Where existing institutions and rules need modernizing, the United States will lead to update them. At the same time, it should be clear that the United States will not cede sovereign to those that claim authority over American citizens and are in conflict with our constitutional framework.


Priority Actions

EXERCISE LEADERSHIP IN POLITICAL AND SECURITY BODIES: The United States will strive for outcomes in political and security forums that are consistent with U.S. interests and values—values which are shared by our allies and partners. The United Nations can help contribute to solving many of the complex problems in the world, but it must be reformed and recommit to its founding principles. We will require accountability and emphasize shared responsibility among members. If the United States is asked to provide a disproportionate level of support for an institution, we will expect a commensurate degree of influence over the direction and efforts of that institution.


SHAPE AND REFORM INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL AND TRADE INSTITUTIONS: The United States will continue to play a leading role in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and World Trade Organization (WTO), but will improve their performance through reforms. These reforms include encouraging multilateral development banks to invest in high-quality infrastructure projects that promote economic growth. We will press to make the WTO a more effective forum to adjudicate unfair trade practices.


ENSURE COMMON DOMAINS REMAIN FREE: The United States will provide leadership and technology to shape and govern common domains—space, cyberspace, air, and maritime—within the framework of international law. The United States supports the peaceful resolution of disputes under international law but will use all of its instruments of power to defend U.S. interests and to ensure common domains remain free.


PROTECT A FREE AND OPEN INTERNET: The United States will advocate for open, interoperable communications, with minimal barriers to the global exchange of information and services. The United States will promote the free flow of data and protect its interests through active engagement in key organizations, such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the UN, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Champion American Values The extraordinary trajectory of the United States from a group of colonies to a thriving, industrialized, sovereign republic—the world's lone superpower—is a testimony to the strength of the idea on which our Nation is founded, namely that each of our citizens is born free and equal under the law. America’s core principles, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, are secured by the Bill of Rights, which proclaims our respect for fundamental individual liberties beginning with the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, and assembly. Liberty, free enterprise, equal justice under the law, and the dignity of every human life are central to who we are as a people. These principles form the foundation of our most enduring alliances, and the United States will continue to champion them.


Governments that respect the rights of their citizens remain the best vehicle for prosperity, human happiness, and peace. In contrast, governments that routinely abuse the rights of their citizens do not play constructive roles in the world. For example, governments that fail to treat women equally do not allow their societies to reach their potential. No nation can unilaterally alleviate all human suffering, but just because we cannot help everyone does not mean that we should stop trying to help anyone. For much of the world, America’s liberties are inspirational, and the United States will always stand with those who seek freedom. We will remain a beacon of liberty and opportunity around the world. The United States also remains committed to supporting and advancing religious freedom—America’s first freedom. Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for our flourishing society. And it is part of our culture, as well as in America’s interest, to help those in need and those trying to For much of the world, America’s liberties are inspirational, and the United States will always stand with those who seek freedom. We will remain a beacon of liberty and opportunity around the world. We aid others judiciously, aligning our means to our objectives, but with a firm belief that we can improve the lives of others while establishing conditions for a more secure and prosperous world.


Priority Actions

SUPPORT THE DIGNITY OF INDIVIDUALS: We support, with our words and actions, those who live under oppressive regimes and who seek freedom, individual dignity, and the rule of law. We are under no obligation to offer the benefits of our free and prosperous community to repressive regimes and human rights abusers. We may use diplomacy, sanctions, and other tools to isolate states and leaders who threaten our interests and whose actions run contrary to our values. We will not remain silent in the face of evil. We will hold perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities accountable.


DEFEAT TRANSNATIONAL TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS: There can be no greater action to advance the rights of individuals than to defeat jihadist terrorists and other groups that foment hatred and use violence to advance their supremacist Islamist ideologies. We will continue to join with other states to defeat this scourge of all civilized peoples.


EMPOWER WOMEN AND YOUTH: Societies that empower women to participate fully in civic and economic life are more prosperous and peaceful. We will support efforts to advance women’s equality, protect the rights of women and girls, and promote women and youth empowerment programs.


PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES: We will advocate on behalf of religious freedom and threatened minorities. Religious minorities continue to be victims of violence. We will place a priority on protecting these groups and will continue working with regional partners to protect minority communities from attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage.


REDUCE HUMAN SUFFERING: The United States will continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance. Even as we expect others to share responsibility, the United States will continue to catalyze international responses to man-made and natural disasters and provide our expertise and capabilities to those in need. We will support food security and health programs that save lives and address the root cause of hunger and disease.