Donald Trump on board USS Wasp in Japan with troops behind

What Is The State Of Defence Stateside?

In the annual BFBS defence review, experts have discussed the challenges facing the US in 2020.

Donald Trump on board USS Wasp in Japan with troops behind

Some of the brightest minds in UK security and defence have come together for the Sitrep Review of the Year.

As part of the podcast special, they've used 2019 events as a launchpad for 2020 predictions.

Here's what they think we can expect, and what we can't, from the US in the coming 12 months.

Simon Marks, President & Chief Correspondent for Feature Story News in Washington DC, says the upcoming Presidential Election will dominate the next year.

"It's absolutely clear that 2020 is going to be a year of great expenditure here on the military.

"President Trump values the military vote greatly, and he wants to make sure...that it's his", he says.

A $738 billion defence budget has now been passed by the US Senate - an extra $22 billion injected to secure personnel pay rises, the commissioning of 14 new ships, further F-35 procurement and the emergence of a Space Force to offer interstellar support to troops and satellites.

The Sitrep Review of the Year took pace at the BBC in London
The Sitrep Review of the Year took place at the BBC in London. (From left to right: Christopher Lee, Professor Paul Rogers, Lucy Fisher, Professor Michael Clarke and Kate Gerbeau).

It remains to be seen what the US could actually do with its military might in 2020. 

"If you look at Afghanistan and Syria, it's still very unclear what kind of force will be retained in the region.

"The generals behind the scenes are trying to run circles around the Commander-in-Chief (CAP C)- to prevent him from acting on what they view as some of his more reflexive, less thought-out ideas for full-scale withdrawal", Mr Marks said.

In October, the controversial decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria left Kurdish allies behind to face a Turkish invasion - sparking a series of diplomatic rows that sent NATO relations into a spiral ahead of a December summit.

Defence Editor for The Times, Lucy Fisher touched on President Trump's "shock announcement" of a total pullout from Syria, which "came as total news to the UK and France, which have special forces out there on the ground", she said.

These units are said to "absolutely rely on those US networks for logistics, transport, surveillance, reconnaissance".

The US relied on international support during a special forces raid in October, which led to the death of former IS leader al-Baghdadi.

In a defence landmark for 2019, support was provided by Russia, Turkey, Iraq and Syria - all considered problematic for the President in their own right.

Uncertainty seemed to be the common denominator around the Sitrep table, reflecting a view around the world regarding US projections. Experts believe this could hold back further diplomacy. 

Following an attack on a Saudi Aramco oil facility widely blamed on Iran in September - the lack of action from the US may have diminished its reputation as a world power.

"Nothing happened. The United States did not react", said Professor Clarke, former Director General of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and now Associate Director of the Strategy and Security Institute at the University of Exeter.

"That sent a message around the Middle East about what you can and can't expect from the United States."

To this, Christopher Lee promptly added that the US is "absolutely finished" as a dominant global force.

Whilst an unprecedented visit from the US President to North Korea in June may have pointed towards negotiation progress in 2020 - denuclearisation talks with leader Kim Jong Un have hit a wall.

Experts voiced concerns over relations between America and North Korea (Picture: KCNA).

A spate of test launches from North Korea in recent months have been widely been interpreted as a response to the breakdown in talks with the US - senior officials in Pyongyang threatening a "Christmas gift" for Americans as a supposed deadline draws closer.

The US has rejected any notion of a deadline - but is aware of growing North Korean capability and fears it could be reached by a newly-developed intercontinental ballistic missile.

Further tensions surrounding the US and nuclear escalation may also stem from US sanctions on Iran, explained Professor Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford and Global Security Consultant with Oxford Research Group.

"The Iranians have many economic problems of their own.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see the risk of a crisis developing, by the Iranians taking one more step down the nuclear road", he said.

Professor Clarke added that 2020 is likely to see "a gulf crisis" whereby "the United States won't be able to do anything about it".

Amid all this uncertainty, President Trump is still unsure who his opponent will be in the presidential race - or indeed what the outcome of the impeachment process might be.


How To Listen:

Sitrep's Review of the Year can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and on Spotify.


Cover image: Donald Trump with US Troops (Picture: US Navy).