New Strategic Approach of the USA: Transition from Territorial Containment to Naval Blockade

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International relations are witnessing a period and power transitions that will be the beginning of a new power struggle in future political history books. Although the full definition and measurement of power in international politics have not been made, it is obvious that it does not have a stable structure and is always in flux. In this context, geopolitics and geostrategic, which are affected by different parameters of power, are constantly transforming and taking new forms.

In the new order that emerged after the First and Second World Wars, which directly affected and shaped the struggle for global dominance, the United States of America (USA) took the place of Continental Europe and was seen as a leading state both economically, culturally, and militarily. The USA, which was also the winner of the Cold War that started after the Second World War, became the leading actor on the global plane and established unipolar world order. During this period, the USA implemented the strategy of controlling the wide Eurasian geography to control the actors it defeated and to ensure the continuation of the unipolar system.

It would not be wrong to say that the strategic engagement and implementation process of the Washington administration in the period until the establishment of the unipolar world has been successful. However, it cannot be said that the siege project initiated for the continuation of the established system achieved the same success. It can be argued that Washington, which intervened militarily in Afghanistan, the heart of Eurasia, and aimed to control all the intersections of Eurasia, has failed in the current situation.

The USA has failed in Afghanistan, where it went with the objectives of controlling Central Asia, controlling China’s trade routes, preventing Russia from taking the pipelines to every corner of Eurasia, and suppressing South Asia, and this situation has failed in terms of economic, military, sociological and had to bear the psychological cost. The US intervention in Afghanistan, which took place in 2001, lasted for twenty years. The war cost Washington $2.2 trillion.[1] Moreover, many soldiers died in Afghanistan and the psychological repercussions of this in the USA were devastating. The images recorded during the withdrawal process from Afghanistan also shook the image of the USA.

The failure of the conventional and special military operations carried out by the Washington administration in Iraq and other regions, especially in Afghanistan, in the big picture, increases the criticism towards the USA and gives rise to comments that this country is no longer a hegemonic power. Although the criticisms in question have some justification, approaches claiming that the global leadership of the Washington administration is over are open to discussion. Because the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is not an absolute defeat; it heralds the transition to new geopolitics.

Despite the air and naval power that brought the US to victory in the Second World War and had a devastating effect on its rivals, Washington resorted to ground forces to maintain its dominance. Contrary to sea and air battles where technological development is more decisive; victory in land battles is determined by demographics, leadership, logistics, geography, and time. Moreover, all of the wars that the USA started after the Second World War were overseas operations. This is also a big disadvantage.

In this environment, the USA decided to end its long-lasting disadvantaged situation by withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2021 and making a radical change. Throwing the terrestrial burdens on it, Washington has focused on a containment strategy over the seas, where it is strongest. The Indo-Pacific discourse and the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, which have been increasingly emphasized during the Donald Trump era, point to a paradigm shift. As a matter of fact, in the Indo-Pacific Strategy documents announced by Trump and later Biden; the “Arctic Region National Strategy”[2] and the “Pacific Partnership Strategy”[3] announced for the first time were added.[4] The “National Security Strategy Document”, which was published on October 12, 2022, and includes Washington’s policies for the future, shows the importance that the Washington administration attaches to maritime corridors.

As it is known, China’s recent interest in the Pacific Islands is one of the main agendas of the region. The security agreement signed between China and Solomon Islands on April 19, 2022, followed by Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi’s visit between May 26 and June 4, 2022, included the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor.[5] This visit was considered the clearest evidence of China’s increasing influence in the Pacific Ocean, which was once referred to as the “US Lake.”[6]

China’s growing power in the region and the fact that the current status quo is changing have caused alarm bells to ring in Washington. For this reason, the USA has put forward an important strategic approach in the Pacific report it announced for the first time. In addition, at the US-Pacific Island Countries Summit held in Washington on September 28-29, 2022, Biden said, “In the next ten years, the history of our world will be written in the Indo-Pacific geography and the Pacific Islands will be in a critical position in shaping the future.” it is also important to say. Because this statement heralds the role that small island countries will play an important role in the global power struggle.[7]

Another pillar of the USA’s turn to the seas is Arctic geopolitics; that is, over the North Pole. The Arctic, which is more on the agenda with the increasing effect of global warming; is becoming one of the main geographies of geopolitical competition with its energy potential and the short-distance advantage it offers in commercial terms. In particular, the Northern Sea Route, which causes the development of relations between Russia and China, poses a threat to the global interests of the USA. Therefore, the Washington administration updated the Arctic Strategy announced in 2013, and 2022; that is, it published a new document at a time when it returned to the seas.

After the Russia-Ukraine War that started on February 24, 2022, the countries neighboring the Arctic and, on this line, increased their dependence on the USA in the field of security; therefore, the developments have created an important opportunity for Washington. Finland and Sweden’s application to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as the USA’s gradual settlement in the region through exercises, cooperation agreements, and military bases, using the Russian threat, constitutes a pillar of the containment strategy it initiated in the seas. Undoubtedly, NATO’s Arctic Expansion is of great importance in this regard.

The main objective of this strategy is; it is to prevent the economic, diplomatic, scientific, and military activities of China, which defines itself as a “Near Arctic Country” in 2018 and refers to the Arctic shipping routes in the region as the “Polar Silk Road.”[8]

The USA has been trying to control the south with the wide siege project it has initiated in the Indo-Pacific geography for a long time. At the same time, the USA is also trying to control the east with the Pacific Islands strategy, which will provide a significant geographical and logistical advantage to the country, which is the dominant actor. In addition, the USA is trying to control the geography extending to Western Europe via the Arctic route and even the north and northwest with the new security umbrella to be established. The main targets of this siege are China and Russia. This issue has been clearly emphasized in the new National Security Strategy document on the occasion of the following statements:[9]

“While blocking dangerous Russia; We will compete effectively with China, the only competitor with the intent and ability to reshape the international order.”

As a result, as international relations enter a new era, the elements and geographies of geopolitical competition are changing, and hot conflict points are spreading over large areas, the last hegemon power of history, the USA, is transitioning to a new strategy. Washington administration, which tried to encircle the vast Eurasian continent from the center and land in the past, now shows that it will carry out a policy through the southern, eastern, and northern sea routes in the marginal belt. Therefore, while the conflict areas in the world spread to the border geographies; The importance, stability, and decisiveness of the central region are also increasing.

[1] “US Costs to Date for the War in Afghanistan”, Watson Institute,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[2] “National Strategy for the Arctic Region”, The White House,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[3] “Fact Sheet: President Biden Unveils First-Ever Pacific Partnership Strategy”, The White House,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[4] “National Security Strategy 2022”, The White House,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[5] “State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Visit South Pacific Island Countries and Timor-Leste and Host the Second China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[6] Eleanor Lattimore, “Pacific Ocean or American Lake?”, Far Eastern Survey, (14)22, 1945, p. 313.

[7] “A Great Deal of World’s History Will be Written in Indo-Pacific: Biden”, Business-Standart,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[8] “China’s Arctic Policy”, The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,, (Date of Accession: 16.10.2022).

[9] National Security Strategy 2022, p.23.

Mustafa Cem KOYUNCU
Mustafa Cem Koyuncu, Karabük Üniversitesinde Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde Master öğrencisi olup Hint-Pasifik Bölgesi, ABD-Çin Rekabeti, uluslararası güvenlik, jeopolitik ve stratejik araştırmalar alanları üzerinde çalışmalar yapmaktadır. Karabük Üniversitesi’nde eğitimine başlamadan önce, Boğaziçi Üniversitesinde Lisans eğitimini tamamlamıştır. Özel sektörde yöneticilik tecrübesi kazanmasının ardından Koyuncu, kariyerine ANKASAM’da devam etmektedir. Koyuncu, ileri seviyede İngilizce bilmektedir.