- The U.S. has stepped up freedom-of-navigation and carrier operations in the Pacific
- Naval forces have gained new prominence as tools of diplomacy and deterrence
- Without political support and fleet expansion, this new maritime strategy may not work
One of the hallmarks of President Donald Trump’s administration has been a much bolder use of United States naval forces in troubled international waters. The signature moment was the decision to deploy three aircraft carrier strike groups to the western Pacific in 2017, as the nuclear crisis with North Korea was heating up. In contrast with his immediate predecessors, President Trump has not hesitated to put the U.S. Navy at the leading edge of foreign policy, as an active strategic deterrent against rival powers – especially China and Russia.
The result has been an increased tempo of naval operations, closer cooperation with U.S. allies and friends, and less collaboration with potential adversaries. This new approach – which appears comprehensive and consistent enough to have the makings of a maritime strategy – has if anything continued to intensify since Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in December 2018.