By Zhang Jiadong
Two US military drills of unprecedented scale – Large Scale Exercise (LSE)2021 and Large Scale Global Exercise (LSGE21) – wrapped up on August 16 and 17 respectively. The scale and features of these two exercises, as demonstrated below, are closely related to the changes in foreign policies of the Uinted States.
First, the exercises are more targeted. The two exercises, geographically spanning from America to Europe and from the Pacific to the Atlantic, mainly tested the US and its allies’ capability of coordinated commanding, maneuvering and concentration of forces. The exercises involved warfare concepts that might be used in case of a conflict with the Chinese army and aimed to deliver signals of military deterrence to China and Russia. Besides, the LSE 2021 should have been called LSE 2020 as it was originally scheduled in 2020 but has been postponed because of the pandemic, and the name reflects the consistency of Washington’s China policy.
Second, the exercises are of a larger scale. The LSE 2021 has been the first large-scale drill jointly conducted by the US Navy and Marine Corps since NATO’s Ocean Venture drill in 1981. Spanning 17 time zones and in the Cold-War style, it involved all of America’s three Marine Crops Expeditionary Forces and 5 of the 7 Fleets. More than 30 warships including aircraft carriers, over 50 US military units, and 25,000 service members participated in the exercise. With a combination of on-site and distance virtual drills, it displayed an obvious elevation in scale and complexity.
?Third, the exercises are more similar to actual combat. The LSGE21included drilling of field operations, logistics replenishment, amphibious landing, air-ground and sea-air operations, and special forces operations. The LSE 2021 was jointly commanded by the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Europe, designed to quickly converge the scattered and independently operating US naval units into a unified force in wartime.
Fourth, participating countries are more diverse, showing a tendency of an exercise including allies from around the world. The LSGE21 is an exercise of global commanding and control system organized by the US Indo-Pacific Command. It was aimed to enhance the coordination and integration between forces of the US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
These large-scale exercises have definite strategic purposes.
First,they are aimed to consolidate the alliance. This is Washington’s chief objective and also a pillar for achieving its diplomatic goals. When Trump was still in office, the US-centered alliance system loosened resulting in the increasingly tenuous bonds between the US and its allies. This impaired America’s capability of coping with countries like China on the one hand and created the possibility of turning those allies into strategic competitors on the other. To prevent the second situation, Biden has placed great emphasis on the alliance since he took office and taken into account the allies’ concerns and interests on many issues. Washington is also trying to rope in the allies on many dimensions, including military exercises, in order to tie them more tightly to its chariot.
Second, they are aimed to strengthen the military deterrence against China and other countries. The exercises not only showcased America’s military strength but also sent a clear signal that Washington, while not wishing to engage in military conflicts with China, doesn’t fear that scenario either.
Editor's note: This article is originally published on huanqiu.com, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.
(The author is a professor with the Center for American Studies of Fudan University)