In an article this week in Foreign Policy ( bit.ly/3fqZubo), Jerad Harper and John Nagl of the US Army War College argue for a new strategy in the way the US develops military partnerships. They state that in its most heavily resourced overseas endeavours, the US ‘creates partner forces as appendages of its own military and intelligence services rather than as independent and capable structures able to stand on their own’.
This is akin to ‘helicopter parenting’ – intervening in too many situations while leaving partner forces disempowered. India does not provide the US ‘auxiliary support’. But a similar logic has been at play when it comes to its dealings as a major defence partner. Which is why the noises emanating from Foggy Bottom – from Joe Biden’s nominee for the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy James O’Brien on Wednesday in particular – is reassuring. Dehyphenating Turkey and India, both purchasers of S-400 missile systems from Russia, suggests that New Delhi is unlikely to be slapped with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Caatsa) that Ankara was in December. This would be the right thing for the US to do.
While Nato partner Turkey broke legacy norms by shopping Rosoboronexport products, India’s ‘historical ties’ with Russia are no longer being perceived by the US as a deal-breaker. India gains more obviously if Caatsa is not invoked against it. But the US, too, stands to gain. Russia and China may not be Afghanistan and Iraq, but for the US to ensure its partners are not just cosmetic appendages in a larger containment strategy, it is to the US’ advantage if it serves India a separate sauce for its well-measured defence measures from the sauce it serves less reliable partners.