President Obama has been trying to focus on the United States’ relationship with Asia as part of his “pivot to Asia,” however, problems in the Middle East continue to overshadow his plans. Many Asian countries feel they are being put on the back burner and the United States is not committed to them. President Obama had to skip out on key meetings last fall regarding a huge multinational trade agreement (Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP) due to the government shutdown at home. Recent developments in Asia, such as China’s claiming of airspace between their shores and the shores of Japan, have created causes for concern.
Last week, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced they will be providing military aid to the nation of Singapore. The DoD stated that, “The Government of Singapore has requested an upgrade of 60 F-16C/D/D+ aircraft.” The U.S. government will also be providing procurement of other military equipment such as radar, missiles, and GPS equipment. The justification of the DoD for the aid is one of national security and commitment to our ally. The DoD went on to state, “This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by increasing the ability of the Republic of Singapore to contribute to regional security. The proposed sale will improve the security of a strategic partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region.” The government ensures that this arms trade will not affect our own readiness to respond to conflicts and the sale is “necessary in furtherance of the US foreign policy and national security objectives.”
Singapore lies between the Indian and South Pacific Oceans just south of Malaysia, from whom they gained their independence in 1965. While Singapore is miles away from the airspace in question between China and Japan, updated military technology and equipment could be vital to ensuring that U.S. allies and interests are safe. The United States has taken the approach of arming allies to ensure that its global interests are met.
There was some skepticism about the United States continuing to provide military aid to Iraq due to the uncertainty of the use of the equipment. The U.S. did not want Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to use this technology to “crack down” on his own people, but rather use it to combat terrorists who have regained control of key territories. The United States has officially given the green light to ship military equipment to Iraq to aid them in this ongoing terrorism fight.
The U.S. has used nations such as Afghanistan to stabilize regions and cool tensions between surrounding nations. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has used its influence and troop training in Afghanistan to help quell concerns in Pakistan related to nuclear proliferation and continued terrorist activity. The United States uses this same tactic around the globe to ensure that their interests are protected by their allies. The move by the U.S. to suspend military aid to Egypt after the Egyptian military removed the first freely elected president from office last summer became a major policy debate among top defense hawks in Congress. Egypt is the largest Arab nation in the world and a key ally to the United States in a volatile region. Since the U.S labeled the ousting of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a coup – which, under the aid agreement with Egypt forced the U.S. to suspend aid – Egypt reportedly met with Russian officials to discuss arms trade. This could pose problems for the United States’ foreign interests because it opens a window for a new relationship between Egypt and Russia which could shut the door on the United States.
The Obama administration wants to make sure America’s influence is maintained around the world. The United States has opened channels with Australia for military bases and operations. With China gaining more and more influence among Pacific nations, the United States wants to make sure its allies in the area, as well as its interests, are protected. President Obama’s absence from the TPP talks last fall allowed China to take control of the discussion. Obama does not want to alienate his Asian counterparts especially after announcing that “pivot to Asia.” By providing additional arms and technology to Singapore, he kills two birds with one stone – ensures our interests and security is maintained, and is looking out for Asian nations’ security.