COLLEGE STATION, Texas —
The global security environment contains a host of threats, including Russian aggression that threatens NATO allies, and the violent extremists network from western Pakistan to north Africa, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke today at a student conference on national affairs at Texas A&M University, rounding out a two-day visit to the campus.
He outlined his "two, two, two and one" view on national security, which is comprised of two heavyweights, two middleweights, two networks and one domain.
Russia is included as a heavyweight, along with China.
Russia ‘Lit a Fire’
Russia "lit a fire of ethnicity and nationalism that actually threatens to burn out of control," he said. "And in so doing, they are threatening our NATO allies."
Dempsey said it is hard to imagine that in 2015 there would be that kind of conflict and "those kind of instincts" that are coming to the front again in Europe.
The human suffering in Ukraine is "atrocious," he said.
"It's almost unimaginable," the chairman told the audience, which included members of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, other university students and members of the military.
The United States is working with its NATO allies, he said, to reassure the alliance and also try to assist Eastern Europe, including non-NATO countries, in "suppressing this effort to rekindle fires that haven’t burned in Europe" in 70 years.
On the other heavyweight, China, he said that nation is reemerging on the global scene. It is a very strong economic country that is becoming militarily strong, the chairman said.
The United States will continue to work with China in managing any differences, he said.
"We'll be competitors but it doesn’t mean, I think, we'll have to be enemies," he said. "We're working hard to do that."
Middleweight Powers: Iran, North Korea
The two middleweights are Iran and North Korea.
The United States is working with its partners to try to convince Iran to seek a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, he said. Western nations contend that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, while Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes.
"We are working hard to reach a negotiated settlement on their nuclear program, but we shouldn’t forget there are other issues which cause us concern about Iran," the chairman said, noting those concerns include Iran being a state sponsor of terrorism.
Networks and Cyber Domain
The two networks Dempsey talked about in his speech are the violent extremist network from western Pakistan to northern Africa, and the transnational criminal network that runs north and south in the Western Hemisphere. The domain is cyber.
The transregional network of al-Qaida, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and other terrorists are competing for a radical, anti-Western ideology that is fomenting the internal challenges of Islam's Sunni and Shia, he said.
"That network is transregional,” he said. “It will take a generation or more to be defeated and it will take persistence on our part and working closely and most often through partners and hardening our allies in order to deal with it."
To combat both the extremist and transnational criminal networks, they need to be "pressed" across their entire length, not just "pinched" in a spot, the chairman said.
"You have to interdict the financing; you have to interdict the flow of foreign fighters or criminals. It takes a really broad effort with partners to deal with that," he said.
Finally, on the domain of cyber, he said, "we've got a lot of work to do. We've made some strides, some pretty significant strides, militarily in particular in terms of defending ourselves."
But the general said despite the security in military networks, 90 percent of his administration and logistics functions ride on commercial Internet providers.
"So if they're vulnerable, I'm vulnerable and I don't like being vulnerable," he said.
Action in securing this domain, he said, includes legislation that establishes a common set of standards on Internet security, and allows information sharing between the government and the private sector.
From College Station, Dempsey travels on to Kwajalein Atoll and Australia.