Overview: The Strategic Context of Responsibility Sharing

    engagement are: to enhance U.S. security by maintaining appropriately sized and postured military forces; to protect U.S. interests, allies, and friends; to deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression; to improve regional stability; and to prevent the emergence of regional powers hostile to U.S. interests.

  • Allied responsibility sharing efforts cover a very broad range of activities. As detailed later in this Overview, allied efforts to promote and defend shared security objectives include defense and force contributions, cooperation and participation in contingency operations, provision of development assistance, and host nation support for U.S. forces.

  • Within this broad range of responsibility sharing activities, our policies can and should be tailored to differences in regional strategic, political, military, and economic needs.

Because none of our regional security situations is directly analogous to another, explicit comparisons of U.S. presence and allied responsibility sharing arrangements among different regions are of limited utility. Unfortunately, this has not prevented some observers from attempting to reduce our engagement strategy and the regional variations in our responsibility sharing policy to one dimension: allied cost sharing.

In effect, this view isolates a single aspect of allied contributions, elevates it to preeminent importance, and mandates its application uniformly across different geographic regions. To make matters worse, some advocate that cost sharing be used as the sine qua non of our forward presence posture and of our strategy of engagement itself.

The Administration continues to believe
strongly that disproportionate emphasis on cost sharing is inappropriate, and reflects a flawed and imbalanced view of the strategic, political, military, and economic realities upon which our national security strategy is built.


This section turns to the variables and variations in and among our commitments to three regions most important to vital U.S. security interests: Europe, East Asia-Pacific, and Southwest Asia. Consistent with the Department's 1995 series of reports on the United States Security Strategy, the following sections describe the security framework, U.S. forward presence, and allied responsibility sharing in each of these critical regions.


The greatest concentration of nations that share our commitment to democracy and market economies is in Europe. Moreover, our longest-standing political, economic, military, and cultural ties are with Europe. Through continued U.S. leadership and presence there, we can effectively shape allied views toward consensus on major defense issues, facilitate further cooperation, and acquire leverage in other important forums.

U.S. security concerns in Europe go beyond the immediate region to adjacent areas, including the developing democracies of Central Europe, Russia, and the New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union. Supporting political and economic reform throughout this region is one of our foremost security objectives in Europe.

The promotion of U.S. interests around the world critically depends on effective American leadership in NATO and concerted action with our allies in support of shared goals and objectives.

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