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National Defense Strategy: Alliances and Partnerships

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Alliances and partnerships are mutually beneficial, and they’re crucial to the DOD’s strategy. Our allies and partners have been coming to our aid for 75 years, including after 9/11 and during every major U.S.-led military engagement since.

A Jordanian marine writes the name of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Micah N. Pauly on a 105 mm Howitzer round.
Signing Howitzer Round
A Jordanian marine, left, writes the name of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Micah N. Pauly on a 105 mm howitzer round during a bilateral artillery range supporting exercise Eager Lion in Al Quwayrah, Jordan, April 23, 2018. Pauly is a field artillery cannoneer assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Santino D. Martinez
Photo By: Cpl. Santino Martinez
VIRIN: 180423-M-IZ659-0068A

Alliances vs. Partnerships

Before we explain how the DOD plans to strengthen and building on these, it’s important to know the difference between allies and partners. Our allies are countries with which we have formal, long-term relationships built on shared values and common forward momentum. For example, NATO was formally established by the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, and its 29 members are allies. Partnerships usually focus on something mutually beneficial during a specific amount of time or for specific circumstances. The U.S. relationship with its Caribbean and Latin American partners, for instance, helps to stem the tide of illegal drug activity.

A male soldier and a female soldier set up an antenna in a tree.
Army Pvt. Stefan Rstuccia, left, and Sgt. Amanda Carrasco set up an antenna during Talisman Sabre 15, a biennial exercise at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Australia, July 14, 2015. Army photo by Sgt. Sinthia Rosario
Photo By: Sgt. Sinthia Rosario
VIRIN: 150714-A-ZT122-013A

For the Common Good

As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers. Why? When we pool resources and share responsibility, our burdens become lighter. It also gives us a better chance to advance our interests and maintain a balance of power that will keep enemies from thinking twice about aggression. The stability that comes from alliances and partnerships can also generate much-needed economic growth.

We plan to strengthen our alliance and partnership network by:

  • Upholding a foundation of mutual respect, responsibility and accountability. We’ll uphold our commitments, and we expect our allies and partners to contribute their fair share, including financially.
  • Being clear in our messaging so our relationships work better. We’ll also develop new partnerships around shared interests to reinforce regional coalitions and security cooperation.
  • Deepening our compatibility with other nations. Our ability to exchange and use information helps us work together more effectively, so we’ll prioritize requests for U.S. military equipment sales, which will speed up those foreign partners’ abilities to integrate with U.S. forces.

A Germany army officer pins German jump wings on the uniform of a U.S. soldier.
Jump Wings
Army Spc. Daniel P. Kershing, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, receives German jump wings from German army Capt. Marc Breitenfeld during Operation Federal Eagle on Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 15, 2015. Operation Federal Eagle is an annual event led by U.S and German paratroopers to promote friendship and military partnership.
Photo By: Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez
VIRIN: 150715-A-PX354-032

This Is Happening Globally

The long-term alliances and partnerships we’ve built are a priority to maintain and expand, including in the Indo-Pacific region and with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which provides collective security against Russian threats.

In the Middle East, the DOD also plans to form enduring coalitions. Why? To consolidate the gains we’ve made in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq to defeat terrorists. With their help, we can work to make energy markets dominated by oil stable and trade routes secure.

In Africa, the DOD is boosting partnerships that already exist, as well as building new relationships to help address terrorism that threatens U.S. interests and contributes to the challenges we face in Europe and the Middle East, such as human trafficking, the illegal arms trade and complex criminal networks.

We’ll also deepen our relationships with Canada, Mexico and Latin American countries to build on our regional security.

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