The timing was perfect: just as the new Trump Administration is preparing to take over in the US, Beijing has published a White Paper entitled ‘China’s Policies on Asia–Pacific Security Cooperation’. It claims to outline China’s contributions to Asia–Pacific regional security. But it fails to diminish concerns over its regional ambitions.
The Obama Administration has announced a shift in emphasis for missile defence capabilities away from Europe to the US mainland. While this could help allay Russian concerns about the NATO system, Moscow's leaders may require more confidence-building measures.
UK defence spending was further squeezed in the 2013 Budget announcement. It is likely to face additional cuts for 2015/16 in the 2015 Spending Review. The defence budget for subsequent years may depend on how the 2015 Spending Review shares the burden of future austerity between expenditure cuts and tax rises.
For nearly a year US political leaders have been fighting over the federal budget. By 1 March they must either reach a deal or implement automatic and deep cuts drastically affecting the running of the military and the defence industry which it procures from.
As the UK sends 330 personnel to assist France's military intervention in Mali, there are real concerns that, like Afghanistan, the UK will be mired in another intractable conflict. However, the strategic conditions are very different for this to happen and it is wrong to assume there will be mission creep.
With US women now being allowed to participate in combat roles, the US military can be applauded for its move towards gender equality. But its driving imperative must remain a commitment to military effectiveness, and to the lives of the men and women who serve.