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Special Forces Berlin
by James Stejskal




Great Power Competition

Great Power Competition (GPC) is a term coined in the last few years that recognizes Russia and China as 'near peer threats'. Special operations forces will play an important role in GPC - both in the context of general war and below the thresold of war.

U.S. SOF is undergoing a shift in focus from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency to great power competition. Many people look at GPC as a 'conventional fight' with large military forces confronting each other on the battlefield. The adversaries in GPC are usually known as Russia and China. The National Defense Strategy currently pushes for a large investment in the weapons systems that will assist the U.S. in meeting this threat.

However, the GPC will very likely be waged below the threshold of general war. To some this means a return to or increase in political warfare. SOF will play a role in both types of conflict: general war and below the threshold competition.

Definition of GPC

The world order of today is increasing viewed as competition between the United States and several major powers. At the top of the list are Russia and China - two nations with who we compete for spheres of influence throughout the world.

References on GPC

USASOC, Army Special Operations Forces Strategy, October 2019. This document aligns Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) to the 2018 National Defense Strategy focus on GPC.

USASOC, SOF Support to Political Warfare White Paper, United States Army Special Operations Command, March 10, 2015.

Papers on GPC

Ferenzi, Steve, "Proxy Warfare on the Roof of the World: Great Power Competition Lessons from Tibet", Interagency Journal Vol. 11, No. 1, 2020. This case study offers lessons for future proxy engagements in establishing mechanisms that facilitate proper proxy selection, mitigate deviation from sponsor goals, and optimize proxy capabilities. The paper can be applied to ARSOF activities today.

Meredith, Dr. Spencer, SOF Paradigm in Great Power Competition, NSI, October 2019, 46 pages. This report features guest articles from several members of the SOF community who currently work for SOCEUR, NDU, USASOC, and other organizations.

Articles on GPC

October 12, 2019. "How to Win an Asymmetric War in the Era of Special Forces", The National Interest. This article focuses on ARSOF in competition below armed conflict.





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