Over the last two decades, a number of countries (most notably China, Russia and Iran) have been developing so-called anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, such as ballistic and cruise missiles, offensive cyber-weapons, electronic warfare, etc. The development of A2/AD capabilities by non-Western countries undermines the foundations of US power projection and global military-technological supremacy. In order to overcome, or at least mitigate, the impending A2/AD challenge, the US Department of Defense (DoD) began to roll out its so-called ‘third’ offset strategy in late 2014. The strategy aims to bring about innovative operational concepts and technologies and spur new doctrinal and organisational debates. This article assesses which of the operational concepts and capabilities informing current US discussions on offset may be relevant in the context of the A2/AD challenges Europeans face on their eastern ‘flank‘ and in their ‘extended southern neighbourhood‘, and which may not. Europeans must grapple with the same conceptual puzzle as the US: how to strike the right balance between defeating A2/AD capabilities and hedging against them, i.e. through alternative strategies that are less dependent on unhindered access and resort to asymmetric forms of warfare. However, they must take into account the geographical features of their eastern flank and extended southern neighbourhood, the level of technological maturity of their challengers, and their own military-technological prowess and political limitations. This suggests a somewhat different approach to offsetting A2/AD than that adopted by the US.
- Offset Strategy, Anti-access and Area Denial, NATO, Deterrence, Europe