Admiral James Stavridis on How the U.S. Can Address Geopolitical Issues

Ret. Admiral James Stavridis discusses international issues the United States faces with various nations including China and Russia.


Air Date: January 26, 2022

Moderator: Myron Brilliant, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), Vice Chair, Global Affairs and Managing Director, The Carlyle Group

With the way global powers have been shifting in recent years, it's likely that the geopolitical landscape will look quite different in the near future. And if major international issues are not addressed and resolved, that future could be a stark one.

That’s the message Retired Admiral James Stavridis tries to convey in his recent book, "2034: A Novel of the Next World War," a work of cautionary fiction that shows how the loss of control can escalate to global conflict.

The U.S. Chamber recently spoke with Admiral Stavridis during an InSTEP Discussion on today's most pressing global issues and how the United States must address them to prevent potential conflicts such as the ones described in his book.

The United States' Position in the World

At this point in time, Admiral Stavridis does still believe the U.S. is an indispensable nation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

“If you look at the hand of cards that this nation holds, I don't think any other country would hesitate to switch with us,” said Admiral Stavridis. “We have vast land area [and] a young dynamic population. We're not looking at the kind of demographic failures we're seeing in parts of Europe and, most notably, in China.”

However, Admiral Stavridis did caution against the current polarization the country is experiencing today. He warned that the political parties need to work across the aisle in order to keep our country’s “superpower” status.

“What I'm hoping for and what I look for is unity between the two parties,” he said. “I hope we can come together on these big foreign policy issues. If we can speak as a unified nation, I think America will continue to be an indispensable nation.”

How the United States Addresses Russia and Ukraine Is Essential

When he was an active member of the United States military, Admiral Stavridis studied the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Having been a part of the response to this conflict for decades, he explained a few important nuances about the situation between the two countries.

“No. 1 is Vladimir Putin himself: his frustrations, his anger, his bitterness [over] the collapse of the Soviet Union,” said Admiral Stavridis. “Putin is … thinking, ‘How am I going to recreate some semblance of that old Soviet Union around the periphery of Russia?’”

“[Putin is] playing to a regional audience … but he's also playing to China [and] Iran,” he continued. “He seeks to divide us here in the United States [and] to divide the NATO Alliance.”

Admiral Stavridis believes that the United States and other countries need to consider “targeted sanctions” against members of the Russian government as well as economic sanctions against oil and gas. He also suggested further assessing the capabilities of the Ukrainian military.

China Is a Strategic Challenge for the U.S.

Admiral Stavridis noted that the United States will continue to be a strategic competitor with China in future decades. Therefore, we need a plan to mitigate hot-button issues, he said. Otherwise, China could overtake the U.S. as a global power.

“We need a plan and it needs bipartisanship,” said Admiral Stavridis. “It's got to have a tech component, where we are [fairly] competing in the race for artificial intelligence. It needs a business tariff component that finds a way to better balance and trade between the two nations, … a military component where we can deter China, … and a values-based component.”