U.S., Chinese, and Russian overseas military bases have become an important element of geostrategic competition.

Base of the U.N. mostly U.S. Marine Forces in Somalia was built on an abandoned Soviet airfield in Mogadishu. Had a wall of shipping containers upper right to thwart random sniper fire. Feb. 25 1993.

U.S., Chinese, and Russian overseas military bases have become an important element of geostrategic competition. In particular, the efforts of great powers to establish overseas bases reveal the geographic parameters of their intent to project power and influence. The varied concentrations of military presence and posture in different regions, and the wide functional differences between platforms used for power projection – from traditional bases to commercial ports – recommend a regional and comparative analysis of overseas basing.

To address the questions that arise regarding this issue, the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies with support from the Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology, hosted a project on “Geostrategic competition and U.S., Chinese, and Russian overseas basing.” The nine policy briefs produced from the project address the following points:

  • Potential motives for recent and future basing developments.
  • Challenges and risks posed by either Chinese and/or Russian bases to U.S. regional strategy and force posture.
  • Policy recommendations for U.S. responses to geostrategic competition and the costs, risks, and opportunities offered by existing or new U.S. bases and base access agreements.

Geostrategic competition and overseas basing in East Asia and the First Island Chain

Handout photo dated October 13, 2021 shows Adm. John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, arrives at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The United States and the Philippines on Thursday announced plans to expand America's military presence in the Southeast Asian nation, with access to four more bases as they seek to deter China’s increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea. The agreement was reached as US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in the country for talks about deploying US forces and weapons in more Philippine military camps. U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Pawel Puczko via ABACAPRESS.COM

Authors: Michael E. O’Hanlon, Andrew Yeo

Although the DOD has been simultaneously criticized for being too ambitious or doing too little to address U.S. force posture, geostrategic competition with China dictates prudence in making any major changes to overseas basing in East Asia.

Great power competition and overseas basing in the Arctic

Dutch Marines stand in front of a jet, during the visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a base, as part of a military exercise called "Cold Response 2022", gathering around 30,000 troops from NATO member countries plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bardufoss in the Arctic Circle, Norway, March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Authors: Jeremy Greenwood

The Arctic remains a sphere of geopolitical competition between the great powers, making basing arrangements a natural part of their strategic planning.

Overseas basing logistics at a crossroads in the Middle East, sub-Sahara Africa, and the western Indian Ocean

A U.S. Marine takes photographs as a South Korean army's K-55 self-propelled artillery vehicle gets out of a barge during the Combined Joint Logistics Over The Shore (CJLOTS) exercise, at a seashore in Taean, South Korea, July 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Authors: Jason Wolff

In the Middle East, sub-Sahara Africa, and the western Indian Ocean, meeting the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy objectives are at a crossroads.

International ordering and great power competition: Lessons from Central Asia

Russian, Kazakh and Belarusian service members line up during military drills carried out by the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) at the Harb-Maidon training ground, located near the Tajik-Afghan border in the Khatlon region, Tajikistan October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Didor Sadulloev

Authors: Alexander Cooley

In Central Asia, revisionist efforts are challenging regional U.S. leadership and undermining its capacity to establish overseas bases and access.

Europe’s new maritime security reality: Chinese ports, Russian bases, and the rise of subsea warfare

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a welcoming ceremony as he inspects the Vice-Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine warfare ship in Novorossiysk, September 23, 2014. Russia will increase its Black Sea fleet by 2020 with more than 80 new warships and will complete a second naval base for the fleet near the city of Novorossiysk by 2016, its commander said on Tuesday. In comments made to Putin as he visited the port city, Vice Admiral Alexander Vitko said a second Black Sea base was needed in addition to the main base on the Crimea peninsula annexed from Ukraine because of NATO expansion. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY MARITIME) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Authors: Geoffrey F. Gresh

Over the past decade, China and Russia have transformed Europe’s maritime security seascape through their military basing access and port investments across maritime Europe — from the Baltic and Black Seas to the Mediterranean.

Strategic competition and basing in Central and Eastern Europe

U.S. soldiers carry flags of both Poland and the United States during the opening ceremony of the first United States Air Force (USAF) aviation detachment in Poland, at an air force base in Lask near Lodz, central Poland, November 9, 2012. The United States launched its first permanent military presence on Polish soil on Friday, an air force detachment to service warplanes, in a move long sought by its NATO ally Warsaw. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND  - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)

Authors: Emily J. Holland

Defending Europe and maintaining trans-Atlantic unity are critical tasks for Washington that will likely require greater sustained troop presence in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as careful alliance management.

Geostrategic competition for military basing in the Indian Ocean region

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy take part in a ceremony as a replenishment ship sets sail to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, from a naval port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China September 3, 2020. Picture taken September 3, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

Authors: Isaac B. Kardon

Military basing and access across the Indian Ocean region is an important – and asymmetric – object of strategic competition in the contemporary international security environment.

Temperatures rising: The struggle for bases and access in the Pacific Islands

Republic of Singapore Navy guided-missile frigate RSS Tenacious arrives in preparation for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, U.S. June 25, 2018. Picture taken June 25, 2018.  U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Abrams/Handout via REUTERS.     ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

Authors: Bruce Jones

The Pacific island clusters of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia share a geopolitical reality: they lie in the main space that separates the world’s two biggest powers.

Strategic competition for overseas basing in sub-Saharan Africa

A navy soldier (L) of People's Liberation Army (PLA) stands guard as Chinese citizens board the naval ship "Linyi" at a port in Aden, March 29, 2015. China's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday its warships had completed an evacuation of Chinese nationals from Yemen, with more than 570 people safely transported across the Red Sea to Djibouti to be flown home. The Chinese characters on the banner read, welcome Chinese compatriots on board. Picture taken March 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer  CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

Authors: Dawn C. Murphy

In recent years, U.S. concerns about Chinese and Russian basing in sub-Saharan Africa have grown, largely owing to the two countries’ increased desire to project power and influence globally.