American internationalism was born at sea. America has long been a maritime power and, since the end of World War II, the U.S. Navy has been the world’s dominant power on the high seas. American firms led the innovations of containerization that now dominate global trade, and U.S. institutions are the world leaders in the oceanographic sciences. Dominance of the high seas is a vital part of American grand strategy, and the stakes here are high: Most world trade moves by sea, as does about two-thirds of the world’s supply of oil and gas, and more than 90% of all data, via undersea cables. And oceanographic sciences form a vital plank in our understanding of climate change.
In each of these domains, the United States works closely with naval, industry, and science partners, especially in Europe and Asia. And for the past several decades, this has included China — now the largest shipbuilding nation in the world — a country whose ports dominate global trade flows and who is an increasingly important source of oceanographic sciences. But the context is rapidly changing — from the Black Sea to the Baltic and Barents Seas to the Western Pacific. New pressures on globalization and new sources of geopolitical tension pose potential challenges to sea-based cooperation and commerce alike.
On June 7, Brookings hosted a public event featuring the 32nd Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, President of CMA CGM America and American President Lines Peter Levesque, and Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Margaret Leinen for a discussion about what is at stake at sea, and where America’s maritime interests lie today.
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This event is part of our Seas and Strategy series.