A United States flag on a building against a sky back drop. (Nick Shuliahin)
A United States flag on a building against a sky back drop.

Nick Shuliahin



January 19, 2023

The United States of America is often seen as the most powerful nation on earth. There are concerns, though, that the influence the U.S. holds around the world is in decline.


 What makes the United States of America so powerful? First, its economy is the largest in terms of GDP (gross domestic product). According to the World Bank, the United States had a GDP of $23 trillion in 2021. In the same year, China had a GDP of $17.73 trillion, which is $5.27 trillion less than the U.S. This is evidence that the economic power of the United States is unmatched. 


The economic strength that the United States possesses has allowed it to build up a military second to none. The U.S. plans to budget an estimated $800 billion on military spending this year, which is more than the next nine countries combined. This spending goes towards many things like new defense technology, supporting countries such as Ukraine during times of war, and maintaining the roughly 750 foreign bases the U.S. operates. 


 The other notable strength that the United States possesses is foreign influence. The U.S. is part of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This is an intergovernmental military alliance, and its mission is to “safeguard the allies freedom and security by political and military means.” Additionally, the United States spends the most money on foreign aid with the total coming in at $29.4 billion this year. Giving money to foreign nations through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allows the U.S. to build and maintain favorable relationships. 


With all of these strengths, you would think that the United States would be an unquestionable superpower, but people are starting to think that will only last so long. According to a study done by the PEW Research Center, 47% of Americans say that the United States’s influence around the world is waning. Only one in five Americans think that influence is getting stronger, and two-thirds of Americans think that China’s influence is getting stronger. 


Challenges to American influence come from a variety of places. The most urgent challenge is the chaos that festers within our own country. Politics become more polarizing every day, and government officials are continuously sparring on T.V. and social media. According to a study done by Brown University, the United States is polarizing faster than other democracies, which is a grave problem. This threatens the democratic foundation of our country, and this is what leads people to label the United States as a “backsliding democracy.” If we cannot keep our own house in order, how are we to stay strong on the world stage?


The other great challenge to American influence is large nations like Russia and China attempting to create a “new world order.” This means that they are trying to take the lead in foreign influence, replacing the United States. China has ramped up foreign investment in areas such as infrastructure and education, creating relationships with countries that could threaten U.S. strategic interests. China has also increased threats to invade Taiwan, claiming that it is part of their territory. Russia is also increasing threats, but they are actually acting on them. The invasion of Ukraine was likely an attempt by Russia to build up territory, weaken NATO, and gain more influence in Europe. 


So, what can the United States do to protect its foreign influence and global power? The first step is to make sure that the military is stronger than other nations’ militaries. This is challenging, though, because military spending is already at an all time high and an increasing number of American citizens do not like that. The second step to protecting our foreign influence is to not get complacent and continue building relationships with other nations. If we get too comfortable with being the most powerful, we will underestimate the determination of larger countries. We need to keep our foreign relations strong and stable. 


There is a quote: “All empires fall eventually.” Will the United States be an exception, or will it succumb to the fate of most other empires?

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