China and Russia’s nuclear ambitions make America vulnerable
The United States faces two serious and relatively immediate military threats, one from the east and the other from the west. Russia is massing troops and weaponry on Ukraine’s eastern border while China is moving ships and fighter jets into the defense zone around Taiwan. The two rogue nations claim that they are only defending themselves, in the case of Russia, against hostility from Ukraine and the Baltic states and, in the case of China, Taiwan, Japan and the states. -United.
However, the handling of these twin threats leaves much to be desired. The central misconception is that while China and Russia view their military capabilities as serving aggressive objectives, this salient fact is sadly often overlooked due to the way situations are portrayed here in the United States, Europe and Asia.
For example, Russia and China are consistently described as modernizing their conventional and nuclear “deterrence”. For most Americans, a US-acquired deterrent is to stop the bad guys from doing bad things. Deterrence is not designed to be used by the United States to seize territory or intimidate free and peaceful nations.
For Russia and China, their military capabilities are only a part of their overall military, political and economic arsenal, mainly to serve aggressive objectives where Moscow and Beijing seek more territory or hegemonic military and political authority. Taiwan and Ukraine, for example, pose no security threat to anyone, let alone China and Russia. The armed forces also lack the capacity for external aggression, and compared to their immediate adversaries, their armed forces are simply no match, however capable they may be.
Taiwan is looking for friends such as the United States and its Pacific allies. Ukraine is also seeking allies in Europe and the United States and has been discussing NATO membership for several years. But both are not looking for additional territory and are not and have never been seizing territories over which they have no sovereignty.
Stephen Blank, one of the top Russian American experts, explains Russia’s mindset by noting Catherine the Great, the last Empress of Russia, was asked how she viewed the security of Russia’s borders. His response was “I have no way to defend my country except to expand its borders.” Henry Kissinger once commented on the long-held conventional wisdom that at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s sense of being “surrounded” by US military bases was understandable, albeit strange coming from a country that included fifteen time zones!
For China, Xi Jinping believes China is destined to be the ruler of the world to which all other nations should bow. It is not as if China has been given global military and political leadership like the United States has done after its heroic fight to win World War II and save the world from Japanese imperialism and the United States. Nazi genocide. No, China has seized power, mainly economic, through criminal measures such as currency manipulation, debt trap diplomacy, illegal business activities, the pricing of slave labor, and global economic coercion, tragically facilitated by elements of the industrial world which were ready to welcome the Chinese. economic imperialism.
China is now dramatically increasing its military capacity, in an accumulation that the US commander of Strategic Command has called Staggering. China is also well on its way to having the world’s largest navy and a veritable nuclear triad of bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
But China’s military capability is no deterrent in the way Americans and their allies view deterrence. China seeks to use its military in a coercive manner, where China can bypass the nations it wants to punish. Beijing seeks, as the great military philosopher Sun Tzu wrote, to win a war without the other guy even trying to fight.
Indeed, at a minimum, China is increasing its nuclear forces three to five times higher (depending on the number of nuclear forces that China is thought to currently have). US intelligence sources believe China will have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030. Other high-level analysts believe that number will likely reach 2,500 by 2030 – or sooner – because the Chinese will quickly build warheads. silos and missiles. As for Russia, Moscow currently has twenty-one new types of nuclear systems under deployment or development and can add thousands of warheads to its current nuclear arsenal, more than half of which exist outside the limits imposed by the Russian Federation. new START treaty of 2010, recently extended for another five years.
Like Brad roberts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and General John Hyten, the recently retired Vice President of the Joint Chiefs, both told the country that the Russians (and Chinese) adopted a strategy of escalation to win, where they would threaten to use a limited number of nuclear strikes, in a regional conflict over Ukraine or Taiwan, to force the United States and its allies not to intervene in the conflict and to come to their aid.
Thus, Moscow and Beijing see deterrence as a tool for Stop for the United States to act defensively while allowing Moscow and Beijing to act offensively in pursuit of hegemonic goals. Vladimir Putin wants to recreate the Soviet empire in countries that were once part of the USSR because, as US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul Explain, he fears that their push for democracy could ignite a similar prairie fire in Russia itself. China, too, sees Taiwan’s representative government as striking at the heart of the Chinese Communist Party’s illegitimacy, especially as the Chinese Communist Party seeks to be the only key power in the Western Pacific and ultimately the entire world.
But more importantly, every country – Russia and China – is looking to change international rules. The postwar rulebook was indeed created in large part thanks to American leadership. And while such rules have benefited the United States, they also greatly benefit more than 100 other countries around the world where more freedom and prosperity have emerged in the many decades after 1945 than at any time in the world. world history. The rules that Russia and China wish to live by would of course benefit Moscow and Beijing, but not benefit any other nation except those that have accepted serf status.
The United States thus approaches a new window of vulnerability in the current decade, as it scales down some of its legacy military systems to generate the research and development dollars needed to adopt innovative technologies. While this gap will close by the end of the current decade, challenges remain in the interim.
In addition, the United States has serious difficulties in adopting an “on-time” defense budget, which means that new projects are halted, new spending required for acquisitions is slow, and planning within the Department of Defense is slow. Defense and industry is truncated. Not only does this undermine U.S. defense planning, it also undermines efforts by U.S. allies to purchase modern U.S. military equipment and gain U.S. military support. For example, the United States will not be able to take advantage of the $ 30 billion in additional defense spending that was recently passed by the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act until mid-2022.
The upcoming US National Security Review has an opportunity to address some of these issues. The United States should embrace a strong air and missile defense initiative – technology that we are capable of deploying but have not determined to be compatible with strategic and regional stability – as a critical counterattack for the United States. limited nuclear strike threats from Russia and China. Added to this is the key requirement to get US allies to significantly improve their own military capabilities. The United States has a fairly understandable future roadmap that it must follow, although time will tell if policymakers have the foresight to pursue it.
Peter Huessy is Founder and President of GeoStrategic Analysis of Potomac, Maryland.