Americans must elect the candidate for president best suited to face the greatest geopolitical threat since the end of the Cold War.
Most Americans are myopically focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus’ economic impact and the political divisions gripping the country. However, looming over the geopolitical horizon is a true existential threat. Russia and China are entertaining the idea of forming a military alliance to defeat the United States.
The relationship between Moscow and Beijing is maturing in a way that could seriously threaten Washington, something I warn about in my 2018 book, Alliance of Evil. In that book I outline 16 indicators of a new cold war with China and Russia such as ideological (like election interference), increased espionage (like significant cyber intrusions), and increased military confrontations and a growing nuclear threat. Each of these indicators are evident today, posing a true existential danger for the nation and a defining challenge for the next American president.
A hint of that emergent danger came last Thursday from Russian President Vladimir Putin who warned of a possible military alliance against America. When Putin was asked during a conference with foreign policy experts whether a Moscow-Beijing military union was possible, the Russian leader said “We don’t need it, but, theoretically, it’s quite possible to imagine it.”[i] There is growing evidence that alliance is more than theoretical.
Even though Putin dismissed talk of forming an immediate Russia-China military union he did call-out for his foreign policy audience recent war games the two nations held that demonstrates cooperation. Further the Russian president admitted “without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” a move that accelerates Beijing’s military modernization. Will that relationship become a formal alliance? Putin added, “Time will show how it will develop. We won’t exclude it.”[ii]
The Pentagon’s 2020 annual report to congress on China’s military speculates about a possible formal Moscow-Beijing military alliance. The report labels the current China-Russia relationship as a “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in a new era.” The Pentagon then identifies a variety of telling cooperative efforts between the countries: combined air patrols in the Asia-Pacific region, China’s participation in a Russian strategic command and staff exercise, TSENTR-2019; as well as joint defense technology development, exercises, and cooperation on military modernization.[iii]
A sobering fact is a Russia and China military alliance would tip the military scales against the United States. Further, the incentives for those countries to align is significant: both experience escalating tensions with the West thanks to geopolitical strains related to the pandemic, Washington’s economic sanctions imposed on both nations, stalled nuclear talks and flash points like Ukraine, the South China Sea and Taiwan. Besides, Russia offers military technologies, access to energy and a big landmass which are important to Beijing’s globalists.
Even military-on-military confrontations between the sides are a significant indicator of rising tensions, pushing China-Russia together. However, just as significant but less obvious are a host of indirect and asymmetric approaches between the sides. Russia and China deploy mercenaries like in Syria and Libya, use misinformation and political means to undermine the U.S. and much of the West. Meanwhile, the arms race is very real as evidenced by China which has the world’s largest navy with 350 combatant vessels and a rapidly increasing dual-use posture thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative which is gobbling up facilities across the globe.
A brief comparison of military capabilities soberly demonstrates the potential disparity. A Beijing-Moscow alliance has 57% more soldiers, 65% more warships and 10% more nukes than the United States. Yes, in some areas the U.S. has a temporary technological advantage, which the Chinese seek to steal at every turn. Also, don’t be fooled by America’s higher defense spending. Much of the difference funds America’s expensive volunteer forces as opposed to the cheaper Russian, Chinese conscription forces. Besides, Beijing and Moscow hide much military spending behind the veil of government secrecy.
It is true the U.S. has a significant advantage in aircraft – 13,264 compared to the combined 7,373 for China, Russia. However, as the Pentagon’s 2020 report indicates, and this is sobering, China counters that advantage with perhaps the “world’s largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems – including Russian-built S-400s, S-300s, and domestically produced systems – that constitute part of its robust and redundant integrated air defense system architecture.”[iv]
There is also a significant disparity between the sides in terms of aircraft carriers, which are important for projecting power worldwide. However, as the Pentagon report illustrates, China leads the U.S. with its anti-access arsenal of conventional ballistic and cruise missiles that put at risk our aircraft carriers. China, according to the Pentagon report, leads the world in such weapons followed by Russia.[v]
Soberly there are no emergent military technological areas not being contested between the “alliance” and the West. The military application of drones, artificial intelligence, armed outer space platforms, intelligence-gathering systems, swarm capabilities, nuclear delivery systems, anti-satellite systems and the well-publicized hypersonic delivery platforms - all contribute to the revolution in modern warfare and a true arms race.
Does the possible military alliance of Russia and China portend a new world order, much less a third world war? Perhaps. However, for now both adversaries are using irregular operations short of hot conflicts to position themselves for a future confrontation and meanwhile, they are rapidly modernizing their arsenals.
The reality of a possible existential confrontation between the U.S. and the emergent much-larger “alliance” of China and Russia makes next week’s election for president especially important. Voters must decide which man is best qualified to lead this nation against the most important security challenge since the Cold War.
We know that President Donald Trump is tough on both Beijing and Moscow on a host of national security-related fronts as well as economic, cyber, and human rights issues. By contrast we also know that former Vice President Joe Biden has been dismissive of the China threat.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Mr. Biden told an Iowa city gathering in 2019. He explained that concerns that China could eventually surpass the U.S. as a global power were overstated.[vi] Arguably Mr. Biden isn’t up to the task of confronting the emergent China-Russia threat. Besides, two-thirds of Americans have “unfavorable views” of China, which means Chinese appeasing candidates be warned.[vii]
Mr. Trump’s record on both Russia and China identifies him as the stronger candidate to lead the nation against the emergent Alliance of Evil.
Robert Maginnis is a retired U.S. Army officer and the author of seven books to include Alliance of Evil: Russia, China, the United States and a New Cold War.