Thursday, December 19, 2013

Implications of a Russia/China Axis

At The Diplomat, J. Michael Cole has a post that argues that increased Chinese and Russian aggressiveness, together with greater cooperation, is effectively countering U.S. military power:

A substantial amount of attention has been paid to China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, with the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) serving as one of its principal components, and to which we can now perhaps add the ADIZ. Less, however, has been said of Russia’s ongoing efforts to keep the U.S. out of its backyard. It is interesting to note that two weeks after China’s ADIZ announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting top military officers, stated that Russia would bolster its presence in the potentially resource-rich Arctic. Earlier that month and a little more than a week after China sprung its ADIZ surprise, the Russian navy announced that the Arctic would be its priority in 2014. As The Diplomat reported earlier this month, Russia is currently deploying aerospace defense and electronic warfare units to the area, and is now building a comprehensive early-warning missile radar system near Vorkuta in the extreme north, among other developments.
.  .  . 

There are questions over whether Washington can afford to substantially increase defense spending without bankrupting the country. It will find itself unable to counter both a resurgent China in East and Southeast Asia, where it has been speculated that China could eventually announce a second ADIZ, and a more muscular Russian presence in the Arctic and near the Baltic states. Either the U.S. will focus on one, or it will attempt to meet all contingencies, but do so with less-than optimal resources. With Washington feeling it has little choice but to choose the latter course of action, China and Russia will both benefit by confronting a diffuse and distracted opponent or succeed in breaking the U.S.’s back by forcing it to overspend — unless other countries like Japan and NATO members agree to greatly expand their defense spending, which appears unlikely. Furthermore, there are also doubts about whether the Japanese would agree to constitutional changes of the sort that would allow for military burden sharing of the type envisaged here.

Whether the U.S. has a “right” to be an actor in what Russia and China consider as their backyard is a question we’d better seek to answer elsewhere. But what is clear is that a weakened U.S., whose ability to meet the challenge of China’s “rise” is already very much in doubt, now seems on the brink of facing a multi-pronged challenge from a Sino-Russian axis that, if it is to be countered effectively, will require a number of “pivots.”
Read it all here.  Given that the U.S. spent a greater percentage of its GDP on military spending during the Cold War, the notion that the U.S. would be bankrupt from the China-Russia access seems far-fetched.  Even more fundamentally, Cole ignores the fact that the U.S. has, for decades, been a global power responding to threats across the globe.  There is really nothing new here.

What is true, however, is this--the current focus in defeating China's Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy (and that of Russia and other countries as well) can be very expensive ands perhaps unaffordable.  The problem demands new creative thinking on how best to address a strategy for engaging conflict against a foe with a A2/AD strategy.  Do we assert pain by other means, such as a blockade?  Is it sufficient to play defense in such a conflict?

Any deep thinkers out there?

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