In 2011, James Clapper, President Obama’s director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia and China pose “the greatest deadly threat” to the United States because of their nuclear capabilities.
Although he also said that neither had expressed any intention to use these capabilities against the United States at the time, several Democratic senators expressed concern over Clapper and Lindsay Graham’s characterization of the threat. (RS.C.) said he should resign.
Obama’s policies were closely aligned with the committee members’ more relaxed view of the two countries’ relationship with the United States. Trump and Biden’s foreign policy teams, by contrast, shared the increasingly dire assessment of China and Russia.
Last week, the Biden administration’s Department of Defense released its National Defense Strategy (NDS), delayed by the war in Ukraine, along with the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Missile Defense Review. (LOL). Like the earlier National Security Strategy (NSS), the documents place China at the top of the list of security threats facing the United States, followed closely by Russia.
“The PRC presents the largest and most systemic challenge, while Russia poses an acute threat – both to vital U.S. national interests abroad and to the homeland,” the NDS says of of the People’s Republic of China.
The document, however, fails to understand the extent to which Sino-Russian collaboration compounds the threat that either poses in itself. He is entirely silent on the nascent security alliance forged by the two US adversaries.
Diplomatically and politically, Russia and China have been the corrosive evil twins at the United Nations for decades. They have used their veto power in the Security Council not only to protect themselves and each other from the consequences of their multiple violations of the United Nations Charter and international law, but also to block or weaken Western sanctions against other global outlaws such as North Korea and Iran.
In recent years, their cooperation has shifted to the security domain, with China participating in a number of Russian war games and joint military exercises simulating each other’s defensive capabilities.
Then last February, just weeks before Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met at the opening of the Beijing Olympics and released a ” Joint Declaration on International Relations Entering a New Era”.
In an apparent response to President Biden’s proclamation of global competition between democracies and autocracies, they claimed the democratic mantle for themselves. “The parties share the understanding that democracy is a universal human value, rather than a privilege of a limited number of states.”
But the “limitless strategic partnership” they announced amounted to the declaration of a new cold war between the two autocracies and the Western-led international order. They have implicitly repudiated the United Nations documents that enshrine this universality, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the two countries have signed.
According to their definition of “universal”, each government or regime manages to proclaim itself democratic by its own whims. Xi and Putin claimed, “It is up to the people of the country to decide whether their state is democratic.”
Their common motive for rejecting anything approaching an objective standard became abundantly clear when the Chinese perpetrator of the genocide in Xinjiang and the Russian war criminal in Ukraine jointly declared: “The parties… oppose the ‘abuse of democratic values and interference in internal affairs under the pretext of protecting democracy and human rights’.
The joint statement also clarified how the “democratic value” they envision should be applied to situations in their respective regions, where they expressed mutual support.
From Xi to Putin: “The parties oppose further NATO enlargement and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideologized Cold War approaches… Russia and China oppose color revolutions.” (Ukraine’s “orange revolution” took place in 2004.)
From Putin to Xi: “The Russian side reaffirms its support for the one-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any form of Taiwan independence.”
The statement further read: “The parties oppose the formation of closed bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region and remain highly vigilant of the negative impact of the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy. United on peace and stability in the region. ”
In the months since the Xi-Putin meeting and joint statement, Sino-Russian security relations have deepened, even as Beijing has managed to continue funding Russia’s war against Ukraine without violating US sanctions. .
The sanctions loophole China discovered was the same one it successfully exploited with North Korea’s coal exports – exponentially increasing its purchases of Russian oil, which is not covered by sanctions , compared to pre-war levels. (Sanctions regimes clearly need to be strengthened by establishing a baseline of third-party export purchases from sanctioned countries, for example, at the average level of the previous five years.)
In September, Russia and China held their 17th meeting on strategic cooperation. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev met with senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Fujian and said, “Developing a strategic partnership with China is an unconditional priority of Russian foreign policy. The parties agreed to continue military cooperation with emphasis on joint exercises and patrols, as well as strengthening contacts between the staffs.
While Yang carefully avoided mentioning Ukraine, Patrushev said, “The Russian side takes a firm stand on the one-China principle and firmly supports the measures taken by the Chinese government to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity territory on the question of Taiwan.
Even at their September meeting in Uzbekistan, when Xi expressed “questions and concerns” about how the war in Ukraine was unfolding, Xi pledged to “work with Russia to extend strong mutual support on matters concerning the fundamental interests of each”, i.e. Ukraine. and Taiwan.
The NDS declares Washington’s intent to “work seamlessly across the spheres of warfare, theaters, the spectrum of conflict, all instruments of American national power, and our web of alliances and partnerships.” If there are simultaneous challenges in multiple theaters – which seems to be what China and Russia are planning, with the malign participation of North Korea and Iran – this again raises the commitment of the states- United towards a “two-theater” combat capability.
Given the scale of the challenge and the limits of available resources, America’s “network of alliances and partnerships” had better be prepared to step up and do its part. Nothing less than the fate of Western civilization is at stake.
Joseph Bosco was China Country Director for the Secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and Asia-Pacific Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief from 2009 to 2010. He served in the Pentagon when Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and was involved in the Department of Defense. discussions on the American response. Follow him on Twitter @BoscoJosephA.