The early political manoeuverings of the 21st century have been defined by an increasing conflict between Russia, China and the United States. The US has, of course, been the dominant power of the 20th century, and has been the largest economy on the planet for several decades. The unrivalled position of the United States as a world power has often led to the 20th century being described as the American century.
But while it is too early to assess the 21st century as inevitably being the Chinese century, it is nonetheless largely expected by economists and geopolitical analysts that the East Asian economic powerhouse will play a more prominent role in world affairs during the existing 100 year period.
Russia, China push for global power
With this in mind, both Russia and China have already pushed for greater inclusion in global economic institutions. The existing economic structure has governed the world in the post-Second World War period, particularly since the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944. The Bretton Woods Agreement was developed at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, from July 1 to July 22, 1944, and unquestionably paved the way for the United States’ global supremacy.
The Breton Woods Agreement led to the establishment of numerous global economic institutions, and these have been governed by an Anglo-American consensus ever since. It is notable that persons attending major global economic events and institutions have been almost entirely comprised from Europe and North America throughout this period.
This has led to accusations from the increasingly bullish and prominent Chinese government and society that the East Asian nation is disproportionately represented in the global economic system. Certainly this is not a viewpoint shared by the existing hierarchy of the United States, and Chinese and Russian representation in most major global institutions remains extremely limited.
With China and Russia craving a place at the top table, and demographics pointing to the legitimacy of this view, both nations have taken steps, at least rhetorically, in order to underline their new prominence in the world. According to the International Monetary Fund, China has now overtaken the United States as the largest economy on the planet, and even though some analysts disagree with this verdict, the inevitability of this is not seriously contested.
This has led China and Russia to be involved in the creation of the formalised BRICS group that provides a counterpoint to the dominant Anglo-American institutions. In particular, the BRICS nations have floated the idea of setting up their own central bank to oppose what is sometimes referred to as the Bank for International Settlements system.
China is also a particularly significant nation for the United States, as it is the largest holder of United States treasuries. While this suggests that there is something of a symbiotic relationship between the two nations – and this has recently been supported by the relatively harmonious cooperation of Russia, China and the United States over Iran – it also implies a certain power play.
With China holding such a large amount of US debt, the balance of power between the two nations hangs delicately. There is often economic disagreement among analysts regarding the consequences of this situation, but few dispute the fact that it plays a significant role in China-United States relations.
Russia, China, United States saber rattle
Considering the economic conflict that China, Russia and the United States are evidently engaged in, it is hardly surprisingly that there has also been military tension between the nations. The United States has condemned the actions of Russia in the Ukraine, and also indicated a keen interest in the South China Sea situation.
Considering that all three countries have been ramping up the propaganda rhetorically, it is clear that this needs to be backed up by military endeavors as well. So the military position of the three countries will be of keen interest to one another, and it is therefore significant that Russia is seemingly equipping itself with some military hardware that is beyond the existing scope of the United States.
According to reports, Russia has recently developed the BTR-82A; an 8×8 wheeled infantry fighting vehicles. This has been hailed by defence specialist as a fully-fledged combat vehicle, notable for its 2A72 30 mm chain gun. Other new features included in this revolutionary vehicle include a laser rangefinder.
The BTR-82A is a powerful vehcile, featuring an all-steel construction, which provides protection against machine gun fire and artillery splinters, improved protection against mines and IEDs, and amphibious capabilities. But the ripples created by the 30 mm automatic gun has been particularly felt in the United States.
The US establishment is reportedly concerned about the opinion of American military experts that Russia is now able to outgun the most important US military units. It is therefore suggested that the Stryker-equipped 2nd Cavalry Regiment needs to be upgraded rapidly.
The intelligence community indicates that the United States military is currently focusing on how to improve the combat efficiency of its IFVs, and could be accused of having dropped the ball somewhat with relation to armored vehicles. Meanwhile, Russia is testing modernized armored vehicles, and the revolutionary machinery produced by the nation is apparently capable of engaging enemy forces at any time of the day or night without any form of additional support.
Russia also boasts the BMP-3 amphibious IFV, featuring a powerful 100mm cannon and 30mm chain gun that is considered powerful enough to engage an entire NME Battalion single-handedly. This information implies that the armored vehicles produced by Russia are not merely ahead of their Western counterparts, but in fact that there is a significant chasm between the two.
Russia, US conflict to continue
As the economic, rhetorical and cyber warfare between the three nations continues to develop, every possible perceived advantage that either Russia, China or the United States can acquire will be considered of importance. The US will certainly be concerned about Russia’s apparent advantage in this field, and one can expect the United States military to respond by the development and production of similar vehicles in the near future.