The horrifying rate of arms modernization in Russia and China poses a formidable challenge to the U.S. military. The U.S. has enjoyed global military superiority since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Moscow and Beijing, which are rapidly growing their military might by the day, are now officially a major threat to the U.S. military, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has concluded.
U.S. naval, air, land and space capabilities have been unmatched since the end of the Cold War, but not anymore. Beijing and Moscow are inching closer to developing a strategic military advantages over the Pentagon. While it has taken Washington decades to build certain defense technologies, Beijing and Moscow have made enviable advances in multiple areas – such as air defense, stealth fighters and advanced long-range air-to-air missiles – much faster than the Pentagon predicted.
Russia and China outsmart the U.S.
Despite the horrifying and rapid rate of weapons modernization in Russia and China, the U.S. still outspends both on defense. The Pentagon’s military budget stands at about $600 billion, which is about three times more than China’s defense budget and more than six times more than Russia’s.
However, the biggest problem with U.S. military spending is that much of it goes to sponsoring the nation’s overseas military operations, including the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East and about $150 billion annually to maintain the 800 U.S. military bases in more than 160 countries around the world.
The focus of China’s and Russia’s military spending, meanwhile, is arms modernization. Much of Beijing’s and Moscow’s defense budgets is aimed at improving defense technologies, enhancing the efficiency of their armies and boosting the overall performance of their military powers.
Russia’s and China’s thrilling military progress
Both Russia and China have grown their military might rather impressively and significantly over the past two decades. In addition to improving in such areas as air defense, stealth aircraft and long-range air-to-air missiles, both Moscow and Beijing have also substantially boosted their capabilities in electronic warfare, ballistic missiles, naval vessels and space capabilities.
Although the U.S. does still have a significant naval advantage over Russia and China, the objectives of both Moscow and Beijing are quite different from those of Washington. While America’s goal is to ensure freedom of navigation and exert global control on the seas, China is focused on dominating its neighboring seas in the Asia-Pacific region, and that naval strategy works out pretty well for Beijing.
“China doesn’t need to reach parity with U.S. capabilities to pose a major threat, they just have to be ‘good enough’ — and they will be there soon, if they are not already,” according to Harry Krejsa, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security.
How long before Russia or China beat U.S. militarily?
Military experts seem to agree that when developing new weapons and defense systems, both Russia and China aim to disrupt U.S. logistics and communications. Beijing poses the most formidable threat to the U.S. military due to its advanced anti-ship and ballistic missiles and its state-of-the-art air-to-air weapons that will “make the air environment more difficult for the F-35 and supporting aircraft,” according to researchers at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Moscow, meanwhile, is focused on undermining U.S. military capabilities in Europe and Asia. In order to do that, Russia has substantially improved its nuclear weapons and modernized its offensive capabilities to be able to match and outsmart U.S. missile defense systems.
In addition to its rapid progress in the development of nuclear weapons and precision cruise missiles, Moscow has a slight edge in tank power. Russia’s Armata-based T-14 Main Battle Tank, which is often branded as the “revolutionary” tank, is also a reason for the Pentagon to be concerned.
Russia and China stepping up arms race amid Trump presidency
The arms race between the U.S., Russia and China is driven by their military spending. Although Washington spends six times more on its military than Moscow, the Kremlin spent approximately 5% of its GDP on defense in 2015, as opposed to the U.S. spending 3.3% of its GDP, according to a recent report published by the World Bank.
Most notably, Russia continues to allocate large shares of its GDP on improving its army and military hardware despite the economic crisis driven by economic sanctions imposed on it by the West in the wake of its provocative actions in eastern Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2013.
China, meanwhile, spent 2% of its GDP on its military in 2015, which is quite impressive for an economy worth over $11 trillion. U.S. President Donald Trump, who assumed office on January 20, has made numerous pledges to start spending more on America’s defense starting this year. Experts predict that under Trump, the U.S. defense budget will grow by another 10%.
China was quick to react to Trump’s pledges to substantially increase military spending and his anti-China rhetoric during the election campaign. Beijing recently promised to increase its defense budget by another 7% this year.
Chilling threat to U.S. from Russia and China’s military cooperation
America’s fears for its global military superiority are spurred not only by the heated efforts of Russia and China to modernize their arms separately but also their growing military cooperation. The new U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report indicates that warm military ties between the two nations are hurting America’s global military dominance.
The report concluded that the increased frequency and complexity of military drills and boosted defense trade between Russia and China have created a number of challenges for the U.S. and its allies around the world. Since 2003, Russia and China have carried out 25 bilateral military drills. Moscow and Beijing have significantly stepped up their military cooperation since the heated tensions between Russia and the West erupted in 2014.
Russia’s isolation from the West prompted the Kremlin to seek closer military ties with Beijing. As a result, the U.S. and its Western allies have ended up facing a great military threat from the large-scale military cooperation between Russia and China.