Bold Leadership From the Biden Administration Is Needed to Counter the Sino-Russian Entente

CommentaryAs China and Russia move toward an entente in their relationship due to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s folly in Ukraine, the United States must consider its next steps to counter or adapt to the Sino-Russian relationship. Those actions require the proper policy guidance from White House and Pentagon national security strategy and defense strategy policy documents. There is little hope that the Biden administration will provide the policy guidance necessary to reflect the demands of the two-front war the United States now faces. The growing relationship between China and Russia is alarming for U.S. strategic interests. It is also a testament to Putin’s strategic malpractice, as the relationship provides far more potential benefits to China than to Russia. First, China will gain from continued joint exercises with the Russian military and technological cooperation, including space exploration. The West should anticipate greater alignment of the Chinese and Russian military space programs. Second, China will benefit from intelligence cooperation from the Russian intelligence services. Third, it will build upon Russia’s diplomacy, including its diplomatic presence in the Middle East, to advance China’s interests. Again, the confluence of Sino-Russian interests adversely impacts those of the United States. However, Beijing’s and Moscow’s competing influence in Central Asia will likely remain a source of tension in their relationship. Fourth, China will seek to employ the Russian military in essentially a mercenary role to fix Western attention on threats in Europe. The Russian military will compound Western strategic decision-making by generating a two-front major war problem for Western leaders. Moreover, for key allies like Japan, there is the concern that U.S. attention will be too centered on the security problems of Europe rather than on the Indo-Pacific for the duration of the war. The US Faces a Two-Front War Problem In particular, a major strategic problem generated by the military dimension of this entente is Chinese and Russian nuclear capability. The latter greatly complicates U.S. nuclear war planning and the ability of the United States to provide a credible extended deterrent to its allies. The numbers of deployed nuclear warheads matter. The Russian nuclear arsenal stands at about 1,500 deployed strategic warheads. Given the spiral in the Russo-American relationship as a result of the war, that number is sure to increase once strategic arms control limitations expire. The Chinese strategic arsenal has about 350 to 400 deployed strategic warheads. However, that number is certainly larger given China’s rapidly expanding arsenal. The revelation in the summer of 2021 of the expansion of China’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields at Hami, Yumen, and Hanggin Banner, near Ordos City in Inner Mongolia, for a total of about 350 to 400 ICBMs is more evidence of China’s growth of its strategic weapons and delivery systems. The expansion demonstrates China’s efforts to match and exceed the capabilities of the United States. Admiral Richard’s Repeated Warnings Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, warned Congress, the public, and U.S. allies that China is engaged in a strategic breakout. An implication is that China has abandoned its minimum deterrence posture, which allows it to threaten a peer competitor like the United States. China’s DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images) Richard has stated that the explosive growth and modernization of China’s nuclear and conventional forces may be described as breathtaking. A major consequence is that the great growth of China’s strategic nuclear capability enables the regime to have a plausible nuclear employment strategy. This allows the regime to use a coercion strategy against the United States and its allies. That China seeks a military with conventional and nuclear forces capable of coercing the United States and its allies is alarming for the future of strategic stability in international politics. It is a direct threat to the U.S. homeland and U.S. global interests, including its extended deterrent to its allies and partners, like Taiwan. When Russia’s strategic arsenal and conventional capability are added to China’s, the United State’s deterrent calculus is clearly worsened. Leadership From the Biden Administration Is Needed—But Will It Be Provided? To address the complex threats, what is needed is for the United States to expand its strategic arsenal beyond what is currently planned with the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, Columbia class nuclear submarine, and the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. Also required is a nuclear infrastructure that is responsive. But most importantly now, policy guidance is needed from the Biden administration. It will s

Bold Leadership From the Biden Administration Is Needed to Counter the Sino-Russian Entente

Commentary

As China and Russia move toward an entente in their relationship due to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s folly in Ukraine, the United States must consider its next steps to counter or adapt to the Sino-Russian relationship.

Those actions require the proper policy guidance from White House and Pentagon national security strategy and defense strategy policy documents. There is little hope that the Biden administration will provide the policy guidance necessary to reflect the demands of the two-front war the United States now faces.

The growing relationship between China and Russia is alarming for U.S. strategic interests. It is also a testament to Putin’s strategic malpractice, as the relationship provides far more potential benefits to China than to Russia.

First, China will gain from continued joint exercises with the Russian military and technological cooperation, including space exploration. The West should anticipate greater alignment of the Chinese and Russian military space programs.

Second, China will benefit from intelligence cooperation from the Russian intelligence services.

Third, it will build upon Russia’s diplomacy, including its diplomatic presence in the Middle East, to advance China’s interests. Again, the confluence of Sino-Russian interests adversely impacts those of the United States. However, Beijing’s and Moscow’s competing influence in Central Asia will likely remain a source of tension in their relationship.

Fourth, China will seek to employ the Russian military in essentially a mercenary role to fix Western attention on threats in Europe. The Russian military will compound Western strategic decision-making by generating a two-front major war problem for Western leaders. Moreover, for key allies like Japan, there is the concern that U.S. attention will be too centered on the security problems of Europe rather than on the Indo-Pacific for the duration of the war.

The US Faces a Two-Front War Problem

In particular, a major strategic problem generated by the military dimension of this entente is Chinese and Russian nuclear capability. The latter greatly complicates U.S. nuclear war planning and the ability of the United States to provide a credible extended deterrent to its allies.

The numbers of deployed nuclear warheads matter. The Russian nuclear arsenal stands at about 1,500 deployed strategic warheads. Given the spiral in the Russo-American relationship as a result of the war, that number is sure to increase once strategic arms control limitations expire.

The Chinese strategic arsenal has about 350 to 400 deployed strategic warheads. However, that number is certainly larger given China’s rapidly expanding arsenal.

The revelation in the summer of 2021 of the expansion of China’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields at Hami, Yumen, and Hanggin Banner, near Ordos City in Inner Mongolia, for a total of about 350 to 400 ICBMs is more evidence of China’s growth of its strategic weapons and delivery systems. The expansion demonstrates China’s efforts to match and exceed the capabilities of the United States.

Admiral Richard’s Repeated Warnings

Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, warned Congress, the public, and U.S. allies that China is engaged in a strategic breakout. An implication is that China has abandoned its minimum deterrence posture, which allows it to threaten a peer competitor like the United States.

Epoch Times Photo
China’s DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Richard has stated that the explosive growth and modernization of China’s nuclear and conventional forces may be described as breathtaking. A major consequence is that the great growth of China’s strategic nuclear capability enables the regime to have a plausible nuclear employment strategy. This allows the regime to use a coercion strategy against the United States and its allies.

That China seeks a military with conventional and nuclear forces capable of coercing the United States and its allies is alarming for the future of strategic stability in international politics. It is a direct threat to the U.S. homeland and U.S. global interests, including its extended deterrent to its allies and partners, like Taiwan. When Russia’s strategic arsenal and conventional capability are added to China’s, the United State’s deterrent calculus is clearly worsened.

Leadership From the Biden Administration Is Needed—But Will It Be Provided?

To address the complex threats, what is needed is for the United States to expand its strategic arsenal beyond what is currently planned with the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, Columbia class nuclear submarine, and the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. Also required is a nuclear infrastructure that is responsive.

But most importantly now, policy guidance is needed from the Biden administration. It will soon produce policy statements available to the public that will serve as solutions to the two-front war threat. The guidance will come through Missile Defense Posture Review, Nuclear Posture Review, and a National Defense Strategy, each from the Pentagon and the National Security Strategy from the White House. The country should expect that each reflects the urgency of the two-front strategic threat now faced by the United States.

These documents should have the focused intensity of the major policy documents—NSC-68 most importantly—generated at the start of the Cold War, which was the last time the United States and its allies confronted a similar threat of a two-front war problem due to China’s alliance with the Soviet Union. While each document has a different purview, they should share the identification of the strategic threat and offer direction on solutions.

Despite the need for alacrity and resolute to generate a nuclear and conventional force capable of meeting the threats posed by the Sino-Russian entente, the Biden administration is likely to produce documents that place as much emphasis on U.S. nuclear arms and missile defense reductions or stasis at precisely the time it should be expanding and modernizing.

There is little hope that the Biden administration will produce an NSC-68—the necessary guidance to fight a two-front war. The lack of bold steps evinces confusion about responding to the Sino-Russian entente. Feckless documents do not provide the guidance the U.S. military and U.S. allies require to solve this strategic problem, and will further embolden Beijing and Moscow to exploit the window of opportunity provided by the Biden administration.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Bradley A. Thayer is a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China and is the co-author of “How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics.”