Russia and China Are Executing a Plan We Ignore at Our Peril
Over two decades ago the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of failing economic policies and external political pressure. The proverbial Bear went into hibernation and was led by a succession of men who, understanding their newly diminished position on the world stage, attempted to distance Russia from the former authoritarian legacy of the Soviet Union.
Enter Vladimir Putin. A former KGB thug, Putin entered into the office of Prime Minister in 2000 with ambitions to turn Russia into a world power once again. Over the last fourteen years, Putin has expanded Russia’s military arsenal, nationalized Russia’s oil industry, tightened constraints on the media, and used nefarious measures to silence his political opponents. Yet up until this past year, the international community saw little cause for concern and dismissed Russia as a possible future threat to regional stability.
That particular sentiment changed overnight as Russian forces capitalized on temporary political instability in Ukraine, citing oppression against ethnic Russians as the justification for getting involved. By way of subversion and plain-clothed operatives, Crimea was destabilized, and on the night of March 18th 2014, Putin announced the annexation of Crimea. Crimea gives Russia increased control of the Black Sea. For Putin, its seizure is a major regional victory. Russian operatives and troops continue to spread into Eastern Ukraine, threatening to annex the third largest city in the former Soviet satellite, Odessa. Save outside intervention, it is likely all of Eastern Ukraine will fall into Russia’s hands before the end of the year, and the rest of the nation may follow.
Like Hitler entering the demilitarized Rhineland, Putin took a major risk entering Ukraine. And again like Hitler taking the Rhineland, Putin was met with no real opposition from the international community, just diplomatic notes and words of chastisement of little value to the Russian Prime Minister. But many took note when the day after Putin announced the annexation of Crimea, the Russian leader voiced concerns over the treatment of the Russian population in Estonia, foreshadowing the next potential next target in his grab for power.
And while the world is distracted by what Russia is doing on its Western Borders, we ought to look with concern at the growing friendship it is forming to the East. A friendship that has blossomed on the foundation of economic and military cooperation, including a recent multi-billion dollar natural gas deal, cemented with a mutual desire for expansion and an unabashed distaste for America as the world leader.
China’s path over the last two decades is remarkably similar to Russia’s. It has grown from a third world nation, isolated from the wealth of free markets, to a capitalist-totalitarian hybrid, with a booming economy, quickly advancing military capability, strong media censorship and a poor human rights record. The Tiger looks east for its conquests; full control of Taiwan, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea are that nation’s near term goals. And like Russia, when Chinese leadership believes that there will be little or no consequences for its actions it will act. China will continue its slow progression of forcing Filipino, Vietnamese and Japanese vessels out of the maritime areas under dispute, and will continue the buildup of forces in the Taiwan Strait until they believe an international intervention would be untenable; then they will annex Taiwan, sooner than we may think, and it won’t stop there.
The ambitions and the ideology echoed by Russia and China run eerily parallel to the mutual interests which brought Hitler and Mussolini together. And like the WWII Axis of Evil, the development of Russia and China’s military technology and doctrine is being done in peacetime, with all signs pointing towards the nations’ full anticipation of war. Their military goals are clearly to counter the military capabilities of the West. Just as an example, Russia’s SA-20 was designed to shoot down the PATRIOT missile, and China’s DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile was developed to destroy the top deck of an Aircraft Carrier.
And while the rest of the world verbally condemns China and Russia without actually intending to enforce any consequences; China and Russia move their pawns into our backyard. The Tiger and the Bear appear to be taking preemptive measures to counter U.S. military might at home by moving forces to Nicaragua. China and Russia are cooperating on a canal in that country meant to rival the Panama Canal.
Not only does this provide an economic foothold for Russia and China in Central America, but it is an excellent smoke screen for Russia to use Nicaragua as a strategic operating base. Compound the canal with the April 2014 announcement of Russian legislation approving the construction of Space Navigation Hubs in Nicaragua for the “peaceful exploration of space” (a common party line) and to enhance their GLONASS system, the Russian rival to U.S. GPS, and all of a sudden there is quite a bit of activity to our south. What elevates this concern is that China is the foremost developer of Antisatellite (ASAT) technology and it would be naïve to assume that China will not be covertly working with Russian scientists in Nicaragua. The close proximity of these Space Hubs to the territorial U.S. also increases Russia and China’s ability to triangulate the position of our communication satellites, which we are extremely reliant on for command and control.
Russia and China want their way with Europe and Asia in the coming decades, so the two countries are beginning the process of checking U.S. power before we ever realize we may need to exercise it. It is imperative that as a nation we recognize the scheme that is afoot and the eventual consequences we will face if we turn a blind eye.
Alexandra Farkas is the pen name of a writer affiliated with the federal government