- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2000

In November, 2000, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced in Beijing his government's open support for an axis consisting of Russia, China, and India whenever these states wanted it.

He also apparently negotiated the sale of an AWACS-like system to China. Mr. Kasyanov thus confirmed that Russo-Chinese relations have immense significance for Asia and the world and that, as independent American reporting observed, the United States was increasingly seen as the main threat to China.

Hence the main driver of the Russo-Chinese relationship is a comprehensive and global opposition to American policy. Earlier in July 2000 Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Beijing and apparently concluded new arms deals with China. Russian and Chinese authorities both say relations have never been better, and they have begun negotiating a new treaty clarifying the "new stage" of bilateral relations beyond strategic partnership. China's press labeled that stage mutual coordination.

While this relationship is comprehensive in scope, embracing much of Asia's security agenda; the main threat to U.S. interests consists of Russian arms sales to China that comprise technologies, weapons, regular staff exchanges on scenarios in the Taiwan Straits and presumably elsewhere, intelligence sharing, and the sale of Russian weapons for land, sea, submarine, air, air defense, space, nuclear and missile defense forces. These exchanges are growing in scope and quality and Russia announced that arms sales would double. If one totals up all the known exchanges they come close to being $5 billion a year through 2004, a doubling of the rate for 1996-99 and that period doubled annual arms sales for 1991-96.

As the Pentagon recently admitted, "a cross-Strait conflict between China and Taiwan involving the United States has emerged as the dominant scenario guiding PLA force planning, military training and war preparation." Hence these weapons transfers are deliberately aimed at American forces, allies, partners and interests. If one examines the pattern of these arms sales it becomes clear China has borrowed from Soviet strategy the notion of an all-arms or combined army, air, air defense, navy, submarine, missile, electronic or informational, and space operations specifically aimed at either intimidating or capturing Taiwan and deterring the United States and its armed forces from participating in Taiwan's defense. This would be a sea denial operation, inspired by Soviet and Russian theorizing about naval and combined arms warfare for states whose coastlines might be threatened. The overall pattern of Chinese acquisitions and not just from Russia strongly suggests this kind of operation is a military priority for Beijing's leaders and planners.

However, Russo-Chinese cooperation against the United States does not end with threats to Taiwan and the United States. This intimate relationship has impeded progress toward Russo-Japanese rapprochement and a formal Russo-Japanese peace treaty.

Other areas where this collaboration obstructs or threatens our interests are:

• In Central Asia Beijing and Moscow aim to exclude the United States from the area, monopolize the huge energy resources located there, stifle democratic and any other opposition under the guise of attacking terrorists, place pro-Moscow appointees in charge of those states' militaries and police, integrate them with Russia's and China's forces, integrate those states' resources and defense industries with their own, and mobilize their political support for anti-American agendas such as opposition to missile defense.

• In South Asia, despite continuing strong and long-lasting reasons for Sino-Indian rivalry, Russian diplomats seek to overcome or moderate those impediments and bring India into an alliance with Russia and China or at least to a more pro-China posture on the basis of opposition to American hegemonism as expressed in the Kosovo operation, the bypassing of the U.N. and U.S. efforts to undermine state sovereignty by using the doctrine of human rights and self-determination for minorities.

Another motive for tripartite cooperation would be the three governments' shared opposition to nationalist or religious Muslim assertion in Kashmir, Central Asia and Xinjiang. Apparently these approaches have borne fruit as the recent improvement of Sino-Indian relations indicates. In turn, India would then contribute to the staunch Sino-Russian opposition to U.S. initiatives towards Iraq, Yugoslavia or other threats to international security in the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council. This tripartite association would exclude the possibility of a conflict between India and China and minimize the likelihood of one between India and Pakistan.

Moscow and Beijing would also benefit in other ways. To the extent that the international agenda can be focused on Islamic separatism, terrorism, and the United States' threats to international order as expressed in the Kosovo operation, China and Russia could shift the spotlight from a focus on their own continuing imperial and aggressive revisionism. That shift in focus would allow them to continue those policies at little cost.

On the other hand, high degrees of Sino-Indian friction will inevitably cause India to lean toward Washington against Beijing, helping the United States to further consolidate what Beijing fears is its anti-Chinese containment strategy.

Because coalitions are essential in today's world for peace operations anywhere, the Sino-Russian cooperation in the United Nations to neutralize U.S. initiatives could obstruct realization of vital U.S. interests and goals. For example, thanks to Russo-Chinese obstruction, today there is no supervision of Iraqi proliferation efforts. While Iraq is constrained in many ways, it is moving to restore its capabilities for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare that can easily be directed against American allies in the Gulf or eventually Israel.

China and Russia, perhaps independently, or perhaps together are collaborating against American and allied interests by continuing proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare technologies, especially nuclear missile systems. Evidently both governments have determined that despite their international commitments to the contrary, they will support nuclear and perhaps other forms of proliferation to constrain and restrict U.S. capability to project power and deploy a forward presence abroad.

Although we see no signs today of military cooperation on NMD and TMD, the existence of space and nuclear weapons collaboration, political collaboration against those systems along with unconfirmed reports of the transfer of relevant technologies cannot inspire confidence. And indeed, there are unconfirmed reports from the Pentagon of technology transfer with special reference to ballistic theater and/or missile defense systems. Moreover, they are both feverishly building similar systems and anti-American capabilities for pre-emptive information and space warfare against U.S. satellites, information networks, command and control, etc.

These longstanding efforts that predate the current U.S. interest in middle defense are increasingly aligned to doctrines that call for pre-emptive or first nuclear or anti-space strikes or information attacks both to deter and to threaten the United States and its allies. Indeed, Chinese attacks upon theater and national missile defense along with perennial Chinese threats to use force and even missile strikes demonstrate quite clearly that China wishes to retain the unconstrained capability to threaten Japan, and the United States as well as Taiwan with nuclear and conventional missiles. Beijing evidently remains oblivious to the harm that its saber rattling generates to its own professed interest of peaceful economic development.

All these instances of joint activity are overtly directed against American interests and therefore require the U.S. armed forces and government to take this collaboration much more seriously than has hitherto been the case. The Russo-Chinese relationship is a clear manifestation of the adversarial, if not hostile posture of both these states in their basic security policies to American interests, values, partners and allies.

Are we ready to reply to this challenge in the most dynamic and fastest-growing area of the world?

Stephen Blank is a professor of national security studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.

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