September 8, 2020

The Real Russian Collusion That Endangers America

A phony narrative has distracted the country from a serious national security threat.

A phony Russia collusion narrative meant to damage Donald Trump’s presidency may have instead desensitized the American people to a matter of real collusion that threatens to damage our nation’s geopolitical strength: collusion between Russia and China.

The Defense Department recently released its latest report on China’s military. One recurring theme is just how much more formidable China is today than it was 25 years ago. In 1996, the United States used two carriers, their escorts, and other supporting forces to let China know that it wouldn’t tolerate any aggression toward Taiwan. Since then, China has grown stronger, and much of that strength has come from Russian transfers of technology and Russian weapons sales.

Back then, the U.S. was riding high militarily, with great technological superiority over the People’s Liberation Army. Back then, a pair of F/A-18C Hornets stood a good chance of winning a fight against a dozen J-7 Fishbeds (China’s copy of the MiG-21) with no losses. That’s how favorable our technological advantage was.

Today, though, American F-35 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilots would be facing J-11/J-15/J-16s and all versions of the Su-27 and Su-30 Flanker. In addition, China’s J-20 and J-31 fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters are coming online. Despite our capabilities today, we can no longer bank on an easy victory in the air.

American pilots might still win a one-on-one fight with a Chinese pilot, but the Chinese planes are getting too close for comfort. And since 1996, the U.S. has neglected to procure some crucial advanced systems — whether it was Bill Clinton trying to cash in on a “peace dividend,” George W. Bush trying to win a Global War on Terror, or Barack Obama just dismantling American military power to teach us a lesson.

The harvest of this neglect includes a sub shortage, more vulnerable bombers, an insufficient inventory of air-dominance fighters, and a host of other problems and errors of omission.

But while the United States has managed to hobble Russia with lower oil and gas prices (thanks to Trump’s push for energy exports), the DOD report shows a pattern of Russian cooperation with China across the board on many strategic initiatives, including multiple military exercises. Russia is also a major supplier of oil and natural gas to China, and this cheap energy has helped China and its military.

We’ve never bought into the Russia “reset” that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tried to pull off. Russia is, as Mitt Romney noted in 2012 (to derision from Obama), a frenemy at best and an outright geopolitical foe at worst. And its collusion with China warrants a response.

The good news is that we have allies in Japan and India who can help us check China — or who, at the very least, can help us buy time while we return our military to its rightful position of dominance.

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