Europeans and Americans should prepare for the possibility of a new cold war, senior US military officials have warned. Russia and China, the two most significant powers in the world, are preparing for a “Frankenstein’s monster” scenario by strengthening ties to each other, the Pentagon said on Sunday.
“Our allies and partners need to prepare for a new Cold War,” the general Charles Q. Brown, the commander of the US Pacific Command, said in a speech at the Rand Corporation in Washington, D.C.
“They’ve become more dependent on Russia and China for supply and for trade because they are themselves receding economically,” he added.
The Pentagon continues to place special importance on China and Russia, partly because their transnational powers are so costly to contain, and partly because they are feeding off strategic and economic advantages shared by President Donald Trump. This was illustrated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warning in August that the United States was “in a race to defeat” Russia and China.
However, in a speech to the League of American Scientists last week, Pompeo played down the threat of Chinese and Russian aggression as a security issue.
Russia has already long established itself as a diplomatic and financial threat to Western interests, given the KGB-trained leaders of the Soviet Union, which it replaced in 1991. Earlier this year, Moscow forced Ukraine to abandon its “breakaway” republic of Crimea, which it had had governed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Putin is also using Russia’s weakness to undermine NATO and the European Union, giving Eastern European countries breathing space to become two-way markets, as if not to Russia, at least to China. Since 1991, the former Soviet Union has become dominated by Russia and China, while America has lost influence.
Russia is also offering China an alternative platform to America, especially since Washington has pushed a policy of “free trade,” pushed for expansion of the World Trade Organization and refused to cede regional roles to China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative. Even though the United States takes the line that “free trade is good trade,” it has attempted to limit the role of China’s trade practices, including the restrictions on trade that it places on various American industries.
A sophisticated combination of old strategic ideas and new technological advances has led to a sense of triumph for Russia and China when it comes to geopolitics. Russia is a resurgent great power, spending more on defense and more into state-of-the-art weaponry than any other nation.
“We are pivoting from the Cold War, which we are historically now, to a real, active, in-depth deterrence posture, which is what the Soviet-Russian relationship is,” a Defense Department spokesman said on Sunday.