President Putin has always highlighted the United States as the major security threat to Russia. In turn the United States has invariably focused on Russia, the old enemy, as the main adversary; as though interfering in the domestic affairs of the other side was a novelty worthy of withering indignation.
Somehow the obvious seems to have escaped the attention of Russia and the USA both, which is that China aims to become the predominant Superpower of the 21st century and is working tirelessly on all fronts towards that goal. A once mighty empire that held the balance of trade with Europe before it withdrew from the outer world in the 15th century, China is once again hoping to rule the seas.
With trade differences in the centre of the frame, the Americans under President Trump have tried to turn over a new leaf and respond assertively against Chinese attempts to undermine U.S. predominance. The belated realisation that Chinese high tech comes within the purview of the People’s Liberation Army appears to have come as a shock to some. And the recent claim from within Silicon Valley that Google is selling out U.S. security by working hand in glove with the Chinese fits the new pattern of American official concern.
The Russians, however, have lagged far behind in recognising the dangers that China represents. So it is worth pointing up an article just published in the Russian press that highlights the conclusion that “more than 90% of China’s nuclear missile capability is directed at us [Russia] and not at the United States. And not taking that into account is unacceptable” (Aleksandr Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis).
The problem is that the shared U.S.-Russian interest against China is hampered by the difficulty of redrawing arms control agreements that lower their individual capability, one against the other, when the Chinese are actually building up their arsenals rather than reducing them. Moscow and Washington should really get to grips with the fact that this means there is no real substitute for negotiating the geopolitical issues that underlie Russo-American tension. This conclusion is surely implicit, though never openly stated, in the analysis now reaching the Russian press. (V. Mukhin, “Yadernyi potentsial Kitaya ugrozhaet ne tol’ko S.Sh.A., no i Rossii. Pekin stremitel’no narashchivaet kolichestvo i kachestvo strategicheskikh vooruzhenii”, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 16 July 2019)