Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More Aggressive than China and Russia?

[This is a response I posted over at the Millennial Star. I know I'm really busy, and you must be wondering why I can't leave it alone, but I thought this was a good chance to get a four for one post. First, I get to post my research there. Frankly, those guys could use some experience with facts and research. Second, I also get to do another blog post here. I write so much in a given day I often just don't have the time for one more item.  Third, I get to tell you about some of the secular research I'm doing.  Fourth, taking a great deal of information and creating a coherent and convincing argument out of it is a very important skill. It never hurts to get one more chance to practice it.  Thanks for reading. I hope you vote for the best person that you think represents your interests. Its a comment post on a blog so please forgive any typos.] 

I recently started a couple of new positions. I cover the East Asian and Pacific military matters for Strategy and Tactics magazine.  It’s been a nice side gig to my teaching and it’s much more fun to talk about the type 53 Frigate than explaining the syllabus over and over again. I also started a research internship at the Hudson Institute. This one focuses on Russia, not my specialty in China, but its been really interesting. I bring this up because I regularly produce policy type article and read a million bits of information a week regarding these powers.  When you said that McMullin is more aggressive than China and Russia I was very glad I wasn’t drinking anything or I would have done a spit take.  I went back to my saved articles and research I’ve written and these are a brief summary of the last few months of behavior for China and Russia:

China thumbed its nose at the world court ruling regarding against them Scarborough shoal in the Spartly Islands.  As a response they’ve placed even more weapons systems and missiles on the island even though it was ruled as part of the Phillipine’s exclusive economic zone.

They’ve developed the YJ12 carrier killing missile. These are missiles specifically designed to as part of their A2 AD strategy as they hope to overwhelm the Aegis defenses surrounding carriers.

In the last 60 years the Chinese have fought offensive wars against every one of their neighbors, on their opponent’s territory.  Immediately after winning the Chinese civil war Mao launched a sneak attack in Korea. (Granted McArthur was nearing Chinese territory but you’ll notice a pattern shortly.)  A few years later Mao seized islands owned by Taiwan. Further operations were curtailed by the timely intervention of American forces in the Taiwan Strait.  They preemptively attacked India to readjust the border in 1962. And they preemptively seized islands in the Assuri river skirmish with Russia in 1969. Its not without notice that China and Russia recently practiced an island seizing exercise near Vietnam. This is where they fought their last offensive war in 1979, and a preemptive seizure of territory is one of the Chinese hallmarks since 1949. Its pure Chinese propaganda and insecurity dating back thousands of years to state they are in the sights of greedy foreigners. 
Immediately after losing the court case they used their new advanced weapons systems in the East China Sea. Near the disputed Senkaku islands they practiced locating and sinking a ship as an obvious message to Japan, which approved of the ruling.  Japan has had to launch their fighter planes over 200 times this year in response to Chinese provocation.  Japanese fisherman, operating legally in international waters or in their EEZ, have been harassed by Chinese naval vessels.

They’ve illegally built up islands and placed advanced radar systems, anti-air batteries, shipping docks that can handle blue water ships, submarine bases, and large runways that can support their advanced fighters (which are being built using stolen technology from the F 22 and F 35.)  Keep in mind they are doing this in the Spratlys and other islands in the South China Sea that are vigorously disputed. (Its true that other nations have done so as well, but not to the extent that China has and definitely not with the same degree of militarization.)

When the US operates Freedom of seas operations they harass our naval forces and follow them at an unsafe distance. Because the islands are disputed, the US performs these operations to reaffirm the importance of international law. These are incredibly important operations because they prevent the de facto recognition of this territory as China’s.  If international law is disregarded it will be a free for all in this region where disputes are settled by force. If China aggressively controls this territory they can easily cut off a great deal of vital shipping in the region. You mentioned them as trading partners, but its incredibly difficult to trade when captains are worried about being seized in what should be international waters.

That’s why McMullin says he will stand for the rights to sail in international waters.  He is not “picking a fight with China,” (though these Freedom of the Seas operations do have some danger),  but simply reasserting basic rights of international law that the China is actively threatening. China has threatened every one of its neighbor, aggressively maneuvers near them, and actively builds bases in disputed territory that can project force.  Your argument seems based on general disdain for the American military power and some foreign policy positions, as well as libertarian articles of faith, not based on a sound knowledge of the region. As somebody who regularly studies the region McMullin is only proposing appropriate steps to stop Chinese aggression through the assertion of international law.

Moving on to Russia:
Russia has started shipping advanced military equipment to India. They are also holding joint exercises with Pakistan. They have shipped attack helicopters to that state. (Symbolically enough Pakistan is using those helicopters to replace the American Cobras they have.)  Russia has refused to implement the Minsk accords. This is a peace plan to help end the conflict in Ukraine.  They use paramilitary tactics to undermine the nation states on their border. They have attack hospitals and relief convoys in Syria. Modernization in Russian military has resulted in new forms of warfare and rapidly changing environment cyber, electronic warfare, and anti-access/area-denial capabilities. They’ve annexed territory from their neighbors. They cut off gas shipments to their neighbors.  Much of Eastern Europe (many of which are close allies), now lie within range of their missiles systems. The consensus view of the Warsaw NATO summit is that Russia is now a competitive threat. In fact, Russia is using China as a chief trading partner and there is a significant concern of their forming a new anti-Western axis.

Russia uses Chinese companies to avoid US sanctions, which is likely why McMullin is trying to strengthen them. Russia is actively increasingly its influence through various soft and hard power methods and they are incredibly assertive in gaining hegemony in the region. They don’t hesitate to use a combination of military, paramilitary, and cyber military forces to undermine and frankly conquer their neighbors.  We have treaty obligations that have been the foundation of safety and security in Europe since World War II.  You can make an argument about the wisdom of these treaties compared to the wish of the Founding Fathers, (and that’s one of several reasons why libertarians remind me of isolationists), but that argument is 60 years too late. We have these obligations, and McMullin is stating that we will make a modest commitment to our allies by treaty, as suggested by the recent summit, in the face of blatant Russian aggression.

This post is already pretty long, and there are many more points I could point out. (For example, China manipulates their finances so they don’t appear to spend as much money on the military.)  McMullin isn’t an immoral war monger because he wants to reassert international law and support America’s treaty obligations. I’m writing in for McMullin.   

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Michaela Stephens said...

Very informative; thanks for sharing. I'd love to read more of this kind of stuff.

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks! I'll try to link to some more of it!