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Reduced US-Russia ties create Russia-China axis

Ko Sakai, 8-17, 19, Russia is in danger of being overrun by China’s Belt and Road, https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Comment/Russia-is-in-danger-of-being-overrun-by-China-s-Belt-and-Road

TOKYO — Russia greenlighted in early July a 2,000-km highway construction project connecting the country’s border with Kazakhstan to Belarus. The four-lane highway will run west from Orenburg Province to the former Soviet republic of Belarus via several other Russian provinces. The location of the highway underscores the importance of the project: Belarus is a gateway to Europe, while Kazakhstan — another former Soviet republic — shares its eastern border with China, where a highway that crosses Kazakhstan originates. Chinese President Xi Jinping is pushing his signature Belt and Road Initiative with the goal of creating a massive economic zone that will link China to Europe by land and sea. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, the new project marks Russia’s entry into road construction vital to the land link, which will span about 8,500 km and be the shortest transport route from China to western Europe. This is not Russia’s first foray into developing land routes connecting Asia and Europe. In the first half of the 2000s, Moscow lobbied Japanese companies to transport cargo via its 9,300-km long Trans-Siberian Railway. Companies tested the route, partly as a result of Toyota Motor’s decision to build a plant in Saint Petersburg. But it never really panned out. One of the reasons was due to heavy vibration that shook trains, both when running and when connecting to other freight trains. The vibrations were so strong that cargo would often become damaged. Furthermore, train connection schedules in Russia were erratic. Even into the early 2000s, China was still not shipping regularly to Europe. It wasn’t until 2011 that “block train” services were introduced for the first time under an initiative pushed by China’s now-disgraced Bo Xilai, connecting the municipality of Chongqing to Germany via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. The block trains ran regularly and traveled between destinations without connecting with other trains or detaching cars along the way. Later rebranded as China Railway Express, the block trains now shuttle between scores of stations in China — including Sichuan and Dalian — and Europe. And unlike like earlier iterations of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Chinese trains are smooth and temperature controlled, allowing them to transport a wide range of goods, from PCs and automobiles to daily goods. Japan’s top international freight forwarder, Nippon Express, has also been offering rail transport service between China and Europe. The company said that its cargo volume over the route has rapidly increased. The Trans-Siberian Railway has tried to shoulder into the burgeoning business but is handicapped by rail lines terminating in Moscow and other cities. This means that its Europe-bound block trains have to connect with other trains to complete the final leg of their journeys. The China Railway Express has already replaced its Russian counterpart as the main railway network connecting Asia and Europe. Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, touted the strong relations between China and Russia, saying that they were at their “highest level in history.” © Getty Images President Xi visited Moscow in early June for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The visit was decried by some independent news websites in Russia, which published stories under headlines like “Russia for the sake of China” and “Putin’s geopolitics and economy policies are transforming us into a country dependent on China.” During Xi’s visit, the two countries signed about 30 agreements, including one for Chinese tech giant Huawei to build the country’s 5G network. Xi also touted the stronger relations between China and Russia, saying that they were at their “highest level in history.” China and Russia kicked off their strategic partnership as more or less equals in 1996, and relations have become tighter as they close ranks against an increasingly hostile U.S. But not everyone in Russia is celebrating the warmer ties. In reality, Russia has begun to feel like the junior partner due to asymmetries between it and its giant Asian neighbor. The gap between the two countries is widening in many areas, including the economy, population, military and politics. For example, Russia’s gross domestic product was only 12% of China’s in 2018 and, according to a survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, its military spending is only a quarter that of China’s. On the other hand, China is short of resources and covets Russian oil, natural gas and forestry products. It is also sending large numbers of Chinese workers to Russia. Russia has been shunned and sanctioned by much of the international community and is largely relying on China for its economic well-being. But Moscow still regards Central Asia as under its sphere of influence and has become alarmed by its partner’s growing presence in the region, both economically and on the security front. In a bid to strike a balance, Russia has been trying to improve ties with the U.S. and Europe, but as yet to no avail. If this situation remains, the creation of a new order in Eurasia could see a powerful China even more closely intertwined with Russia. In light of this, it would be unwise to continue isolating Russia on the international stage.

A strong NATO is critical to deter Russian aggression

Beebe, 8-12, 19, George Beebe is Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest, and former head of Russia analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency. This article was adapted from his book, The Russia Trap, with the permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, How Trump Can Avoid War with Russia, https://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/how-trump-can-avoid-war-russia-73031

A third lies in Europe. As Chinese power waxes and Russian assertiveness grows, Europe must play a key role as a systemic counterweight to establish and maintain international equilibrium. It cannot play that role, however, if fissiparous forces continue to rend NATO and the EU, threatening to hasten European disintegration and trans-Atlantic decoupling. A situation in which Russia sees itself as locked out of European security decisionmaking, incentivized to exacerbate the continent’s divisions and widen its fissures, reduces the chances that a strong and healthy Europe can play that balancing role. The threat of American disengagement from Europe has a similarly damaging effect, exacerbating divisions on the continent by stoking fears in eastern European states that NATO might not be willing or able to defend them against Russian aggression, while resurrecting old fears of German hegemony.

Russia is a threat, needs deterred

Beebe, 8-12, 19, George Beebe is Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest, and former head of Russia analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency. This article was adapted from his book, The Russia Trap, with the permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, How Trump Can Avoid War with Russia, https://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/how-trump-can-avoid-war-russia-73031

Rather, the dominant paradigm for understanding and responding to the Russian threat is the World War II problem. American editorials and op-ed columns about Russia abound with disparaging references to Munich, where British prime minister Neville Chamberlain made his tragic bid to appease Hitler’s territorial ambitions in 1938 and achieved his ill-fated “peace in our time.” During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Democratic party candidate Hillary Clinton explicitly warned that Moscow’s claims that it must protect Russian minorities in Ukraine echoed Nazi Germany’s arguments that it “had to protect German minorities in Poland and Czechoslovakia.” Similarly, Senator Lindsey Graham and many other Republicans have likened Russian president Vladimir Putin to Adolph Hitler, while newspaper columnists refer to him as “Putler.” Like Hitler, Putin is perceived as an authoritarian leader harboring deep resentments over lost territory and unfair treatment. Like Hitler, Putin is believed to regard calls for diplomatic compromise as signs of weakness that he can exploit. Like Hitler, Putin is thought to harbor expansionist designs that will be curbed only by pushing back now before he grows too bold and too strong. For those who see the Russian threat through this prism, the chief danger is the Kremlin’s aggressive intentions, and the imperative is to deter aggression through strength. Wars often happen because those who start them think they can win. For intelligence analysts, this concern translates into a focus on studying Russian war plans and weapons systems while looking for signs of impending attack. U.S. and NATO military experts analyzing Russia’s preparations for its large Zapad (West) military exercise in 2017, for example, issued warnings that the event could be “a Russian Trojan horse” masking preparations for occupying Belarus or invading one of the Baltic states. British intelligence officials caution that Russian cyber operators have acquired the ability to shut down power plants, hijack air traffic control and even turn off air conditioning systems. U.S. Intelligence Community leaders sound alarms about Moscow’s desire to undermine Western democracies and destroy the “post-World War II international order.” Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman, sponsored by a committee that included former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, solemnly warned Americans in a viral social media video that we are at war with Russia and must fight back or suffer defeat. For policymakers, this prism focuses on demonstrating the will to fight and the ability to triumph. Diplomacy plays a minor role in dealing with World War II-type aggression. One does not strike deals with aggressor states, one punishes and isolates them. Failure to resist Russia’s aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria and the cyber sphere only invites more aggression. Strength and resolve, on the other hand, prompt the would-be aggressor to back down and look elsewhere for easier conquests. The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy largely reflects this broad consensus: “Experience suggests that the willingness of rivals to abandon or forgo aggression depends on their perception of US strength and the vitality of our alliances.” To paraphrase the old Roman aphorism, if we want peace, we must show ourselves ready and willing to fight a war. Not everyone views Russia as offensive-minded, however. A smaller and less popular school of thought sees Russia under Putin as a weak and declining power fighting a defensive battle against NATO’s eastward expansion and Washington’s efforts to transform Russia’s internal politics. “Putin has been primarily reactive,” according to New York University professor emeritus Stephen Cohen. Realist scholar John Mearsheimer puts it even more bluntly: Russia’s actions, including its annexation of Crimea and proxy war in eastern Ukraine, “have been defensive, not offensive … motivated by legitimate security concerns.” Adherents of this school are wont to quote George F. Kennan, the father of America’s Cold War containment strategy, on the likely consequences of NATO expansion some twenty years ago: “There is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are—but this is just wrong.’’ Russia is not, he said, “a country dying to attack Western Europe.” Russia is not Nazi Germany, nor is Putin comparable to Hitler. For these analysts, such analogies not only produce more emotional heat than analytic light, but they also lead to policy responses that are dangerous. Those in the “defensive Russia” school point out that when a country’s hostile actions are rooted in fear and vulnerability, the unwavering resolve and military readiness that are so vital to dealing with a Hitler-type threat can be counter-productive. Rather than averting aggression by demonstrating the will to fight back, coercive steps against a state that already sees itself as threatened can magnify perceptions of vulnerability and kick off a dangerous escalatory reaction. They point out that the United States experienced this phenomenon in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2008. Convinced that Russia harbored aggressive designs on its southern neighbor, Washington policymakers accelerated U.S. military training of Georgia, openly advocated bringing Tbilisi into the NATO alliance, and issued multiple warnings to Moscow against military action, believing this firm support would deter Russian aggression. It in fact had the opposite effect. Russia grew increasingly alarmed by the prospect of Georgian membership in NATO, while Tbilisi felt emboldened by American support to launch a military operation in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, which produced an immediate and massive Russian military response that included a coordinated set of cyberattacks. The result was a readily foreseeable war that the United States failed to avert, leaving the White House with an unpalatable choice between ineffectually protesting Russia’s conquest of Georgia’s breakaway regions, or threatening nuclear war in response to Russia’s local conventional superiority. For those who perceive Moscow to be playing defense, the preferred policy response is largely Hippocratic and diplomatic: stop doing harm by threatening the threatened state, and start talking about compromise and conflict resolution. Cohen argues against reintroducing intermediate-range missiles in Europe and selling weapons to Ukraine, for example, and calls instead for cooperating against shared threats and reaching agreement on new rules to govern the relationship. Mearsheimer proposes ending what he calls the “triple package of policies,” NATO expansion, European Union (EU) enlargement and democracy promotion. The goal for Ukraine, and presumably for other states in the “gray zone” between Russia and the NATO alliance, he avers, should be to “abandon [the] plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer between NATO and Russia, akin to Austria’s position during the Cold War.” If we want peace with Russia, they reason, we need to stress common ground and compromise, not weapons and sanctions. Neither of these contrasting schools for explaining and dealing with Russian behaviors is entirely wrong. There is little doubt that Russia sees itself as on the defensive in the face of NATO expansion and Washington’s extensive involvement in Russia’s domestic affairs in the 1990s. Moscow harbors deep resentments, misperceptions and mistrust of American intentions, and its views of the United States have changed from partner to adversary over the course of the past twenty-five years, in part due to American actions that it perceives as threatening. At least some of the Russian behavior that appears to Americans as unprovoked aggression—such as interference in the 2016 presidential election—appears to Russians as a natural reaction to years of perceived Western meddling in Russia and its neighbors. But Russia’s behavior is not driven solely by defensive motives. It also sees itself as rightfully a great power, albeit one that was down on its luck in the 1990s, that should play a key role in international affairs along with the United States, Europe and China, and that should dominate its neighboring states, as it believes all great powers do. It is difficult to argue that Moscow’s military involvement in South America, a region far from Russia’s borders with only the most tenuous of connections to any vital Russian interest, is motivated by anything other than a desire to show Washington that Russia is a great power capable of stirring up trouble in regions dominated by the United States. Part of the resentment of the United States that has grown within Moscow’s political class over the past two decades stems from the belief that Washington treats Russia as a subordinate and has stood in the way of its return to great power glory. Russia’s desire to dominate neighboring states has been a key factor driving their efforts to join NATO and seek American help, which in turn has fueled Moscow’s insecurities in a spiral of escalating hostility. This mix of offensive and defensive motivations is, in fact, an old theme in Russian foreign policy. Commenting on tsarist Russia’s behavior in the period leading to World War I, Henry Kissinger observed, “Partly defensive, partly offensive, Russian expansion was always ambiguous, and this ambiguity generated Western debates over Russia’s intentions that lasted through the Soviet period.” THE FIELD of management science has a term for the kinds of conundrums that resulted in World War I: wicked problems. The term is not meant to connote the given problem’s evil nature, but rather the enormous challenges it presents. One of the hallmarks of such problems is that efforts to break them down and address their component parts incrementally are counterproductive. Addressing one aspect of the problem can make others worse and often adds new dimensions of difficulty. Multiple individual elements are connected to and interact with each other in ways that change over time. Relationships in such a system are not arithmetic, and good intentions do not necessarily bring success. Every individual action inevitably has effects on other parts of the system, some of which may be damaging. And recognizing in advance what those cascading effects will be is immensely difficult. While our Russia challenge does not fit neatly into either the “offensive Russia” or “defensive Russia” schools of thought, the tangled set of issues crisscrossing the U.S.-Russian relationship does reflect the complexities of a classic wicked problem. Starkly differing perceptions of the other side’s intentions have garbled the signals that each believes it is sending and reinforced mistaken assumptions about how the other will react to events. Unsettled questions about Europe’s post-Cold War security architecture are fueling antagonisms. New and still poorly understood cyber technologies, coupled with the development of advanced strategic weapons delivery systems, are providing enormous advantages to the attacker over the defender, reinforcing perceptions of vulnerability while incentivizing aggression. Changes in the global geopolitical order have simultaneously threatened U.S. preeminence and provided tempting opportunities for Russia and other rival powers to advance their influence. Each side has increasingly tethered itself to unreliable proxies whose interests overlap with—but do not coincide with—those of their sponsors. And each side is struggling to cope with domestic political challenges that magnify its feelings of vulnerability and complicate its ability to formulate and implement effective foreign policies. Meanwhile, the old rules that governed the Cold War competition between Washington and Moscow have withered away, and new understandings that could contain and stabilize the renewed rivalry have not replaced them. All these factors are reinforcing each other in a vicious cycle of dynamic interactions. Moreover, the interconnection between component parts of these issues means there is a high potential that accidents and incremental actions will produce unintended knock-on effects. Just as in Sarajevo in 1914, small events can cause ripples in this complex set of problems that produce large, catastrophic outcomes. Echoing the British and German experience in the period leading up to World War I, the United States and Russia are caught in a spiral of threat perceptions today. Russians have long been convinced that Washington is moving to encircle their country with hostile puppet regimes and overthrow their government. Americans have more recently become persuaded that the Kremlin is trying to use cyber weapons to divide our society and destroy U.S. democracy. Each regards the other’s purported fears as exaggerations at best, if not self-serving lies. U.S. accusations of Russian paranoia are nearly equaled by Russian charges of American Russophobia. Dismissals of the other side’s fears are reinforcing, not ameliorating, each side’s threat perceptions.

Alliances needed to deter Russia

Dimitri Simes, 8-8, 19, National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/delusions-about-russia-72321, Delusions About Russia, Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.

The Trump administration is right to insist on a significant increase in America’s military budget, and officials in the administration are also right to insist that alliances are a major source of American strength that need to be reformed rather than discarded. Similarly, when U.S. and Russian interests collide, as was the case with Iran, Syria and the withdrawal from certain arms control agreements, America should be able to vigorously, albeit carefully, defend its interests despite Moscow’s opposition. It would be overly optimistic to expect a real friendship or partnership with Russia in a near future, especially considering the hostility many in the Russian elite feel today towards the United States

Russia’s military strength is increasing and it is also emboldened

Dimitri Simes, 8-8, 19, National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/delusions-about-russia-72321, Delusions About Russia, Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.

Russia’s new military might, combined with its growing boldness, should be taken seriously. Russia’s posture reflects more than a confidence in its new hardware or a willingness to issue intimidating high-level warnings, but rather speaks to a major change in the Russian mindset. Russia has developed a new mode of nationalism accompanied by a genuine evolution not just in its attitude towards the West and the utility of military force as a policy instrument, but also about what Russia views as its core strategic interests. According to Alexander Tsipko, a leading expert on Russian politics who was once considered something of an enlightened nationalist for viewing Moscow’s desire to become part of the West as a delusion, the country has undergone disturbing changes in its national political psyche. This shift was marked by the growing disillusionment with both the West and democracy that became prevalent during the end of the Yeltsin era after the bitter experience of Russia’s economic demise and NATO’s intervention in Yugoslavia. Tsipko writes, “I agree with those who believe that it is the very national character that is to some extent the cause of the militarization of conscience.” He adds, “It is important to understand that militarization of conscience brings the killing of the instinct of self-preservation. It is not just expecting death, but creating a cult of death, making it sacred.”

Russia no longer supports liberalism

Dimitri Simes, 8-8, 19, National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/delusions-about-russia-72321, Delusions About Russia, Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.

During perestroika and the early Boris Yeltsin years, Russia enthusiastically celebrated democratization, universal human values and its association with the West. No longer. Russia has once again embraced its traditional self-image: that of a national security state, surrounded by hostile nations, that takes pride in being feared rather than loved. Throughout history, Russia, despite its long-held pretense of being the “Third Rome,” has positioned itself not as a shining city on a hill, but rather a lonely, proud fortress prepared to do whatever is necessary to defend itself and its unique position in the world. Indeed, the Russian state’s recent trend of glorifying the Soviet victory in World War II reveals an increasingly prevalent feeling in Russia that the sacrifice of twenty-six million Soviet soldiers was not only necessary for the preservation of Russian civilization, but also demonstrates a genuine Russian exceptionalism in terms of its willingness to absorb a superhuman level of sacrifice. Something of this mindset was once captured by the great Russian poet and World War II veteran Bulat Okudzhava, who wrote with a combination of pride and sorrow about the attitude of Russian troops during the war:

Nukes won’t deter Putin – -he thinks he can take them out with hypersonic weapons

Dimitri Simes, 8-8, 19, National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/delusions-about-russia-72321, Delusions About Russia, Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.

Indeed, the situation has rarely been more perilous. The Putin administration claims to be unconcerned by the prospect of a nuclear arms-race with the United States, as it argues that the potency of its new weapons, most notably hypersonic ones, renders any potential American numerical advantage in its nuclear arsenal inconsequential and, more fundamentally, gives Russia the capability to overcome any missile defense system. Instead of confronting these issues, the American national security establishment is acting as though it does not have to even consider the possibility of engaging in meaningful diplomacy and as though Russia poses no imminent threat.

We can’t rely on nuclear deterrence – Russia is prepared to escalate to the nuclear level

Dimitri Simes, 8-8, 19, National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/delusions-about-russia-72321, Delusions About Russia, Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.

In recent years, Putin has unveiled his Avangard hypersonic ICBM system and new RS-28 Sarmat heavy ballistic missile (both of which are allegedly capable of overcoming any U.S./NATO missile defenses), and warned that, if push comes to shove, Russia is prepared to stand against a military challenge from the West even if doing so meant escalating to nuclear war. These warnings were coupled with the deployment of new brigades to Ukraine’s borders starting in 2014 and major improvements of Russia’s military capabilities near the Baltic region

Russia or the US won’t just first strike each other

Viktor Murakhovsky, , 7-23-19, Victor is a retired Russian colonel, defense analyst, and editor-in-chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, to better get the Russian perspective on the future of arms control. Murakhovsky is widely regarded in Russia as a leading military expert and is frequently cited by Russian media, Are Russia and America headed toward a nuclear war? https://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-russia-and-america-headed-toward-nuclear-war-68702

All this talk of decapitation strikes or counterforce strikes is just a pathological intellectual exercise, which has very little to do with real-world combat implementation plans, to real-world deployment of armed forces, and to how wars are prepared for, begin, and fought. President Trump or President Ivanov won’t just wake up one morning on the wrong side of the bed and decides to press the big red button. That just doesn’t happen. Deploying armed forces and preparing strikes against an adversary requires a very considerable amount of time. Concealing such preparation is absolutely impossible. For that reason, even if the New START treaty will cease to exist, the world will not turn upside down.

Retaliation means no hypersonic weapons decapitation strikes

Viktor Murakhovsky, , 7-23-19, Victor is a retired Russian colonel, defense analyst, and editor-in-chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, to better get the Russian perspective on the future of arms control. Murakhovsky is widely regarded in Russia as a leading military expert and is frequently cited by Russian media, Are Russia and America headed toward a nuclear war? https://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-russia-and-america-headed-toward-nuclear-war-68702

Of course, competition in the realm of military technology will continue. One clear example of this is Russia’s introduction of Avangard hypersonic missiles. At the same time, one must understand that these technologies were not suddenly born yesterday. These technologies were developed over several decades, starting in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Will the United States eventually acquire this technology? I don’t doubt it. With the current level of financing and effort, there are enough companies in the military-industrial complex that are capable of making their own version of this technology. N Will this destroy strategic stability? No, it will not because these are “judgement day weapons,” as they say, and they guarantee a retaliatory strike under any development of a missile defense system. Can these weapons be used for a decapitating first-strikes? Of course not, because the range of strategic nuclear armed forces include other means of responding such as submarines, bombers, and so on. Some analysts say about counter-force strikes, “Only 15 percent of missiles and 20 percent of nuclear warheads will reach the adversary’s territory.” I always wanted to ask them, “Have you ever seen with your own eyes any dead people whose bodies have been torn to pieces to be so concerned about whether five to seven million people die instead of fifty to seventy million?” In the real world, such calculations are not made. Therefore, to reiterate, I think that even if the New START Treaty is not extended nothing catastrophic will happen in the military-technical sphere. But something catastrophic will happen to the military-political trust between the United States and Russia. The situation in this area is already very difficult and it will only get worse.