Aggressive Russian, Chinese Policies Aim to Blunt US and Its Allies, Joint Chiefs Chairman Tells Commanders’ Forum
By OTTO KREISHER, Senior Editor
WASHINGTON — Russia and China are pursuing policies to establish hegemony in their parts of the world and are pushing military development with the aim of preventing the U.S. military from being able to project power and going to the aid of America’s allies and partners, the nation’s top military officer said March 21.
Those actions were in direct response to what Russia and China see as the U.S. national security advantage — its global network of allies and partners and its ability to project military power wherever needed, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, said at the Atlantic Council’s commanders’ forum.
Despite Russia’s improvements in ballistic and cruise missiles and other military capabilities, the Russians could not stop America from meeting its military commitments to its NATO allies, Dunford said. “Can they do it today? No. But it would be more difficult than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” he said in response to questions at the forum.
Dunford was not asked the same direct question about China’s ability to block U.S. power projection in the Pacific, but he indicated the Chinese could not do so when he said: “They are trying to develop a military capability to make it much more difficult” to meet the U.S. commitments to its five Asian allies.
And he said, in addition to its concerted effort to “establish pre-eminence in the Pacific,” China has “clear aspirations that go well beyond the Pacific” and seeks to change the world order to make it more beneficial to Chinese interests.
Asked if Russia was trying to push America out of Europe, Dunford said Moscow “would be much more comfortable if we had not increased our presence in Europe” and if there were not such “a physical manifestation of our committee sitting in Europe,” referring to the U.S. forces stationed in or deployed to Europe.
Despite Russia’s actions to claim part of the nations of Georgia and Ukraine, Dunford said he did not think Russian President Vladimir Putin had any intention of attacking a NATO ally. But, he added, he did not see “any indication that Putin is going to back off” the kind of actions he took in Georgia and Ukraine, which fall in the “gray zone” below all-out war.
And he noted the actions Putin took “to undermine our democracy” in the 2016 elections.
Pressed on that point, Dunford said “I’m not making any news,” because the U.S. intelligence community has stated repeatedly that Russia was behind social-media shenanigans and cyber-meddling during the election.
Asked if he was attributing those actions directly to Putin, Dunford said Russia is “an autocratic nation” and that he did not think anything that serious could have occurred without Putin’s direction. President Donald Trump has consistently rejected the idea that Putin tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
On another sensitive issue, Dunford was asked about the growing concerns over Google and other U.S. technology giants working to help develop Chinese IT systems.
“Putting Google aside,” Dunford said those efforts “to help an authoritarian government” improve its ability to exert control over its people by using technology developed in America “was not in the interest of the United States.”
And it was not just a case of Google’s business transactions. “It’s about the U.S. ability to maintain its technological advantage,” Dunford said.
Asked whether the government should block delivery of the fifth-generation F-35 fighters if Turkey fields the Russian-made S-400 anti-air missile system, Dunford said he had to be careful in his answer because Turkey is an ally and that “S-400 is a very tough issue.”
But, he added, both the president and Congress are going “to have a very hard time” allowing a nation with S-400 technology to also possess the F-35.