It has been 30 years since the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. Many Americans have long forgotten what it was like living under constant fear of nuclear destruction. An entire generation has been born and raised without ever understanding the potential horrors of war on the homeland. Domestic problems and terrorism have overtaken our attention and the fear of war has been thrown into the dustbin of history. It has long been taken for granted that American military might could never be toppled, but this situation is drastically changing. China and Russia have openly stated having desires of empire and going beyond their borders to control resources (Fesenko, 2020). In the past decade, recent political and military developments in Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have emerged that challenge the idea that the United States’ military is superior (Fesenko, 2020). While these rogue nations modernize and build up their militaries, America has been cutting her military spending and downsizing (Huessy, 2021; United States Institute of Peace, 2018). NATO has deteriorated and Turkey could possibly be on the verge of betraying the alliance for Russia (Nordlinger, 2019). There has also been the dangerous founding of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which is evolving from a political alliance into a defense union to counter NATO (Peternelj et al., 2019). These developments present a sobering and terrifying reality that a military coalition of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea has the ability to overcome and defeat the United States.
America, the Superpower
Since the turn of the 20th century, America has experienced peace because she is the only global superpower ever to have existed in the world (Brzezinski, 2016). A superpower is described as having supreme global leadership in all three areas of economy, military, and politics (Brzezinski, 2016). Her military prowess has spanned across continents and she has military bases worldwide (Brzezinski, 2016). This long-term supremacy has taken America into a gilded age of prosperity and peace. World Wars I and II weakened continental Europe and allowed America to rise up into dominance from that European power vacuum (Brzezinski, 2016).
The reasoning behind American extension militarily is to control the great Eurasian continent. This is what the Cold War was truly about (Brzezinski, 2016). This area comprises the heartland of Eurasia, which consists of the Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and those nations surrounding the Caspian Sea (Brzezinski, 2016). This area is rich in raw resources and 75% of the world’s wealth is stored here in rare earth minerals and metals. This area also contains three-fourths of the world’s energy resources and is an untapped emerging market (Brzezinski, 2016). Whoever physically controls the Eurasian heartland is the winner of the global chess game (Brzezinski, 2016). Certain nations surrounding the superpowers of Russia and emerging China are where destabilizations occur for the reasons to prevent Russia and China from encroaching beyond their borders and into the Eurasian heartland (Brzezinski, 2016). Nations such as the Ukraine, Belarus, South Korea, and Taiwan are all pivotal nations that the United States uses to keep the Chinese and the Russians in their respective corners (Brzezinski, 2016).
The man who taught this doctrine was Zbigniew Brzezinski (2016), a long serving American foreign policy expert, who worked under several presidents and chaired foreign policy think tanks. According to Brzezinski (2016), the great power that America has become would be at risk if China, Russia, and Iran ever became united with mutual grievances against the United States and if they gained momentum to move into the Eurasian heartland. This situation would plunge the world into grave danger and could overcome the United States militarily (Brzezinski, 2016). This situation has now arisen (Lin, 2010).
Russia and China; Empires Rising
Russia and China have similarities that draw them together. They are both authoritarian regimes with emerging capitalist economies (Trush, 2020). Both regimes are committed to expanding their civilization, and their respected party elites that run the country have similar philosophies of global supremacy and expansion with national slogans such as “Russian World,” “Greater Eurasia,” and “One Belt One Road” (Trush, 2020, p. 663). China is growing fast and emerging as an economic world power (Fesenko, 2020). The dangers are that they are now uniting with the second strongest military and nuclear power in the world, which is Russia (Fesenko, 2020). Their goal is to control the Eurasian landmass, block the United States from influence there, and literally reproduce the ancient Silk Road (Peternelj et al., 2019).
In 2001, China and Russia entered into the Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation (Trush, 2020). This treaty obtains a clause that states if any one of the parties feels that their security is threatened, they will jointly address the issue to protect one another (Trush, 2020). In 2014, Russia began actively supplying arms to the Chinese and they are the biggest importer of Russian military arms and technology (Trush, 2020). The Chinese have had a technological boost regarding their military, and this has boosted China into a great military power (Trush, 2020). They have acquired SAMs (long range anti-aircraft missiles), unmanned underwater vehicles, laser guided bombs and much more (Trush, 2020). They are the exclusive buyers of Russia’s Su-37 fighters and the C-400 missile systems (Trush, 2020). All these arms are to counter the United States’ influence over the Eurasian region (Trush, 2020).
In the years between 2015-2018, the Chinese conducted joint maneuvers with Russia of their armed forces and navies. These military exercises were the largest exercises ever to take place by China and Russia (Trush, 2020). They are specifically practicing for potential war with the United States and NATO (Trush, 2020). Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has risen back up with ideas of former empire and they express interest in the former communist satellite states they once controlled (Trush, 2020). This includes the Central Asian states in the Eurasian heartland (Trush, 2020). The United States is actually pushing Russia and China towards this alliance through Russian sanctions. This is causing the Russians to turn to China for economic relief in bank loans and commerce (Trush, 2020). During Trump’s administration, trade wars were waged upon China, crumbling their relationship with the United States (Trush, 2020). With Russia providing the arms and China providing the money, together they are able to circumvent the United States economically and militarily (Trush, 2020).
In 2018, Putin announced that Russia had achieved a military breakthrough. They had developed five new nuclear delivery systems that Putin dubbed Russia’s “super weapons” (Geist & Massicot, 2019, p. 103). These systems are specifically designed to penetrate the United States’ homeland (Geist & Massicot, 2019). The RS-Sarmat ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) is much larger than anything the United States currently possesses (Geist & Massicot, 2019). Another ICBM is the Avangard, which is designed to get past American missile defenses (Geist & Massicot, 2019). They also developed the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear powered, ground launched, cruise missile which has nuclear propulsion with unlimited range and allows the missile to target and avoid air and missile defenses (Geist & Massicot, 2019). This will be the first aircraft to be powered by nuclear energy (Geist & Massicot, 2019). Russia and China have also developed direct energy weapons to conduct kinetic attacks upon our satellites in space as well as sophisticated cyber warfare tactics (Acton, 2018). All of these weapons are not just self-defense, but they are intended to one day combat the United States (Huessy, 2021).
Another super weapon, the Poseidon, is an underwater vehicle (UUV) that has no crew, but is a nuclear submarine (Geist & Massicot, 2019). The Poseidon possesses a compact nuclear reactor, and up until this point, Russia is the only nation that is the undisputed leader in this form of technology. The Russian navy is the only navy that has this weapon (Geist & Massicot, 2019). Poseidon can outmaneuver the fastest submarines and stay at sea for years because of the nuclear propulsion (Geist & Massicot, 2019). Poseidon would create huge areas of radioactive contamination and destruction and violates international law (Kristensen & Korda, 2020). Russia has developed an air launched, ballistic, hypersonic missile called the Kinzhal, which is specifically useful to combat U.S. carrier groups and the U.S. ballistic missile defense locations in Poland and Romania under NATO (Geist & Massicot, 2019). These hypersonic missiles can destroy key munitions and facilities which cause their enemies’ defenses to go down (Geist & Massicot, 2019). It needs to be noted that Russia has violated the 1972 Seabed Treaty with the Poseidon (Geist & Massicot, 2019). These nuclear modernizations of the five super weapons will be online by the early 2020s and will enhance Russia’s capability to attack America’s Minuteman ICBM silos that are scattered across the United States and overcome them (Geist & Massicot, 2019).
Iran and North Korea have joined Russia and China
Iran is also emerging as a hostile threat to U.S. forces. China has been courting Iran and several infrastructure deals have been struck, allowing China to build transportation lines and oil pipelines through Iran and up into the Eurasian heartland in exchange for energy reserves (Lin, 2010). This guarantee of gas and oil from Iran will allow China to challenge the U.S. over Taiwan without fear of the U.S. cutting their oil and gas supplies off (Lin, 2010). This alliance gives a footing for China to establish in the Persian Gulf, which is the soft underbelly of the Eurasian heartland, and allows China to challenge the U.S. (Lin, 2010). This alliance allows Iran to circumvent the sanctions the United States has placed upon her. China has also given assistance to Iran’s feared nuclear enrichment program, enabling them to get precise uranium measurements for the enrichment process (Lin, 2010).
Knowing that the U.S. is putting heavier sanctions upon them, Iran is also drawing close to Russia and has sought membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which has a defense pact that is in likeness to NATO’s (Lin, 2010). Russia also sold Iran SS-20 missiles that were supposed to be dismantled according to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which Russia has violated numerous times (Lin, 2010).
North Korea, who is known to be belligerent and threatening to the United States is also growing closer to this axis. Iran and North Korea have been sharing military and weapons technology for thirty years (Lin, 2010). North Korea traffics weapons of mass destruction (including bioweapons and chemical weapons specifically intended to use against the United States) to Iran. They both have launched military satellites to compete with the United States (Lin, 2010). North Korea and Iran are now developing advanced nuclear weapons (Lin, 2010). They have the capability now to detonate a nuclear weapon over the mainland of America, which could deliver a crippling EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack and take out our power grid (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). The Chinese do have a defense pact with the North Koreans called the Sino-North Korean Friendship Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Treaty (Lin, 2010). This Treaty gives the North Koreans the military backing they desire if they should come into conflict with the United States (Lin, 2010).
As we can see, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are not only allied but conducting large scale weapons’ modernizations including nuclear, bioweapons, cyber warfare, and AI technologies ( Lin, 2010; United States Institute of Peace, 2018). While they are building up, the U.S. will not have any new type of nuclear weapon until at least 2029 (Huessy, 2021). At this current combined rate, they have outpaced the United States (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). Admiral Charles Richard of USSSTRATCOM warned that the United States must replace these outdated systems, or they will be obsolete by the end of the 2020s (Huessy, 2021). General John Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that by 2030, our Minuteman ICBM missiles will literally be fallen apart (Huessy, 2021).
Why is our military not modernizing? It is mainly due to budget cuts. The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 is the main culprit behind the weakening of America’s military because it downsized the armed forces and stopped any modernizations (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). According to the United States Institute of Peace (2018), in their governmental report that they conducted, they claimed that “America is at the point of strategic insolvency” (p. xii). Congress was warned in 2010 and 2014 of this situation, but they ignored it (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). Since the BCA of 2011, the United States’ Department of Defense gave examples of possible war theater scenarios with Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea and determined that the U.S. could not fight them in a conventional war (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). The United States would be overcome if multiple war theaters broke out in the Pacific, Middle East, and Eastern Europe and our military would suffer catastrophic losses of personnel and assets (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). The Department of Defense also warned that if Congress did not extend the budget by 2020, it would be too late to catch up (United States Institute of Peace, 2018).
Another weakness of America’s military defense system is their satellites of command, control, communication, and intelligence (C3Is) (Acton, 2018). These satellites have unfortunately been dual purposed with nuclear and non-nuclear C3Is and this escalates the risk of entanglement (Acton, 2018). This means our nuclear capabilities such as launch on warning are compromised each time a cyberattack is attempted (Acton, 2018). The Russians and Chinese could hack our C3Is and take out our nuclear capabilities and our launch on warning protocol would be destroyed (Acton, 2018). The Russians and Chinese have been documented to state that if they disabled our C3I satellites, they would prepare a first strike nuclear attack on the American mainland (Acton, 2018).
America’s final weakness comes from her waging the war on terror for the past 30 years (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). While terrorism is important to fight, it focuses military attention on intelligence gathering and small skirmishes (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). This has focused American military might upon an inferior enemy that does not have the conventional weapons or personnel forces to truly challenge American military strength (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). Our military lacks the skills set they need to conduct large scale war exercises and maneuvers (United States Institute of Peace, 2018).
Many argue that the United States still has her NATO allies in western Europe, and combined together, they could overcome the Russian, Chinese, North Korean, and Iranian alliance. However, recently there have been reasons to doubt the strength of NATO. In the fall of 2019 Turkey, a NATO member, informed the United States that they would be entering Syria to attack the Kurds (Nordlinger, 2019). The United States usually supports the Kurds, so this move by Turkey was deemed hostile by the United States (Nordingliner, 2019). The U.S. warned Turkey that if they did this, their economy could be harmed (Nordlinger, 2019). This incursion by Turkey produced a small skirmish of artillery fire between them and the United States (Nordlinger, 2019). This bold and brazen move by Turkey drew criticism from the international community in the West, and many within the foreign policy circles labeled Turkey an ally that is nonexistent (Nordlinger, 2019). The Syrian situation also saw Turkey meeting with Russia to form an agreement about the situation (Nordlinger, 2019). Turkey is the second largest military in NATO, and during this time, they purchased the S-400 surface-to-air defense system from Russia against NATO rules (Nordlinger, 2019; Zanotti & Thomas, 2020). This move by Turkey was extremely dangerous as it allowed the Russians access to the U.S. stealth fighter F-35 jets, which then prompted the U.S. to remove Turkey from the Joint Strike Fighter program (Nordlinger, 2019). The United States has since placed sanctions on Turkey for this (Zanotti & Thomas, 2020).
The importance of Turkey in NATO is because they are the strategic bridge between the Eurasian landmass and Europe, which controls the eastern Mediterranean and Baltic Sea (Nordlinger, 2019). Losing Turkey to Russia and Iranian influence would be compromising the security and safety of Europe (Nordlinger, 2019). Recently, Turkey complained that they were denied their own nuclear weapons and responded by explaining they had the ability to get new friends and allies if they were continually denied (Nordlinger, 2019). Turkey has also threatened to flood Europe with Syrian refugees, to which the E.U. retaliated by imposing arm’s embargoes against them, but the United States vetoed the embargo (Nordlinger, 2019). Another danger Turkey poses is that they harbor 50 of our nuclear warheads at the Incirlik Air Base (Nordlinger, 2019). What would happen if they decided not to allow access to the warheads? Or what if they confiscated these warheads for their own use?
NATO is best armed with conventional forces on their eastern European front, and this has now been compromised (Wellen, 2014). There has been a disturbing military doctrine emerging in Russian military circles, one of limited nuclear war (Sethi, 2019). This simply means that they believe they can wage a limited nuclear war and win (Sethi, 2019). In the 1980s, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev extolled the belief that no one could win a nuclear war, therefore fighting one was pointless (Sethi, 2019). This military doctrine has been thrown out the window (Sethi, 2019). With this in mind, Putin’s only way to defeat NATO on the eastern European front is to simply launch a nuclear attack to which he would prevail (Wellen, 2014).
It is true that over the years, nuclear weapons have been sophisticated and many are now considered tactical (Wellen, 2014). This means that their nuclear capabilities have been honed down to produce less radiation damage from fall out (Wellen, 2014). If Putin did attack Europe with nuclear weapons, it may not necessarily bring a nuclear holocaust (Wellen, 2014). This grim fact means few in America would be willing to retaliate and risk death to protect a few in eastern Europe (Wellen, 2014). Would Americans be willing to die for a few cities in eastern Europe they had never heard of (Wellen, 2014)? Putin is very well aware of the advantage Russia possesses and this emboldens him to consider occupying Ukraine and the Baltic states (Wellen, 2014). It would give Russia strategic control over the oil, gas, and natural resources Europe depends on from the Eurasian heartland. Limited nuclear war could cause NATO to capitulate (Wellen, 2014). Putin has also adopted a nuclear strategy of escalating the crisis in order to win, and has stated that during a conventional conflict, Russia would retaliate with nuclear weapons against the United States to convince them to stand down (Huessy, 2021).
A final scenario that has developed which threatens NATO is the founding of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is an organization that serves the Eurasian heartland with a political, economic, and security treaty under the alliances of Russia and China (Peternelj et al., 2019). The countries involved besides Russia and China are the five Central Asian states surrounding the Caspian Sea, which is the Eurasian heartland. There are other dialogue members as well including Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, Belarus, Pakistan, Armenia, and India (Peternelj et al., 2019). The SCO has a primary goal of eliminating terrorism, separatism, and extremism within the Eurasian countries (Peternelj et al., 2019). This security decision is to specifically transform the SCO into more of a defense alliance with the specific interest to establish hegemony and dominance over the raw resources in the Eurasian heartland (Peternelj et al., 2019). Russia leads on political and military affairs with China leading economically, and they both acknowledge the task is to fight against any foreign meddling by the United States or NATO in the Eurasian heartland (Peternelj e al., 2019).
The nations that comprise the pillar of the SCO are Russia, China, Iran, and they are actively undermining the unity of America and Europe, as well as promoting the deterioration of NATO and the EU (Peternelj et al., 2019). This will allow Russia and China to challenge the domination of natural resources in Eurasia over the United States. It must be kept in mind that Turkey is a dialogue partner now, but has the potential to become a full-fledged member of the SCO (Peternelj et al., 2019). If Turkey joins and abolishes their NATO alliance, this means NATO has no access to the Bosphorus Straight, a strategic choke point into the Asian landmass and Europe (Peternelj et al., 2019). One article of the SCO states that Russia will be moving military equipment and arms into the Central Asian area as a prelude to combat the United States and NATO from accessing the area (Peternelj et al., 2019).
The importance of physically controlling the Eurasian landmass is crucial to the continual survival of America as a superpower nation (Brzezinski, 2016). While the United States is bogged down with internal conflict, turmoil, and distracted by terrorism, her enemies build up and prepare. America’s status as superpower is being undermined daily by the activities of Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea (Lin, 2010; Huessy, 2021). The lack of the American media to sound the alarm has lulled Americans into a blind complacency. This has caused Congress to ignore our defense spending and divert the funds to internal issues (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). It may be too late to act now, as this report was issued in 2018 and warned that if the budget was not increased by 2020, it would be too late (United States Institute of Peace, 2018). America’s military has become outdated and vulnerable to cyberattacks (Huessy, 2021; Acton, 2018). Russia and China have initiated desires of empire and they know they must expand or disintegrate (Fesenko, 2020; Trush, 2020). Iran and North Korea have become hostile and unpredictable rogue states who turn to China and Russia for protection and arms developments against the United States (Lin, 2010). Turkey’s rapid change from a secular state to a militant state compromises NATO and the United States (Nordlinger, 2019). Finally, the founding of the SCO and the implications to remove the United States militarily from access to the Eurasian heartland bodes an ominous warning to whether she can maintain her superpower status (Brzezinski, 2016; Peternelj et al., 2019). These recent developments have sounded a clear warning that the combined militaries of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran have the power now to conquer and defeat the United States.
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