WASHINGTON, DC — The United States must “pay attention” to “routine” joint military operations in Europe by growing allies Russia and China, the top American commander in the region told a House panel on Wednesday.
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on American military activities, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) head and NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, testified that intensified military modernization efforts by China and Russia threaten to erode America’s military advantage.
“They are more advanced in theirs than we are,” the general cautioned, referring to where China and Russia stand in their military modernization activities.
Starting on the 2018 anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the American homeland, Russia and China held the biggest joint military exercise in decades in a show of force rebuked by NATO.
Asked about those war games, Scaparrotti declared:
I think it was just to show some unity when they can … but while significant in the fact that the two are working together and we should recognize that, it was not all that Russia promoted it to be.
And again, in terms of their operations within Europe, it’s in small numbers, not highly involved operations when they do it, or at least exercises, but is becoming routine. And again we need to pay attention to that. I think their objective is — China’s objective is — to show their presence in Europe, not only in an economic way but in small ways with the military.
Russia described its joint drills with China last year — Vostok 2018 — as its largest war games since the Cold War, reportedly saying that “aggressive and unfriendly” attitudes towards the Kremlin justified the exercise.
In its latest annual World Threat Assessment, the American intelligence community cautioned that the strategic relationship between Russia and China, long marred by tensions and mutual suspicions, is “likely to strengthen” further this year.
Published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the assessment declared:
China and Russia will present a wide variety of economic, political, counterintelligence, military, and diplomatic challenges to the United States and its allies. We anticipate that they will collaborate to counter US objectives, taking advantage of rising doubts in some places about the liberal democratic model.
China and Russia are expanding cooperation with each other and through international bodies to shape global rules and standards to their benefit and present a counterweight to the United States and other Western countries.
Consistent with other appraisals, last year’s Global Firepower (GFP) index, which ranks 133 countries annually, suggested that the militaries of China and Russia together outrank the U.S. armed forces, which are considered the most powerful in the world.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the United States military is prioritizing combating America’s strategic competitors Russia and China while maintaining pressure on Islamic terrorists.