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Russian, Chinese militaries will reach peak strength in 10 years, Army Sec. warns

Then-Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper, talks to 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Soldiers at the Landstuhl Satellite Facility, Germany, on Sept. 24, 2018. (Pfc. Charles Thorman/U.S. Army)
February 27, 2019

U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper said this week that the U.S. predicts Russian and Chinese militaries are going to peak in the next decade, and their militaries will be stronger than ever.

In an interview Monday, Esper said The U.S. Army is now shifting focus, redirecting funds from weapons programs to investments to beat Russian and Chinese military capabilities, Esper said in an interview Monday.

“What we’re looking at is 2028 and beyond, because we think it’s time the Russians will be peaking,” he said, adding that China will peak around 2030.

Esper said that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan “mortgaged its readiness” against the threat of Russia and China. It must now focus on modernizing decades-old equipment, which will require delaying or cutting some 200 programs.

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“If we’re going to fight and win against the Russians and Chinese in the year 2030, 2040 and 2050, I’ve got to start building the next generation now,” he said.

Esper explained that he is prioritizing improved precision for long-range weapons, new combat vehicles and helicopters, and improved missile defenses.

The U.S. has been shifting its focus away from the Middle East and toward China and Russia over the past year.

Both China and Russia have been named as threats in numerous federal reports and strategies, in addition to the growing concern of the U.S.’s comparative capabilities.

The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy outlined China and Russia as top threats facing the U.S. It also reflects the shifting views of President Donald Trump, who is reducing emphasis on the Middle East after announcing troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan.

Shortly after assuming his position as Acting Defense Secretary earlier this year, Patrick Shanahan said he wanted to continue the previous defense strategy that emphasized Russia and China, and told military leaders to remember “China, China, China.”

In September, Shanahan called for the execution of the National Defense Strategy, noting that China and Russia have built strategies based on analyzing the fighting tactics of the U.S. and could now thwart U.S. operations.

Shanahan’s remarks echo those made by his predecessor, Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. In January 2018, Mattis declared, “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

Mattis added that the U.S. military’s advantage toward foreign adversaries like China and Russia was dwindling along with the U.S. military’s leadership in air, land, sea, space and cyberspace powers.

“We have no room for complacency and history makes clear that America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said at the time.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also contained several provisions against China and a Russian interference strategy, including stipulations for increasing military capabilities in direct response to China’s growing capabilities.