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Russia and NATO Must Work Together to Contain China

Russia and NATO Must Work Together to Contain China
(TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

By Thursday, 25 February 2021 02:33 PM Current | Bio | Archive

When Russia conquered Crimea in 2014, only three NATO members (United States, United Kingdom, and Greece) spent at least two percent of their GDP on defense. In 2020, 10 NATO members reached that threshold.

From 2016 to 2020, Canada and the European members of NATO increased their cumulative defense spending by $130 billion dollars. This success was achieved in part because President Trump was able to push our allies to spend more money.

That being said, we still have a long way to go.

In 2019, the United States was 52 percent of the combined GDP of NATO’s members and 70 percent of the defense spending in NATO. Germany, by comparison, was 10 percent of the NATO’s total economy and only 5 percent of total defense spending.

All NATO members, including Germany, need to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. One area that Germany can contribute more is in artillery systems.

China’s rise will force the United States to focus more of our resources in keeping the peace in Asia rather than Europe. This will be difficult for the American people to support with our rising debt.

In February 2021, our national debt was $27.9 trillion dollars.

If we are to responsibly cut the defense budget, we need to improve our relations with Russia to effectively contain China. The Pentagon's spending is largely shaped by the actions of Russia and China.

In 2020, the United States and Russia together still possess almost 91 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. Beyond their nuclear weapons, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Russian Army has 280,000 troops with 2 million people in their military’s reserve forces. The Russians have 2,800 main battle tanks, 1,183 combat-capable aircraft, and 10 ballistic missile submarines.

In World War II, we secured our victory over Germany and Japan by making them our democratic allies. In 1990s, when Russia was at its lowest point, we lost our best chance to secure an alliance. In 2018, a number of declassified documents included extensive conversations between President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

The friendship between President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin was very good until NATO expansion and Kosovo nearly broke their relationship. They achieved notable successes from nonproliferation, joint peacekeeping in Bosnia, and economic assistance for Russia.

In May 1995, President Clinton and President Yeltsin met in Moscow and talked about the possibility of Russian membership in NATO. Yeltsin wanted a new organization to replace NATO with Russia as a member.

President Yeltsin argued, "I see nothing but humiliation for Russia if you proceed. How do you think it looks to us if one bloc continues to exist while the Warsaw Pact has been abolished?"

Yeltsin could not support expansion of NATO because he believed it would "constitute a betrayal on my part of the Russian people."

President Clinton tried to defuse the situation by saying that Russia had an important role in Europe and proposed a formal statement that "Russia should not be excluded from NATO membership."

It’s a pity that neither president had the political standing to put Russia into NATO. President Clinton told President Yeltsin that part of the reason he supported NATO expansion was the fear of Eastern European leaders of who will be in power after Yeltsin.

Clinton told Yeltsin, "They trust you, Boris. They know it would be inconsistent with your interests for them to be in NATO overnight. But they are not so sure what’s going to happen in Russia if you’re not around."

On March 24, 1999, President Clinton and President Yeltsin had a very tense conversation about Kosovo. This was just hours before NATO launched airstrikes. Clinton understood Yeltsin’s opposition and hoped it wouldn’t have any impact on their overall relationship.

Yeltsin didn’t want to end his friendship with Clinton, but he believed that things will never be the same. At one point, he begged Clinton to call off the attack for the "sake of our relationship." Yeltsin warned Clinton, "It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons."

In 2000, President Putin told British journalist David Frost that he would consider Russia joining NATO if it was treated as an "equal partner." Today relations between NATO and Russia are so bad, I don’t think Putin would join even if the Europeans accepted Crimea as a part of Russia and removed all of the sanctions.

The only hope of Russia joining NATO while Putin is in power is if the rise of China threatens Russia’s control of the Far East. The Russian Far East Federal District only has a population of 6 million Russians living next to 100 million Chinese in the border provinces with Russia.

Approximately 300,000 Chinese have already settled in the Russian Far East. There is a real possibility that the Chinese could take over large parts of the Russian Far East the same way the United States took Texas from Mexico.

In 1821, Mexico gained its independence. By 1834, Texas had over 30,000 settlers from the United States versus only 7,800 Mexicans. By the time Mexico decided to assert its control, it was too late. As Sun Zhu famously wrote, "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

The rise of China is a threat to both Russia and the West. If NATO and Russia could work together, we could contain China at a much lower price.

At some point, we are going to have to address our national debt. We will need to responsibly reduce federal spending, which includes our defense budget.

Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.

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When Russia conquered Crimea in 2014, only three NATO members (United States, United Kingdom, and Greece) spent at least two percent of their GDP on defense. In 2020, 10 NATO members reached that threshold.From 2016 to 2020, Canada and the European members of NATO increased...
nato, war, agreements
Thursday, 25 February 2021 02:33 PM
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