Major impacts on triangle game
Summary of key factors having impact on the triangle game of great powers
The key factors having essential impact on the triangle game of great powers can be summarized and specified in this chapter. These factors have been closely examined in relevant sections of this website.
Criterions for selecting these key factors are based on the assessment, how much each factor possesses impact on the triangle game in the next five years. According to this assessment, the following combination of key factors has been selected.
Three most important non-military factors for the next five years:
Three most important military factors for the next five years:
- Sino-Russian military partnership and joint operations
- new weapons: hypersonics
- new weapons: ASAT and EW
The Sino-Russian military cooperation/partnership and joint operations are essential and crucial characteristics in the development of great power relations for next five years. At the same time, they disclose the prevailing trend “the focus and the balance of power are moving to east in the international politics”.
Based on the previous analyses in various sections of this website, here is the short summary of each factor.
Sino-Russian joint scheme to dethrone the US dollar from its status of sole international reserve currency. This status has enabled the US nearly-limitless indebtedness and nearly-limitless military expenditure, which the US Government has fully utilized for its political purposes. In addition, the reserve currency status and the sole US access to SWIFT data have enabled the US Government extensive privileges to set sanctions and other punitive measures to any nation according to the US political purposes.
China and Russia have enlarged the use of their national currencies and other financial arrangements and organized several other countries along with their scheme. At the end of 2019 the following countries are at least partly applying “de-dollarization procedures”, besides China and Russia: EU, Iran, Turkey, South Korea, India, Qatar, South Africa, Venezuela, Japan, Nigeria, Cuba and EAEU countries. China is organizing various currency and financial arrangements, in the context of BRI, with tens of African countries as well as with some Latin American countries. China’s digital currency project belongs to this endeavour too.
Russia and China have been leading countries as the purchasers of monetary gold during last ten years and unlike the majority of Western countries, which are mainly trading gold derivatives, they buy physical gold bullions hoarding them locally in their own countries. In addition, Russia is implementing the national de-dollarization programme aiming to get rid of dollar engagements till the end of 2024. China is decreasing its US federal bond portfolio being now the second bond holder (Japan number one), Russia being sold nearly all US bonds.
The US Federal debt is, at the end of 2019 about 23,4 trillion US dollars and GDP estimated $ 21,8 trillion making the federal debt ratio 107%. When taking into account US Government Agencies debt, state&local government and administration debts, the sum exceeds 35 trillion dollars making the debt ratio nearly 170%.
In summer 2019, a Wall Street financial analyst agency disclosed the overall account of total American indebtedness adding those mentioned figures together with corporate and business debts and all private household debts and student loans as well as unfunded liabilities regarding pension and other similar social funds. The total American debt ratio was about 2000%.
In the first half of 2020, the US indebtedness is further skyrocketing, due to various “bailout” procedures for coronavirus pandemic and the unemployment increasing dramatically. At the end of 2020 federal debt is over $ 27 trillion. The asset of Fed (federal reserve bank) is dangerously spiraling up with accelerating speed.
The Federal budget’s annual deficit has exceeded recently 1 trillion dollars level and is increasing due to Trump’s tax reductions, deficit percent exceeding 30%. The Congress Budget Office’s estimates tell that in 2023 the annual federal interest payments + maturing debt exceed annual federal tax revenues, which means de facto “liquidity bankrupt”.
Besides debt bubble, which is ballooning all the time, there are quite many other bubbles in the US economy, stock exchange bubble, real estate bubble, shale oil bubble etc. so that many Wall Street analysts are talking about “everything bubble”, which will burst soon and results in “Bubblegeddon”.
AI & cyber
AI and cyber will play very important role both in civil and military issues, already in the near future. China is investing massive resources in this area in 2020s as will do Russia, the US and several other countries as well. The worldwide competition, even the race for decisive inventions will be really tough.
Politicians and the military leadership of great powers have become aware of AI’s transformational, even revolutionary impacts on military capabilities. Great powers are now placing an emphasis on AI nationalism, which proclaims the priority of the economic and military interests of one’s own country as the principal objective of its national AI strategy. The strengthening of these trends promotes the shift of state priorities in developed countries away from the globalized, private economy and business towards geopolitics by nation states. If these trends continue, as it clearly seems to do, the world will undergo major changes in the near future.
The increasing use of different cyber measures, media & internet and other informatics measures, camouflaged proxy operations etc. in recent years have caused much attention on new ways to impact, other than “traditional” use of force. The US group of general and admirals recently released a report where they stated that China and Russia are outmaneuvering the US, using aggressive actions that fall short of war. To counter them, the US needs new ways to use the military force without shooting and broaden the thinking of “the grey zone concept”.
Sino-Russian military partnership and joint operations
As stated before, strategic convergence can be quite easily discovered in the military area within the framework of Sino-Russia relationship. Military cooperation between these countries consisted mainly of Russia’s arms sales to China during the first decennium of the post-Cold War era. The 2001 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation formed a watershed in the Sino-Russian military cooperation. The countries have expanded military co-operation dramatically since the 2001 Treaty in all significant ways of cooperation: joint military drills, contacts between military personnel as well as arms sales and military technology. In 2001 there was also another prominent event. On June 14, Russia, China and four Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan announced the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Since mid-2000s, China and Russia have been moving toward higher levels of defense cooperation.
In February 2007, President Putin delivered his keynote speech at the Munich Security Conference.This speech and soon thereafter a new version of National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation to 2020 produced a strengthening base for Sino-Russian military cooperation for coming years.
Russia’s increasing assertiveness and willingness in balancing with the US has been striking since the return of Putin to the presidency in 2012. The essential, even fundamental breakthrough took place about a year later when Putin informed the US President Obama in the sidelines of the UNGA meeting in September 2015 in New York that Russia has decided to start military operation in Syria in order to support Assad’s position in the Syrian civil war.
In the second decennium of the 21st century, the pace of military cooperation between China and Russia is nearly “skyrocketing” at all possible levels and sectors. Especially after 2014 the cooperation process has been accelerating to totally new heights, culminating event of “Vostok-2018” joint military exercise (largest exercise after WWII with over 300.000 troops, over 30.000 tanks, 1.000 aircrafts and 800 naval vessels). In 2019 the military cooperation has been extending with the same pace finding even new segments and spheres. During 2017-2019, military cooperation between the two countries has reached new high levels. It seems that Russia began pushing for a boost in military cooperation soon after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014 and the start of long-running sanction standoff with Washington.
President Putin’s speech at the recent Valdai forum (October 2019) contained two fundamental points regarding China. His official confirmation that Russia is helping China to create a ballistic missile early warning system (BMEWS) and his assessment of the state of Russian-Chinese relations: “This is an allied relationship in the full sense of a multifaceted strategic partnership.” This new level of military cooperation is primarily the full-fledged expansion of cooperation to cover strategic arms. By confirming the support to China’s BMEWS, the cooperation moved to the most important and most sensitive component in the strategic nuclear forces control system.
Another sign of the new caliber of cooperation is Russia’s and China’s readiness to jointly use their armed forces to take demonstrative action in various parts of the world. In 2017, Chinese navy ships carried out joint exercises with their Russian counterparts in the Baltic, sparking ire among a range of NATO countries. In July 2019, the first joint patrol by Russian and Chinese long-range bomber aircraft took place over the Pacific Ocean: an explicit demonstration of the possibilities of joint action in the event of a conflict with the United States.
Now there is again a new formula of trilateral maneuvers with Iran in the western part of the Indian Ocean, which demonstrates preparation for the joint strengthening of their positions in remote parts of the world.
Tens of published statements in last five years give an impressive and convincing picture of that wide range and deep understanding, which prevail in the Sino-Russian military relations.
Last two factors in this “key factor list” are new, state-of the-art weapons or weapon systems: hypersonics and ASAT & EW. Both of these groups represent substantially a weapon type, which can be called “offensive weapon” although there are some defensive features in them as well.
Hypersonics- weapon family covers various precision missiles, jets and gliders and allows very high deterrence and destruction power also with conventional warheads. A hypersonic vehicle is one that moves through the atmosphere at a minimum speed of five times that of sound, or Mach 5.
- A hypersonic cruise missile travels continuously through the air employing a special high-powered engine.
- A hypersonic glide vehicle is launched into space atop a ballistic missile, after which it maneuvers through the upper reaches of the atmosphere until it dives towards its target.
- Both vehicle types can carry either conventional or nuclear weapons. They could strike key military targets such as airfields, command and control centers, depots and force concentrations almost without warning.
- Hypersonic delivery systems are viewed as particularly useful against aircraft carriers, large surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships and even transports carrying critical military supplies.
Senior US defense officials have made it clear that Russia and China currently have the lead in the race to develop and deploy hypersonic missiles. A new “missile gap” is emerging between the United States and its main competitors, Russia and China, in the hypersonic weapons systems, which could dramatically alter the existing balance of conventional military power forces.
Hypersonic weapons are extremely difficult to track with existing air and missile defense sensors and virtually impossible to intercept. According to General John Hyten, Commander of US Strategic Command: “We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us, so our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat.”
Hypersonic missiles form particular big existential threat to the US Navy and US aircraft carriers, which are the backbone of the whole US Navy capability.
ASAT and EW
This is perhaps the latest sector of great power race in the armament sphere and one of the most sophisticated. This sector is also more offensive in character although defensive features can be found.
The real break-through inventions in this particular sector, like “killer satellite” and similar new devices, enables the first strike capability to the country of invention. The effective satellite killers can destroy the adversary’s steering satellites functioning and thus make blind and unable the whole ICBM capability, especially silo-based and submarine-based ICBMs.
There is widely accepted understanding among present Western military analysts that especially Russia has advanced the most in electronic warfare (EW) and anti-satellite technology (ASAT). Russia has exceptionally wide range of versatile and effective EW-equipment for all possible ranges of distances, from short range operative equipments to anti-satellite jammers and blinders. All the new devices are intensively combat-tested in Syria and other conflict places worldwide.