It is early days, obviously, but nevertheless it is reasonable to expect the Biden administration to return to the passive posture of weakness and international retreat, including, at times, outright anti-Americanism, that characterized the Obama years. With both Russia and, especially, China resurgent, is there anyone else who can stand in their way? Actually, there may be.
Foreign Policy has a surprisingly (to me) optimistic assessment of the strategic situation in Asia: “China’s Neighbors Are Stronger Than We Think.”
China faces challenges all across what one might call the Indo-Pacific arc. These countries, stretching from India in the southwest to Japan in the northeast, would form an effective bulwark against Chinese expansionism even in the absence of explicit U.S. encouragement and support.
… Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have a high reputation for technology and readiness. Countering China’s aircraft carrier building program, Japan is converting two existing helicopter carriers into fixed-wing aircraft carriers. Although the Japanese carriers will be much smaller than China’s, the Japanese carrier-launched fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters will pack a much bigger punch.
At the opposite end of the Indo-Pacific arc, India is often perceived to be a relative weakling when compared to China. But those perceptions are long out of date, if in fact they were ever true. …
Despite China’s massive military modernization, India likely now has the upper hand on the Himalayan frontier. … In a strategic theater where logistics is everything, the BRO’s tunneling has vastly increased the Indian Army’s ability to transport heavy equipment from rear bases up to the Indian-Chinese Line of Actual Control. Add to that extensive experience fighting on glaciers and the toughness of India’s Special Frontier Force commandos (many of whom have been recruited from the Tibetan exile community), and India has a winning proposition in high-altitude warfare.
The Indian Air Force also has a major technical advantage over China’s PLA: At an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), India’s forward air bases are very high, but not nearly as high as China’s. And unlike India, China has no low-altitude bases anywhere in the region. That makes a huge difference, since China’s aircraft must shed up to half of their missiles and fuel in order to take off in the super-thin air of the Tibetan Plateau. Throw in India’s acquisition of top-of-the-line French Rafale jet fighters, the potential modernization of its Russian Sukhoi SU-30 squadrons, and the impending delivery of advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, and the Indian Air Force may soon possess absolute air superiority across the LAC.
This next bit is heart-warming:
Farther to the east, China’s 1,300 mile (2,100 kilometer) border with Myanmar is so insecure that China, perhaps inspired by former U.S. President Donald Trump, is building a 10-foot (3-meter) high wall to seal it off. The military takeover in Myanmar, widely perceived in the West as favoring China, has actually been a setback….
Then there is Vietnam:
Vietnam, which like India was once the victim of a Chinese surprise attack, has been on poor terms with its communist big brother ever since China’s 1979 invasion. Vietnam’s defense budget today is relatively small, but it has focused its investments on coastal defense. Mirroring China’s early-2000s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy, it has invested heavily in anti-ship missiles, and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of acquiring the joint Russian-Indian BrahMos, a supersonic ramjet cruise missile that is reportedly the fastest such weapon in the world.
There is much more at the link, including an explanation of why Taiwan is a weak spot. But again, the overall assessment is surprisingly positive.
Meanwhile in Europe, the principal foe is Russia rather than China–although, to be fair, a number of EU countries don’t seem to have figured this out. But Great Britain is reorienting its defense strategies to deal with 21st-century threats:
SAS soldiers will be told to disrupt Russian meddling around the world as part of a major shake up of defence priorities.
The SAS and other units in the Special Forces Group will likely work alongside MI6 to conduct covert surveillance operations against Russian spies and military units.
Writing for the The Telegraph, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that Britain must reinvent its armed forces for the 21st century as the threat it faces “has changed beyond recognition” in 30 years. He says: “Our enemies have infinitely more options….”
In what will be seen as a modern day Battle of the Atlantic, the Royal Navy will deploy a ‘spy ship’ to stop Russian submarines sabotaging Britain’s internet by damaging undersea cables.
Due in service by 2024, the Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) will help protect critical national infrastructure such as undersea cables which carry trillions of dollars of financial transfers each day and transmit 97 per cent of the world’s global communications.
The command paper will see an extra £3 billion given to the army, £120 million of which will be used to create the new Special Operations Brigade, based around a Ranger Regiment of four battalions.
I don’t know whether free countries will be able to resist the Chinese and Russians for long in the absence of a competent U.S. defense policy, but it seems realistic to hope that they will be able to hold out until 2024.