Dunford: Russia, China Pose Similar Challenges to U.S., Rules-Based Order


The challenges the United States sees from Russia and China are similar because both have studied the America way of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

Joint chiefs chairman speaks with some of his counterparts.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro
Joint chiefs chairman speaks with some of his counterparts.
180928-D-PB383-008
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, center, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the official welcome ceremony before the start of the NATO Military Committee conference in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 28, 2018. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is here visiting Spanish officials after attending the NATO Military Committee meeting in Warsaw, Poland, over the weekend.

The bottom line for the United States and the country’s greatest source of strength strategically “is the network of allies we’ve built up over 70 years,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him. At the operational level, he added, the U.S. military’s advantage is the ability to deploy forces anywhere they are needed in a timely manner and then sustain them.

“Russia has studied us since 1990,” Dunford said. “They looked at us in 2003. They know how we project power.”

Russian leaders are trying to undermine the credibility of the U.S. ability to meet its alliance commitments and are seeking to erode the cohesion of the NATO alliance, he said.

Russia has devoted serious money to modernizing its military, the chairman noted, and that covers the gamut from its nuclear force to command and control to cyber capabilities. “At the operational level, their goal is to field capabilities that challenge our ability to project power into Europe and operate freely across all domains,” Dunford said. “We have to operate freely in sea, air and land, as we did in the past, but now we also must operate [freely] in cyberspace and space.”

The nature of war has not changed, but the character of war has. The range of weapon systems has increased. There has been a proliferation of anti-ship cruise missiles and land-to-land attack missiles. Cyber capabilities, command and control capabilities and electronic warfare capabilities have grown.

Great Power Competition

These are the earmarks of the new great power competition. Russia is the poster child, but China is using the same playbook, the chairman said.

“What Russia is trying to do is … exactly what China is trying to do vis-a-vis our allies and our ability to project power,” Dunford said. “In China, what we are talking about is an erosion of the rules-based order. The United States and its allies share the commitment to a free and open Pacific. That is going to require coherent, collective action.”

Against Russia, the United States and its NATO allies have a framework in place around which they can build: a formal alliance structure allows the 29 nations to act as one, Dunford said.

However, he added, a similar security architecture is not in place in the Pacific.

The United States has treaties with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand. Politically and economically, the United States works with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I see the need for all nations with an interest in the rules-based architecture to take collective action,” Dunford said. “The military dimension is a small part of this issue, and it should be largely addressed diplomatically and economically.”

He said the military dimension is exemplified by freedom of navigation operations, in which 22 nations participated with more than 1,500 operations in the past year. “These are normal activities designed to show we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and not allow illicit claims to become de facto,” the chairman said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)