Asian Military Connectivity (Sino-Indo-Russian Foibles)

Ending the EU Arms Embargo: The Repercussions from Russia,” by Stephen Blank, Jamestown Foundation, 29 March 2005, (from Simon World).

From Bill Roggio’s Assignment Desk,” by Bill Rice, Dawn’s Early Light, 30 March 2005,

Two stories touching on China. One retorts an article on India snubbing the US by buying arms from other countries for a little less than a billion. Reading the article, though, reveals no mention of advanced US arms. Rice’s response:

The $746 million would likely not be paid out in one current defense budget year, and only represents 5% of 2004-2005 Indian defense spending of US $15 billion [February 5, 2005 Asia Times]. The same article hints at a possible purchase of 126 US F-16s: “The Indian defense community’s wish list is long, which they feel is necessary to modernize the country’s armed forces. These include a proposal to purchase F-16 fighter jets, Scorpene submarines and long-range rocket systems. The proposal to buy 126 F-16s – at $25 million each over five years – will itself cost the exchequer $3 billion. “

And that doesn’t even mention the advanced and expensive F-18!

But while Indo-American military connectivity is definitely a good thing, the Sino-European deal is not.

First, Brussels may be less responsible than Moscow

Since 1989, Russia has been China’s virtually exclusive supplier of military arms and assistance to the tune of $2 billion annually. China, however, wants to receive the technology and know-how to build these weapons indigenously so as to minimize its exclusive dependence on Russia. Since the Russian defense industry would collapse without the Chinese and Indian markets, it has had little choice but to oblige China’s requests. Thus, China now has the capability to make much of the Russian-type weaponry through technology transfer. To the degree that China can get top of the line weapons and communications/information technology that it needs (and in many cases better quality weapons and servicing) from Europe, the Russian defense industry will take a severe blow. Indeed, Beijing probably hopes to obtain technologies and capabilities that it cannot get from Russia since Moscow has been reluctant to sell top of the line systems to China.

Second, it risks turning an emerging democracy into a servant of an emerging economy

Last year, China already joined the EU’s Galileo project to tap into European developments in space and satellite technology. While there has been no official statement from Russia about the EU’s impending decision, there is clearly considerable unease as to what it may portend for the Russian defense industry – and for Moscow, which clearly displays considerable ambivalence about China’s future goals. This unease feeds into a broader sense that Russia cannot regulate the consequences of China’s growth and might face a creeping “satellization” vis-à-vis Beijing if it loses still more leverage.

Third, it empowers the worst people in the Chinese leadership

Thus, Beijing has the opportunity to not only pit the EU against Washington diplomatically, but also against Moscow with regard to arms sales and technology transfer. China is already attempting to exploit this trend. In late 2004, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov successfully proposed joint Chinese-Russian maneuvers to Beijing. Russia wanted to conduct joint anti-terrorist operations in China’s troubled Xinjiang province, a move that made strategic sense given Xinjiang’s unrest and proximity to Central Asia. However, China has recently insisted that the operation involve large-scale conventional forces in anti-landing operations and take place on China’s coast. That orientation would recast the joint maneuvers as a rehearsal for an invasion of Taiwan, not an anti-terrorist exercise.

Fourth, besides confirming CCK-Style Cravenness in Europe, in keeps war profiteers in business on the shrinking continent

However, it is also clear that individual members like France, Germany, and Great Britain are also pushing strongly to end the embargo. Although their individual motives vary, these countries have a common desire to rescue their ailing defense industries (which are finding it ever harder to compete in what is today an arms buyers’ market) by opening up to China and India. Likewise, they all hope to cash in on China’s economic growth and would seem willing to sacrifice their standing on human rights and democracy to gain these profits and expand their influence with China.

The only good news from the article? Pace Blank, China is improving

Second, there is no sign that China’s overall human rights record has improved despite the changes in the country since 1989. While China may be a much more prosperous and even freer country, none of those freedoms are anchored in stable legal human rights and can be removed at any time. Removing the embargo gives China a “good housekeeping seal of approval” and rewards China’s continued obstruction of democratic reform. At a time when the rhetoric and policy of promoting global democratization is trump in Washington, as shown in President Bush’s second inaugural speech, for the EU to reward China’s trampling of human rights hardly signifies a willingness to cooperate with America.

Economic liberalization is the cornerstone of stable democracy. Economic freedom is the cornerstone of political freedom. China is getting better. In spite of Europe.

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