Dr. Joseph Babb, Department of Military History, Command and General Staff College, speaks about the history of Chinese-Russian relations, while panel members Lt. Col. David McCaughrin, Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, CGSC; Lt. Col. Holly Maness, DJIMO; and Maj. Frederik Wintermans, Royal Netherlands Army, Command and General Staff Officer Course student; and panel moderator Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, director of CGSC's Cultural and Area Studies Office, listen during the panel discussion “Understanding Indo-Pacific Command's Geopolitical and Military Environment: Where Sino, Russian, and American Interests Collide" Nov. 30 at the Lewis and Clark Center. Photo by Jim Shea/Army University

Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs

The Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted “Understanding Indo-Pacific Command’s Geopolitical and Military Environment: Where
Sino, Russian and American Interests Collide” Nov. 30 in Arnold Conference Room at the Lewis and Clark Center.


The panel of CGSC scholars and international officers was part of a panel discussion series on the Indo-Pacific area that is part of the educational effort to move the college along the pathway to a two-theater curriculum.


Maj. Gen. Donn Hill, deputy commanding general for Education, Combined Arms Center; and provost of Army University, provided opening remarks. Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, CASO director, served as the panel moderator. Panel members included Dr. Joseph Babb, Department of Military History; Lt. Col. Holly Maness, Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations; Lt. Col. David McCaughrin, DJIMO; and Maj. Frederik Wintermans, Royal Netherlands Army, Command and General Staff Officer Course student.


“They all bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in the region,” Hill said. “They’re true (subject matter experts).”


Hill reflected on being in Beijing 24 years ago while on leave. He said China at the time seemed dark and cold and he couldn’t have imagined then that today the United States is talking about China as a peer or near-peer threat. He also said the atmosphere in the United States toward China was much different than it is today.


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called China a “pacing threat” in June and the Interim National Security Strategy identifies the United States’ “growing rivalry with China, Russia and others,” Hill said.


With China in the news and on the front pages, the CASO panel could not be more timely, he said. Ibrahimov set the stage for the panelists saying the Asia-Pacific region includes 36 nations and about half of the world population. More than 3,000 languages are spoken in the region, which includes two of the three largest economies in the world, seven of

America’s top 15 trading partners and five nuclear states. The panel, Ibrahimov said,
focused on the relationships between China, Russia and the United States and the areas where the interests of the three nations intersect.


Babb talked about the history of China and its relationships with Russia and the United States. He noted the Russia-China relationship began in the late 1600s and that trade between the United States and China began in 1784. Trade, he noted, is a huge difference in comparing our current relationship with China to the former Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union.


“We are an Asian power,” Babb said. “The Chinese have had a chance to look at us since the 1700s.”


Babb said the initial relationship between Russia and China was equal and fair but by the mid-1800s the relationship had shifted and treaties between the two countries took land
and power from the Chinese.


From 1901 to 1941 there was a U.S. Army presence in China, and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps presence there goes back to the mid-1800s. In the 1900s the situation became more confused and more tangled as there was war between China and Russia, and both Russia and the United States provided advisers to Chiang Kai-shek and
the Chinese nationalists who eventually lost to forces under Mao Zedong. Mao declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and the nationalists retreated to Taiwan.


McCaughrin talked about the collision of Russian, Chinese and U.S. interests in the Korean conflict between 1950 and 1953. Over time, China began to resent its “junior partner” status in the communist coalition, McCaughrin said. This was especially true after the death of Joseph Stalin and the power struggle in Russia that eventually brought Nikita Khrushchev to power. Mao admired Stalin and was unhappy with Khrushchev’s move away from Stalin’s repressive communist tactics, McCaughrin said. Maness served as a foreign area officer in Japan and examined the region from the Japanese point of view. She said the height of Japanese expansionism was about 1942 but that the treaty that ended World War II and the new Japanese constitution dictated by that treaty had changed Japan to a pacifist country. The Interim National Security Strategy identifies alliances with Japan and South Korea as critical to U.S. interests in the region.

Nearly half of the U.S. forces permanently stationed overseas are in Japan and South Korea, she said. Both nations’ views of Russia and China are similar to the U.S. view, she said.


Wintermans spoke of the Russian view of the Asia-Pacific region.


“Moscow will not pivot to Asia in the medium term,” Wintermans said of the key takeaway. “Russian security interests are European. The diplomatic, military and economic activities in the Pacific region revolve around the partnership with China,
and the rest of the security dynamic in the area are of secondary to Moscow.”


Wintermans said Russian military forces are primarily focused on Europe and the Atlantic and both land forces in Russia’s eastern area and the Russian pacific fleet are under developed. Russian foreign policy is security first then economic. The West is
opposite, Wintermans said.


The Dutch officer reminded the audience that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said “(Russia and China) noted the destructive character of Washington’s actions that undermine global strategic stability. They are fueling tensions in various parts of the
world including along the Russian and Chinese borders.”


Following presentations by each panel member, the in-person and virtual audiences were able to ask questions of the panel experts.


View the complete panel discussion at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR5AdVmovkg. For questions on CASO events contact Ibrahimov at (913)684-3345 or mahir.j.ibrahimov.civ@mail.mil.

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