In recent years, the Arctic has seen a massive military buildup by Russia. Lyle Goldstein of The National Interest discusses the possibility of Chinese nuclear armed submarines putting in at Russian Arctic ports. He goes on to discuss the possibility of joint Russian and Chinese anti-aircraft systems and anti-missile defense systems in the Artic. Goldstein writes (abridged):
[…] Turning back to China’s undersea deterrent and potential parallels to earlier Soviet naval dilemmas, this Russian military expert observes that, geographically, the Chinese coast is a “huge distance [огромное расстояние]” from targets in the American heartland. Moreover, he assesses Chinese SSBNs as highly vulnerable to adversary forces in the open ocean areas of the Asia-Pacific.
Here is where he drops the bombshell, or perhaps more accurately, the depth bomb. He asserts, “In venturing to the Arctic, the Chinese ‘immediately kill two birds with one stone’: significantly decreasing vulnerability and simultaneously reducing the distance to potential targets [Выйдя в Арктику, китайцы ‘убивают сразу двух зайцев’: резко уменьшается уязвимость их лодок и в разы сокращается дистанция до потенциальных целей].” He estimates that Arctic deployments of the Chinese SSBN force would reduce missile flight distances by 3.5 times.
If it’s not disturbing enough to see such an idea discussed openly in a major Russian newspaper, then Shirokorod actually goes a couple of steps further down the path of the New Cold War. “In the future, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China may also begin to create a joint anti-aircraft system and anti-missile defense system in the Arctic . . . [В перспективе РФ и КНР могут приступить и к созданию в Арктике совместной системы противовоздушной (ПВО) и противоракетной (ПРО) обороны],” he writes. After all, he reasons, the United States has been “planning to undertake strikes” via the Arctic against both China and Russia since the 1950s.
That cooperation in air and missile defense could also support the submarine component of Russia-China strategic cooperation in the Arctic is reasonably clear, but the analyst then makes the most extraordinary statement in this regard: “on our Arctic islands, the Chinese can deploy supply and communications systems for their strategic missile submarines. [на наших арктических островах китайцы могут развернуть систему снабжения и связи своих подводных ракетоносцев].” In the final paragraph of the essay, Shirokorod asks if such steps could endanger Russia and answers his own question emphatically: “Definitely not [Однозначно нет].”
In closing, it must be emphasized that this article’s importance should not be exaggerated. The musings of a single Russian strategist do not equal a new approach to Russia-China strategic cooperation, let alone a concrete bilateral military cooperation agreement on the deployment of the most prized, nuclear assets. Neither Moscow nor Beijing have given anything close to an official imprimatur to such eccentric ideas. And yet there is a small possibility that this one vision of the future could reach fruition in coming decades if current trends toward cold war are not reversed. Moscow would have its fully built out Arctic infrastructure (both military and commercial) with ample Chinese capital and engineering assistance. In return, Beijing would gain a reliable way to strike America and thus enhance its nuclear deterrent.
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