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Video Above: Does the U.S. Have an Appetite for a Military Conflict with China?

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Would Russia have China’s blessing or “tacit support” for an invasion of Ukraine? Not surprising to learn that the question was posed to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby by reporters wondering about the global geopolitical climate as many brace for a Russian attack.

Kirby naturally offered no specifics regarding any kind of collaborative relationship between Russia and China, however he did make a specific point to reference a Russian-Chinese joint statement of support in February of this year. 

Russia and China Relationship

“We certainly have been watching the -- at least public burgeoning relationship here between Russia and China,” Kirby said. 

He also was unambiguous in referring to China’s apparent support for Russia in light of the current situation as “alarming.” 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing on Feb. 4

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photograph during their meeting in Beijing on Feb. 4

“Their February 4 joint statement certainly provided further evidence that China has decided that they're going to stand alongside Russia with respect to what's going on in Europe. And we would say that their tacit support, if you will, for Russia is deeply alarming. And frankly, even more destabilizing to the security situation in Europe,” Kirby told reporters.

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In recent years, there has been some military-to-military cooperation, joint exercises and visits, however the true extent of any kind of military-specific partnership seems quite unknown. Chinese support for Russia, even if it were short of forging any kind of formal alliance, would be certain to raise serious concerns at the Pentagon. 

Extending this further, should China directly or implicitly imply an alliance with Russian expansionist aims, it could certainly shift the power balance to a certain degree. 

Looking purely at sheer numbers, available hardware, manpower and air assets in particular, there are a variety of ways in which any kind of force-on-force comparison might favor NATO. While Russia is reported by Global Firepower to operate as many as 12,000 tanks, numbers of armored vehicles alone does not necessarily translate military superiority, as Russian tanks would need to operate with superior targeting technologies, weapons range and sensors in order to prevail even against a smaller NATO force. 

Video Above: Could F-35s Deter Russia From Invading Ukraine?

Also, if if Russia were able to establish ground combat superiority, a possibility which is by no means guaranteed, it is likely even less clear that Russian fighter jets could rival US and NATO 5th-generation aircraft such as F-35s

'There is yet another aspect to the possibility of Russian-Chinese partnerships which is of greatest significance. Essentially, regardless of whether there are public statements of joint solidarity, or even extensive military-to-military cooperation, that by no means suggests China would actually “intervene” with military support should Russia engage in conflict. 

That would present an altogether different scenario. With this in mind, it seems extremely unlikely that China would lend any assurance or commitment to military support in conflict, as such a declaration or decision to get involved could spark the beginning of the possibility of World War III

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization