The 6 Reasons China and Russia Are Catching Up to the U.S. Military

Why the Gap In Military Superiority Is Closing

China and Russia are still behind the U.S. militarily.  But they are both showing surprising breakthroughs that – sometime down the road in the future – could threaten U.S. hegemony.

The Washington Times reported last month:

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday warned Russia and China are quickly closing the military technology gap with the U.S. as inconsistent military budgets and slower innovation threaten America’s lead in the military world.


“It’s evident that nations like Russia and China have been pursuing military modernization programs to close the technology gap with the United States,” he continued. “They’re developing platforms designed to thwart our traditional advantages of power projection and freedom of movement. They’re developing and fielding new and advanced aircraft and ballistic, cruise, anti-ship and anti-air missiles that are longer-range and more accurate.”

The SecDef issued this warning before Russia stunned the U.S. with its long-range missile and electronic communications-jamming capacities.

How could this be happening, when U.S. military spending dwarfs that from the rest of the world?

There are six reasons …

1. Corruption and Pork.   America spends a large percentage of it’s defense spending on unnecessary military programs that:

  • The generals say aren’t helpful and don’t even want
  • Redundant personnel, programs and systems which don’t increase our war-fighting capacity
  • Equipment which is built and then immediately mothballed before it is ever used

Indeed – as many lottery winners and star athletes will tell you – it’s easy to piss away even huge sums of money over a couple of years’ time without discipline.

And plain old corruption is wasting huge sums and dramatically weakening our national security.

How much are we talking about?

Well, here’s some indication: $8.5 trillion dollars in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996 … has never been accounted for.

2. Fighting the Wrong Wars. A closely-related issue is that the war-fighting assets are being squandered, spread thin and distracted by fighting wars which decrease our national security.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the most expensive in U.S. history, costing between between $4 trillion and $6 trillion dollars.

And we spent additional boatloads of money carrying out regime change in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

But these wars have only caused ISIS and the Taliban to flourish.

Indeed, the majority of our defense spending is – literally – making us less secure because we’re spending money to fight the wrong wars:

  • We’re overthrowing the moderates who help insure stability
  • We’re arming and supporting brutal dictators … which is one of the main reasons that terrorists want to attack the U.S.
  • We’ve fought a series of wars for petrochemicals, instead of security
  • We expend huge sums of money on mass surveillance … but top security experts agree that mass surveillance makes us MORE vulnerable to terrorists (we’re targeting the wrong guys)

3. Never-Ending War Destroys the Economy. We’re in the longest continuous period of war in U.S. history.  The Afghanistan War has  been going on for 14 years … as long as the Civil War (4 years,), WW1 (4 years) and WW2 (6 years) COMBINED.

Wars which drag on are horrible for our economy.  A weak economy – in turn – makes it more difficult to sustain a leadership role in defense in the long-run.

And Americans are sick and tired of war.  If our national security was actually threatened, it might be hard for the government to rouse our commitment and motivation.

4. More Bang for the Buck. China has the world’s largest economy when measured by “purchasing power parity” … meaning how much Chinese can buy in their their local currency in their local economy. And see this.

Therefore, China can buy locally-produced military parts and services more cheaply than the U.S. can.

As Bloomberg noted last year:

The lowest-paid U.S. soldiers earn about $18,000 a year. In comparison, in 2009, an equivalent Chinese soldier was paid about a ninth as much. In other words, in 2009, you could hire about nine Chinese soldiers for the cost of one U.S. soldier.

Even that figure doesn’t account for health care and veterans’ benefits. These are much higher in the U.S. than in China, though precise figures are hard to obtain. This is due to higher U.S. prices for health care, to higher prices in general, and because the U.S. is more generous than China in terms of what it pays its soldiers. Salaries and benefits, combined, account for a significant percentage of military expenditure.

But labor costs aren’t the only thing that is cheaper in China. Notice that China’s gross domestic product at market exchange rates is only two-thirds of its GDP at purchasing power parity. This means that, as a developing country, China simply pays lower prices for a lot of things. Some military inputs — oil, for example, or copper — will be bought on world markets, and PPP won’t matter. For others, like complicated machinery, costs are pretty similar. But other things — food or domestically manufactured products — will be much cheaper for the U.S.’s developing rivals than for the U.S.

Those who follow global security issues have known about this issue for a long time. But somehow, this fact hasn’t penetrated the consciousness of pundits or made its way into pretty, tweet-able graphs.

5. Theft. The U.S. Naval Institute, Fiscal Times and others document that the Chinese have greatly accelerated their weapons development timeline by spying on the West and shamelessly copying our military inventions and designs.

If the NSA and other spying agencies had used their resources to stop foreign governments from stealing our crown jewels – instead of using them to gain petty advantages for a handful of knuckleheads – we’d be a lot better off today.

6. Geography.  Russia is almost twice the size of the U.S.  Russia and China together are so massive – forming such a giant swath of land-based territory, so much closer to the Middle East than America is – that it gives their militaries an advantage.

Bloomberg points out:

The U.S., situated in the peaceful, relatively unpopulated Western Hemisphere, is very far away from the location of any foreseeable conflict. China isn’t going to invade Colorado (sorry, “Red Dawn” fans!), but it might invade Taiwan or India. Simply getting our forces to the other side of the world would require enormous up-front expenditures.

The National Interest notes:

“Defeating China in these scenarios [Taiwan and South China Sea] could nonetheless be difficult and costly for the United States’ primarily as a result of the geographic advantages that China enjoys, as well as specific systems capabilities.”


A recent RAND report, “The US China Military Scorecard,” … argues that China is catching up to the U.S., is becoming more assertive and confident, and has geography on its side.

And Russia’s proximity to Ukraine, the Baltics and other neighboring countries gives it a huge advantage.

Postscript: Sadly, because we’ve squandered our resources, war games show that the U.S. is no longer invincible.

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  • Sovereigntea

    They never intended to win any of these wars just perpetuate the pork supply via a continuous program of highly profitable exploitation of human suffering and misery.

    Sun Tzu considered war as a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever
    possible. The war should be fought swiftly to avoid economic losses:
    “No long war ever profited any country”

    • Wise words and insight Sovereigntea!

    • The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.‘ -Sun Tzu

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  • tom

    So essentially… the free, democratic, high-tech USA wastes immense amounts of taxpayer money without getting any benefits at all for the taxpayers. On the contrary, the incessant wars, corruption and fraud deprive American citizens of a vast amount of benefits they are entitled to.

    Meanwhile the vile, repressive, dictatorships of China and Russia get far better value for taxpayers’ money, and focus on what the citizens really want: safety for themselves, their families and their country.

    Funny, that.

    • Where’d that $2.3 trillion that Rummie spoke of go?… into the unknown knowns?… the rubble of the Pentagon?

  • cstahnke

    We Americans always define ourselves by our enemies–war is who we are. Look at the way we word things–“war on drugs”, “war on poverty”, “war on terror” (we don’t make war on “terrorists” we make war on terror itself through terror).

    • America needs a permanent war economy.‘ -Charles Wilson, CEO Ford c,1945

  • Gerry1211

    Russian technology is far superior over U.S technology. They frightened the sh*t out of the USS Donald Cole in the Black Sea

    Currently every Russian fighter/bomber in Syria carries the jamming device including all helicopters.

    Furthermore the Russian base has the jamming device which cover part of Turkey….So in essence there is a NO FLY ZONE in effect for Syria…..with the exception of the border with Israel. No clue why!

    The 26 Missiles launched from the Caspian Sea was only a message to the U.S. and the rest of the world. Look at what we’ve got. They would have accomplished the same with a few bombing sorties. So any claim by the U.S. and its phantom allies that they are flying or bombing Syria should be taken with a grain of salt. Entering Syrian airspace is an act of war. Bombing is a war crime….UNLESS we are invited BY Syria or have a UNSC resolution to do so. We don’t. So we are there illegally.

    About technology: We cannot get to the ISS without Russian engines for our rockets.

    And we want to install an anti missile shield in Europe against Russia…..what a joke!

    We are the Empire of chaos…The intention is not to wage a war on terror but to to engage in a war OF terror. War is lucrative….Peace is not.

    “War is a Racket” by Gen.Smedley Butler

    • That’s all fine and dandy. But when all you need is a nuke set off near the ionosphere above the mainland of a nation in order to literally send it back to the Dark Ages (see: EMP — for perhaps decades, everything else is fluff.

      • Gerry1211

        A nuke is not a weapon….read that again…..It is a self destructing device and the end of the world. So ALWAYS coming back to that idiocy is crazy talk. Lunatics do not want to self destruct. They seek power and control over others. What we GIVE we GET.

        You should get used to the notion that the U.S. has ZERO business being in any other country but its own, UNLESS it is invited. We engage in war crimes. Russia has held up a BIG mirror for us to see our own arrogance as well as ignorance. Preaching that might just change the mindset that we’re “exceptional” and the land of the free while we live under Stasi conditions…

  • I’ve been preaching these portents from the pulpit for over a decade and all I’ve gotten in return is jingoistic jerk-offs U-S-A!! RAR! RAR! RAR! -ing about how great the U.S.’s armipotence is and how China’s military are paper tigers / too big not to fail / using outmoded technology et al.. Now, here were are in 2015, and already the drums of a hegemonical handover can be heard over the horizon.

    This is what happens when you’re off fighting concocted barbarians enemies for their resources, in order to power your oversized cars, which you drive to get your oversized hamburger slop, that you engorge on while firing off the oversized guns that make you feel safe and strong and like a biiiiiiiiig man — the horse bolts.

  • Cathy Smith

    They would have accomplished the same with a few bombing sorties. So any claim by the U.S. and its phantom allies that they are flying or bombing Syria should be taken with a grain of salt. Seahawks Beanie