WASHINGTON – US defense officials are increasingly worried about Moscow and Beijing’s deepening relationship – particularly as China grows its nuclear capabilities, according to a new report.
The Pentagon’s annual assessment of “Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China,” produced for Congress and released Thursday, revealed that Beijing has likely surpassed last year’s estimated number of nuclear warheads.
As of May, Beijing had roughly 500 nukes – up from the 400 estimated a year prior. The 2022 version of the report predicted Beijing would surpass 1,000 warheads by 2030.
By comparison, Russia has an estimated 5,889 nuclear warheads in its stockpile while the US has 5,244, according to the Washington-based Arms Control Association. France has 290 and the United Kingdom has 225.
China also has also grown its navy to roughly 370 ships, up from about 340 last year, according to the report.
Though Congress in 2018 ordered the US Navy to grow to 350 ships as soon as feasible, there were just 291 ships in the American fleet as of Thursday.
Since World War II, the US has relied on its many alliances with democratic and like-minded nations to maintain global security.
It’s an advantage that America’s four top adversaries – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea – have long done without as they cut themselves off from the rest of the world.
But after almost 20 months of war with Ukraine, Moscow is increasingly looking to its fellow US adversaries for help supplying weapons and equipment – and strengthening ties through cooperation.
“The PRC views its ‘no limits’ partnership with Russia as integral to advancing the PRC’s development and emergence as a great power,” according to the report, which called China by its official acronym.
“We do see the PRC kind of looking at Russia as an important strategic partner from their perspective, to kind of balance against what Xi Jinping described earlier this year as the ‘containment, suppression and encirclement from the US and its allies and partners,’” a senior US defense official told reporters on Wednesday.
However, China is at least attempting to keep the relationship inconspicuous, at least on the world stage. For example, US officials believe Beijing “has attempted a discreet approach to providing material support to Russia for its war against Ukraine.”
China has also taken heed of the US response to the Kremlin’s invasion.
For example, Western sanctions levied on Russia “almost certainly have amplified the PRC’s push for defense and technological self-sufficiency and financial resilience.”