U.S. 'Could Lose' Its Next War: Report Shows Military Would 'Struggle to Win' Against Russia and China

U.S. military superiority and security have been challenged significantly by an increasingly powerful Russia and China, a new report has found.

The United States Institute of Peace, a Washington, D.C.-based federal institution, released on Tuesday a 98-page report in which the authors sought to expand on the Pentagon's most recent National Defense Strategy, which was issued in January and "does not articulate clear approaches to succeeding in peacetime competition or wartime conflict against" Russia and China.

Both countries—which have been identified as top U.S. rivals in top policy documents issued under President Donald Trump, including the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act—have set out to revamp their military power, something Washington has viewed as a major threat to its own global dominance.

"The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia. The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously," the report said

"Additionally, it would be unwise and irresponsible not to expect adversaries to attempt debilitating kinetic, cyber, or other types of attacks against Americans at home while they seek to defeat our military abroad. U.S. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for American interests and American security are severe," it added.

Russian tanks parade at the end of the day of the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) military drills hosted alongside China and Mongolia at the Tsugol training ground near the borders with those two countries in Siberia, September 13. Russia and China have enhanced their bilateral defense ties in recent years and have maintained contacts with Iran and North Korea as well. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

The document identified not only potential conflicts with Russia and China, but with North Korea and Iran as well. The authors stated that "the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights" and laid out several scenarios in which the Pentagon could find itself outmatched by adversaries.

In one of two cases involving China, the Chinese armed forces stage a surprise attack and successfully take the self-ruling island of Taiwan, and in another, the U.S. Navy loses access to the South China Sea, where Beijing also has territorial claims and is developing its military power. Russia is presented as a foe in two additional scenarios, one in which Russia invades the Baltics in response "to false reports of atrocities against Russian populations" and uses anti-satellite weapons to cripple the U.S., and a second in which "Russian hackers launch massive cyberattacks on the U.S. electoral infrastructure in November," also potentially leading to an escalation in the Baltics.

In one hypothetical involving the Korean Peninsula, tensions between Washington and Pyongyang escalate prompting the U.S. president to withdraw his country's citizens from South Korea. North Korea interprets the move as a prelude to strikes and launches nuclear-tipped missiles against South Korean and U.S. military positions, threatening to send nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles to the U.S. if a ceasefire is not imposed.

The report further cautioned about Iran's growing military capabilities at home and its increasingly influential allied militias across the region, warning Tehran could "use these capabilities to obstruct freedom of navigation in regional waterways, target U.S. military facilities and critical infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, and otherwise inflict substantial costs on America and its partners."

Compounding these concerns, GOP Representative Michael Gallagher of Wisconsin writing for Real Clear Defense last month argued that the Navy's capabilities were in decline, despite the fact that "American security increasingly depends upon maritime superiority," which "is being challenged by China and Russia every day."

The Navy's USS Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman is pictured anchored in The Solent near Portsmouth, England, October 8. U.S. military superiority rests on its global reach, which includes maintaining more bases than the rest of the world combined and most of the world's active aircraft carriers. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Russia and China have themselves grown closer to one another in united opposition to what they have perceived as U.S. hegemony around the world, where the Pentagon has some 800 military installations, likely vastly outnumbering the rest of the world combined. While many experts have described this as an alliance of convenience, their continued collaboration has been an ongoing source of concern for some military officials.

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience last week at Duke University in North Carolina that he regarded Russia and China as near-peer competitors rather than enemies, but warned that the U.S. had to maintain its military strength in order to counter the potential threats they presented.

"Competition doesn't have to be conflict," Dunford said, as quoted by the Pentagon. "But we now have two states that actually…can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all domains."