China and Russia have better military capabilities than many Americans imagine, according to two U.S. generals in charge of military modernization.

“I’m not convinced the body politic, or the American people, or the citizens in Western nations on a daily basis are thinking through this seriously enough. And so to raise the stakes here is, I think, important,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, the deputy commander of U.S. Army Futures Command, during a Tuesday panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.

The two countries are often referred to as “near peer” adversaries by defense officials and experts. But Army and Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Fantini said U.S. military planners believe that underestimates the Chinese and Russian threats.

“I think ‘near’ just makes us feel good about ourselves, to be frank. I’m totally content with peer,” Fantini said.

Pentagon leaders and experts agree the United States still fields the most capable military in the world, but China and Russia have developed capabilities in recent years tailor-made to counter American advantages.

China has developed modern anti-ship missiles in recent years to take on U.S. naval power, one of which is known as the “carrier killer.” The Chinese Army tested some of these weapons in June near disputed areas in the South China Sea, in what was believed to be a warning to U.S. Navy forces conducting operations in the region.

Then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley — now Joint Chiefs of Staff chair — warned in 2016 the U.S. is “outranged, outgunned on the ground” against Russia in Europe. Estimates show Russian tanks outnumber their NATO adversaries in Europe seven-to-one, while Russian artillery out-ranges U.S. artillery by about four miles.

To maintain an advantage over China and Russia the U.S. military needs to learn to delegate authority at a lower level in order to maintain agility in today’s fast-paced battlefields, Wesley said.

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