I do not often disagree with Fareed Zakaria, but this week I disagree with both his Washington Post column and his CNN GPS commentary.
In his Washington Post column, Fareed Zakaria says he does not believe that the Chinese and Russian tests of a hypersonic missile is a Sputnik moment. Gen. Milley did not say that the Chinese test was a Sputnik moment, but was close to it. Fareed says:
“Sputnik was a revolution in the space race. Hypersonic missiles, on the other hand, are old news. A hypersonic missile travels at five times the speed of sound or faster. Starting in 1959, the United States and the Soviet Union have deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles that travel more than 20 times the speed of sound.”
If hypersonic missile technology is so unimportant, why are the US, China, and Russia working on it. It may not be a strategic game changer, but it does show where each country stands in terms of developing new weapons technology. A hypersonic missile could be a precursor of a hypersonic plane, civilian or military. Or it might be a useless white elephant like “Star Wars” anti-ballistic missile technology has been so far. Military technology, whether for “Star Wars” or hypersonic missiles, does give some insight into a country’s defense capabilities, even if it is not immediately implemented in deployed weapons.
The hypersonic competition shows that there is some kind of cold war among the big three countries, even if it is different from the old cold war between the US and Russia. I think hypersonic missiles are more important than Fareed thinks they are.