WARSAW, POLAND - The former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe warned Wednesday that it's very likely the United States will be at war with China in 15 years.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said that European allies would have to do more to ensure their own defenses in face of a resurgent Russia because America will need to focus more attention on defending its interests in the Pacific.
"The United States needs a very strong European pillar. I think in 15 years — it's not inevitable — but it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China,'' Hodges told a packed room at the Warsaw Security Forum, a two-day gathering of leaders and military and political experts from central Europe.
"The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat,'' Hodges said.
Hodges was U.S. Army commander in Europe from 2014 until last year. He now is a strategic expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based research institute.
Despite shifting geopolitical priorities, Hodges said the U.S. commitment to NATO remained "unshakable.'' He said he was certain the Trump administration viewed Europe's security as a key U.S. interest, even though President Donald Trump has sometimes questioned the Western military alliance's usefulness.
"So you're going to see us continue to invest here in Europe, continue to train, to practice rotational forces, as well as permanently assign forces for the eventuality that in 10 or 15 years we're going to be having to fight in the Pacific,'' Hodges said.
Hodges told The Associated Press that a recent near-miss between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Chinese warship in the disputed South China Sea was only one of the signs pointing to an "an increasingly tense relationship and increasing competition in all the different domains.''
Others, he said, are China's "constant stealing of technology'' and how China is gaining control of infrastructure by funding projects in Africa and Europe. He said that in Europe, China owns more than 10 percent of the ports.