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Though he’ll leave such a declaration to “diplomatic leaders,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said it seems like the US may be in a new Cold War with China and/or Russia, based on the behavior of those countries. “Whether China is trying to expand its influence regionally or globally, and whether Russia is trying to expand its influence, or ... are they buffering? I don’t know,” Welsh told reporters in Washington, D.C. “I suspect nobody outside those countries does. But it clearly looks that way.” Welsh said he doesn’t see war looming with Russia or China, and “I ... hope that’s not on the horizon,” but he acknowledged their rapid advancement in conventional and nuclear weapons and said “the capability gap” with the US “is closing.” Based on “open source” information, China is developing military capabilities in the coming 15-20 years that are “problematic” for the US, Welsh said. Compared with Russia and China, “we are certainly not developing the same amount of capability [or] … new programs during that same timeframe.” This is why, he said, USAF modernization “is simply not optional. You have to modernize as a military service or you become irrelevant.” He also noted that both China and Russia sell their best military gear around the world. “Today there are 53 countries that have Russian or Chinese top-end fighters,” he noted as one example. “So the next generation of stuff they build they will also export, and we’ll be facing that equipment somewhere, sooner or later.”