Reuben F. Johnson

Defence and Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Travels from Kiev, Ukraine


Reuben F. Johnson is a more than twenty-year veteran of analysing and writing about defence technology, weapon systems, procurement networks and political-military affairs in Russia/Former USSR, China, Latin America and the Middle East.  In his career he has visited most of the major defence industrial sites in the former Soviet Union and other nations of the former Warsaw Pact and their analogous facilities in other parts of the world, and has written extensively on the subject of defence policy and the development of next-generation weapons.He was fortunate to have spent the 1990s living and working in Russia, where he was able to observe first-hand the immense transfer of weaponry, technology, know-how and design expertise from states of the Former USSR to China.  This period is described by many specialists as the largest transfer of defence industrial capability from one region of the world to another since the post-WWII migration of German scientists and engineers to the US and the then-Soviet Union.As such, he is familiar with the design of most modern Chinese weapon systems, as many of them have their genesis in Russian designs and/or are “hybrid” configurations that have resulted from China “borrowing” innovations from multiple sources and then combining them into a finalised design concept.  His overall view of the Chinese defence establishment is that China has developed a capacity for designing and building weapon systems that is larger than most of the rest of the world’s defence industrial establishments combined.  He has observed and written about most major Chinese weapon systems and is a regular visitor to China.Having learned and assimilated a vast storehouse of knowledge from the Russians, Ukrainians and others on how to design/develop advanced weaponry China is not only on the verge of having achieved near self-awareness.  The country will soon be building an even wider array of defence products, and will overcome their deficiencies in the few areas (i.e. propulsion technology) where they still lag behind the rest of the world.China’s ability to build aggregate numbers of advanced weapon systems is worrying on two levels.  One is the near-pathological secrecy of the Chinese defence establishment and the reluctance with which the PLA engages in any meaningful dialogue with the US and many other foreign military establishments creates an environment that is opaque at best.  As such the possibilities for miscalculation or misinterpretation of specific movements by the PLA are increased geometrically.The other concern is that with western weapon systems increasing dramatically in price, Chinese industry may become the suppliers of choice for nations that in the past would have been looking for a lower-end US-built for export product (like the old Northrop F-5 fighter).  US and European influence over the actions over numerous states around the world will be diminished, to say nothing of the concerns about proliferation.Reuben writes for numerous defence and public policy magazines, including Jane’s Defence Weekly, International Defence Review, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Taipei Times, The Washington Timesand Aviation Week’s Show News.  He also consults for the US Department of Defense.  He divides his time between Kiev, Ukraine and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He speaks Russian, Ukrainian and has a working knowledge of Portuguese.

Education: M.A. [Miami University (Ohio), 1982-84]: Masters in Russian Studies focusing on the study of the technology levels, design, and operations of Soviet industrial enterprises

B.A. [DePauw University, 1978-82]: Bachelors in Political Science specializing in the analysis of the Soviet Union and Eastern/Central Europe

Articles by Reuben F. Johnson

Asia’s next generation fighter programs – Jane’s May 2011





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