Russia has commenced week-long military operations involving forces from China and other nations, an exercise that reveals growing defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as they both face tensions with the United States.
The large-scale drills also seem to be carried out to demonstrate that Russia has sufficient military power for massive drills even as its forces are engaged in action in Ukraine.
The Russian defense ministry stated that the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise will take place until September 7 at seven firing ranges in Russia’s Far East and the Sea of Japan, and that it includes more than 50,000 troops and 5,000 weapons units, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships.
Russian General Staff chief, General Valery Gerasimov, will personally control the drills, which will involve forces from several ex-Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
The defense ministry stated that the Russian and Chinese troops will “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity, and support for ground troops in littoral areas” in the Sea of Japan.
Rising ally with China
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have developed a strong personal bond to secure a “strategic partnership” between the former communist rivals as they are both involved in a rivalry with the United States.
China has refused to berate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating that the United States is the “main instigator” of the crisis by supporting NATO expansion and penalizing Moscow.
In reaction, Russia has strongly supported China despite tensions with the US caused by its House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin compared US support for Ukraine and Taiwan, saying both were part of reported American efforts to disrupt global stability.
Political analyst Alexander Gabuyev said: “It’s very important for Beijing to show to the US that it has levers to pressure America and its global interests.
“The joint manoeuvres with Moscow, including the naval drills, are intended to signal that if the pressure on Beijing continues it will have no other choice but to strengthen the military partnership with Russia,” Gabuyev said. “It will have a direct impact on the interests of the US and its allies, including Japan.”
He informed The Associated Press the Kremlin, for its part, wants to reveal that the country’s military is powerful enough to flex its muscle elsewhere amid the grinding campaign in Ukraine.
“The Russian leadership demonstrates that everything goes according to plan and the country and its military have resources to conduct the manoeuvres along with the special military operation,” Gabuyev said.
China’s involvement in the operation “aims to deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the militaries of the participating countries, enhance the level of strategic cooperation among all participating parties, and enhance the ability to jointly respond to various security threats”, Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Colonel Tan Kefei disclosed last week.
The operation continues a series of joint war games by Russia and China in recent years, including naval drills and patrols by long-range bombers over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. Last year, Russian troops deployed to Chinese territory for joint drills for the first time.
Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past declined the possibility of forming a military alliance, Putin has stated that such a prospect cannot be ruled out. He also said Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies with China that helped significantly secure its defense capability.