MOSCOW — Russia on Thursday launched weeklong war games involving forces from China and other nations in a show of growing defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as they both face tensions with the U.S.
These maneuvers also demonstrate Moscow’s military might to conduct massive drills while its troops fight in the Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise will be held until Sept. 7 at seven firing ranges in Russia’s Far East and the Sea of Japan and involve more than 50,000 troops and over 5,000 weapons units, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships.
The drills will include troops from many ex-Soviet countries, including China, India and Laos as well as Nicaragua, Nicaragua, Nicaragua, Nicaragua, Syria, and Laos.
The Defense Ministry noted that as part of the maneuvers, the Russian and Chinese navies in the Sea of Japan will “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity and support for ground troops in littoral areas.”
These drills show that Moscow and Beijing have been strengthening their defense ties since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deployment of troops to Ukraine on February 24th. China has pointedly refused to criticize Russia’s action, blaming the U.S. and NATO for provoking Moscow, and has blasted punishing sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Russia supported China during tensions between the U.S. and China that arose from Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan. Putin has drawn parallels between U.S. support for Ukraine and Pelosi’s trip, describing them both as part of alleged efforts by Washington to foment global instability.
Alexander Gabuyev, a political analyst who closely follows Russia-China ties, noted that “it’s very important for Beijing to show to the U.S. that it has levers to pressure America and its global interests.”
“The joint maneuvers 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 U.S. and its allies, including Japan.”
He noted that the Kremlin, for its part, wants to show that the country’s military is powerful enough to flex its muscle elsewhere despite the campaign in Ukraine.
“The Russian leadership demonstrates that everything goes according to plan and the country and its military have resources to conduct the maneuvers along with the special military operation,” Gabuyev said.
It is the latest in a string of joint war exercises between Russia and China over recent years. These include naval drills, patrols by long range bombers and aerial bombardments above the Sea of Japan. Russian troops deployed last year to Chinese territory in order to conduct joint maneuvers.
China’s participation in the drills “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 Col. Tan Kefei said last week.
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have developed strong personal ties to bolster a “strategic partnership” between the former Communist rivals as they both are locked in rivalry with the U.S.
Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past rejected the possibility of forging a military alliance, Putin has said that such a prospect can’t be ruled out. He noted also that Russia shared highly sensitive military technologies to China which has helped greatly increase the country’s defense capability.
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