MOSCOW – Russia on Thursday began a week of war games involving forces from China and other nations in a show of growing defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as both sides face tensions with the U.S.
The maneuvers are also intended to show that Moscow has enough military power for large-scale exercises, even though its troops are engaged in hostilities in Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise will be held until September 7 at seven test sites in the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan and will involve more than 50,000 servicemen and more than 5,000 pieces of weaponry, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships.
The chief of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, will personally oversee the exercises, which will involve troops from several former Soviet states, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
The Ministry of Defense noted that as part of the maneuvers, the Russian and Chinese navies in the Sea of Japan will “practice joint actions to protect maritime communications, areas of maritime economic activity and support ground forces in coastal areas.”
The drills demonstrate growing defense ties between Moscow and Beijing, which have grown stronger since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24. China has steadfastly refused to criticize Russia’s actions, accusing the US and NATO of provoking Moscow, and has criticized punitive sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Russia, for its part, has strongly supported China amid tensions with the US following a recent visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Putin drew parallels between US support for Ukraine and Pelosi’s visit, describing them as part of Washington’s alleged efforts to stoke global instability.
Alexander Gabuev, a political analyst who closely follows Russian-Chinese ties, noted that “it is very important for Beijing to show the US that it has leverage on America and its global interests.”
“The joint maneuvers with Moscow, including the naval exercises, are intended to signal that if the pressure on Beijing continues, it will have no choice but to strengthen its military partnership with Russia,” Gabuev said. “This will have a direct impact on the interests of the US 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 show its muscles elsewhere despite the campaign in Ukraine.
“The Russian leadership has demonstrated that everything is going according to plan and the country and its military have the resources to conduct the maneuvers along with the special military operation,” Gabuev said.
The exercise continues a series of joint war games between Russia and China in recent years, including naval exercises and patrols by long-range bombers over the Japan and East China Seas. Last year, for the first time, Russian troops were deployed on Chinese territory for joint maneuvers.
China’s participation in the exercises “aims to deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the militaries of the participating countries, raise the level of strategic cooperation among all participating countries, and improve the ability to jointly respond to various security threats,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Pol .Tan Kefei said last week.
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have developed strong personal ties to strengthen the “strategic partnership” between the former communist rivals as both are locked in rivalry with the US
Although Moscow and Beijing have in the past dismissed the possibility of a military alliance, Putin said such a prospect could not be ruled out. He also noted that Russia has shared highly sensitive military technology with China that has helped significantly strengthen its defense capabilities.
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