Joint military exercises between the Chinese and Russian armies that were held in northwest China concluded on Friday. The drills demonstrated the deepening cooperation between the two countries as both are under increasing pressure from the US.
In total, 10,000 Russian and Chinese troops participated in the exercises. The South China Morning Post reported that the two militaries used a joint command and control system for the first time. The Russian troops were integrated into Chinese formations and carried out operations planned by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Also for the first time, Russian soldiers used Chinese equipment.
“We have achieved a high level of interaction between our armed forces on land, in the air and at sea,” Russian Defense Minister Shoigu said in a statement on the drills. “This increase is an important trend towards further activity.”
Russia and China first held joint military exercises together in 2005. But the cooperation has grown significantly in recent years as the US is expanding its military activity near Russia and China as part of Washington’s shift in focus towards so-called “great power competition.”
A Russian military specialist told the Post that the exercises are aimed at fighting a “high-intensity war against a major power,” like the US. “The level of trust appears to be very high. Currently the level of access which the Russians give to the Chinese appears to be similar or higher than that given to the closest allies among the former Soviet countries like Belarus and Kazakhstan,” said Vasily Kashin of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
Besides the pressure from the US, China is starting to be targeted by European powers. NATO has identified China as a threat to the alliance, and countries like the UK, France, and Germany are deploying warships to the sensitive South China Sea.
To any casual observer, China and Russia’s increased military cooperation is the obvious result of the US rallying its allies against the two countries. But the hawks in Washington act surprised by the warming ties and will undoubtedly use it to justify more military expansion.