• Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

China steps up military exercises with Russia amid US sanctions

China steps up military exercises with Russia amid US sanctions
President Xi Jinping Washington’s crossing of red lines was opposed to arming RussiaUkraine’s war machine. But that hasn’t stopped China from getting closer to Moscow’s military: direct intervention.
China and the Armed Forces Vladimir Putin Six joint military exercises were held together last year, the most on record for two decades.
That’s two-thirds of the exercises China conducted with foreign troops in 2022, according to data compiled by the US National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs.
The data shows that five of the drills took place after Putin began his invasion of Ukraine. Four of them were bilateral, and two were held with US adversaries, including Iran and Syria.
“Xi has every reason to preserve and improve China’s strategic alignment with Russia,” said Alexander Korolev, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “This is the most effective way to counterbalance US power.”
As China steps up pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island Xi has vowed to someday claim, the US has expanded its military presence in Asia. It recently signed a defense pact with the Philippines and opened another base in Guam. China’s concerns about the US military encirclement come as Russia protests the deployment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops to its border.
Against that background, Xi refused to condemn Putin’s war. Instead, China provided Moscow with economic and diplomatic refuge, buying its cheap goods and political interventions. The Chinese leader’s only foreign trip this year was to Moscow.
At the same time, China has frozen high-level military talks with the US over sanctions imposed on Defense Minister Li Shangfu for Russian arms purchases in 2018. Since 2020, the U.S. and China have not conducted joint exercises involving disaster response. Dangerous interactions between their armies have raised fears that an accident could escalate into a clash.
China and Russia have a turbulent defense history, marred by suspicion, including months of conflict along their long border in the 1960s. The trust was recently upgraded in 2015 after the US and Europe imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea last year.
Those moves, along with U.S. criticism of Beijing’s military expansion in the South China Sea, have prompted both sides to seek alternative defense partners. According to a report to Congress in February, China and Russia are now in a de facto alliance, causing some US policymakers to express concern.
China’s Top Military Partners | Russia had the most cooperation with Beijing in the period 2002-2022
Russia and China have conducted at least 36 drills in the wake of Putin’s annexation of Crimea, according to NDU and Bloomberg News figures. Compared to just ten exercises in the decade before 2014.
Putin’s announcement in 2019 that Russia would help China build a system to warn of ballistic missile launches was “unprecedented,” according to Korolev, and signaled a new level of defense cooperation. Such systems require ground-based radars and space satellites.
“Putin and Xi managed to ease, if not eliminate, existing psychological and political barriers to closer cooperation,” he added.
Political message
Exercises between Russia and China are smaller than those between the US and its allies. The US and the Philippines recently held their largest-ever military exercise involving more than 17,000 troops.
But China’s exercises with Russia are often fraught with political significance.
Their annual exercises around Japan, for example, aggravate a democracy with territorial disputes between the two countries. In 2019, the air forces of both countries conducted their first long-range bomber flight patrol in the Indo-Pacific. In response, Japan fired aircraft, while South Korea said the drills entered its air defense identification zone. Both countries are key security partners of the US.
China said on Saturday that Russia would soon send naval and air forces to take part in annual joint exercises in the middle of the Sea of ​​Japan. The People’s Liberation Army said the exercise aims to enhance strategic coordination between the two militaries and enhance their capabilities to maintain regional peace and stability and respond to various security challenges.
“These exercises tend to be more frequent and have more of a politically charged, political signaling value,” said Andrew Taffer, a research fellow at NDU’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs. “It suggests the possibility that the US and its allies will work together in an unsavory, if not unsavory, way.”
Although Russia and China have not conducted joint exercises around Taiwan, two Russian warships last month made a rare trip to the island’s east coast, before passing the Japanese island of Okinawa, home to a large US base. The ships were on their way to a port call in Shanghai.
Still, Putin’s war in Ukraine has exposed Moscow’s limitations as a military partner. According to Elizabeth Vishnick, a political science professor at Montclair State University, relations are unlikely to be strained in the long run because Xi does not have a good replacement.
“If there was a crisis or conflict in Asia, there is a chance that China and Russia might help each other,” she said.

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