In the northern regions of China, the joint military exercises of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Armed Forces called West Interaction-2021 has started. About 13,000 servicemen and more than 400 pieces of military equipment are involved. The peculiarity of these military exercises is not just their scale but the decision of the Chinese command made to allow the Russian military to use Chinese rather than domestic weapons for the first time. First attempts at getting acquainted with Chinese military equipment took place in several stages, including theoretical briefings, use of training simulators, and practical driving and shooting lessons. This year’s military exercises are essential for both sides, forced to jointly seek ways to counter the growing pressure of the US and its allies.
It is noteworthy that, clearly intending to “send a signal to China,” simultaneously with the Sino-Russian military exercises, the United States and its allies began their maneuvers in the region. According to the newspaper Stars and Stripes, “The current US Navy exercises are the largest in 40 years.” As for Washington’s stated goals, they are listed as preparations to repel aggression on many fronts. And the US Indo-Pacific Command began military exercises with Britain, Australia, Japan. In addition, a US-Indian maneuver in the Bay of Bengal is scheduled for late August.
According to Chinese media reports, a joint military command has been formed for the duration of the Sino-Russian exercise. Personnel from the two countries are mastering the interaction of aviation, artillery, and armored units. Joint teams have been created to test the ability to conduct joint reconnaissance, detect electronic attacks in advance and destroy the enemy. The units practice boarding military aircraft, airdropping, and a many-kilometer foot march across the country. An essential aspect of these exercises is to improve the tactical capabilities of the two countries’ armies and experience and the expansion and strengthening of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, based on several common goals, including developing multipolar world order.
Now cooperation between the two countries in the military-technical field goes beyond the fight against terrorism and can be seen as a response to the growing US military activity near the borders of China and Russia, military experts say.
As the US online news magazine The Diplomat points out, the Sino-Russian maneuvers show that the relationship between the two powers rests on a solid foundation. At the same time, the West’s attempt to isolate Russia has left Moscow no choice but to cooperate more closely with Beijing. According to Richard Weitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, cited by the publication, the recent increase in the number of Russian-Chinese military exercises is aimed at “improving the capabilities of both armies, increasing their interoperability, and promoting cooperation in the defense industry. In doing so, they intend to send a signal to other countries and promote mutual assurance and strengthen mutual trust.” Moreover, according to the expert, the exercises are essential to institutionalize Sino-Russian relations, even though Moscow and Beijing have not concluded an official military alliance.
Observers pay attention to the fact that not so long ago, the countries celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The words of President Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping that their partnership is not a political or military alliance, but one that exceeds these forms of interstate interaction is expressly noted.
Western analysts do not hide the fact that the Russian-Chinese exercise West Interaction-2021 is of concern to the US and the West. In particular, the Financial Times focuses on the ongoing and actively developing military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow and the political one. Western anxiety is also connected with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, especially against how both Beijing and Moscow are in contact with the Taliban (a movement recognized as terrorists and banned in Russia). In addition, the exercises are closely monitored as Chinese and Russian forces are learning how to coordinate missions and conduct joint operations.
The British believe that both countries are forming their own alliance. The Daily Express even called these joint exercises a “chilling” warning to NATO countries. Although readers noted in the comments that it would be great if Russia and China joined forces to prevent the US and NATO from “promoting the enviroment of lawlessness across the world.”
The Sino-Russian exercises are being monitored with great attention in Japan. As the Japanese newspaper JB Press notes, Tokyo is clearly concerned that the spearhead of Sino-Russian military exercises may someday turn to the northern territories. The Chinese have long had an interest in the economy of the Southern Kurils and would gladly take up Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s offer to participate in their development. That is why the publication intensely fills the Japanese with fear that Japan could become the next target of the Russian-Chinese ambitions.
In general, many Western analysts recognize that the intensification of US steps against China and Russia forces Moscow and Beijing to seek new ways to counter the growing pressure of the United States and its allies. They call the two countries a main threats to their security. The latest attempt to put collective regional pressure on China was made by the US a couple of weeks ago at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia Summit ministerial meetings. Meanwhile, a qualitatively new level of interaction, demonstrated by the military of Russia and China during the West Interaction-2021 maneuvres, reminds the West and the Indo-Pacific region that the idea of isolating China and Russia at Washington’s behest and creating a single anti-Chinese/anti-Russian front is ultimately unviable.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.