Should Joint Exercises Between China And Russia Worry Its Neighbors?

From July 5-12, the Chinese and Russian navies joined in coordinated, bilateral military exercises known as “Joint Sea 2013.”  It is the 9th bilateral or multilateral military exercises involving the armed forces of China and Russia, according to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.

The two naval forces sailed in ceremonial formation in the Sea of Japan in what analysts and some Chinese officials said was a sign of growing unity between the two countries.

Maj. Gen. Yang Junfei, the commander of the Chinese fleet, told Chinese reporters that the goal was to strengthen “strategic trust” and improve coordination between the two navies, reports The New York Times.

That “strategic trust,” however is limited – at least in the eyes of the Russians. Just days after the conclusion of the joint exercises, the Russian military engaged in a separate round of maneuvers that involved 160,000 troops, about 5,000 tanks across Siberia and as many as seventy ships from the Russian Pacific Fleet.

The exercises, which Russia insisted were part of normal combat training, marked the largest military maneuvers since the end of the Soviet Union – a fact which analysts say was intended as a message to the international community.

“The fact that the maneuvers were conducted under the direct supervision of President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Shoygu shows their great importance, and was clearly a signal to multiple international audiences,” asserts Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

Despite Russia’s statements that the maneuvers were part of routine military training, their scale suggests that they were more likely meant to demonstrate the power of the modern Russian military to Russia’s friends and enemies,” writes Cohen in the National Interest.

The joint drill has attracted interest from those enemies and friends, including Japan, which is wary about improving Sino-Russian relations.

Richard Rousseau, a contributor to the Diplomatic Courier, holds a different view of the Sino-Russian relationship. Countering those like Japan who are concerned about collaboration between the two nations, Rousseau downplays both the strength of the relationship and the global impact of the relationship.

“Their respective cultures differ greatly; their interests in Central Asia will sooner or later clash; East Siberia is potentially a flash point; and China’s military build-up is frightening Moscow. Hence, these two countries cannot, in the long run, define and share a common view in terms of their foreign policy objectives. It is likely impossible for them to find common ground on the issue of legitimacy of foreign military intervention on the territory of sovereign states, as both have ethnic groups which want to break away from Chinese and Russian territories, ostensibly under the cover of self-determination,” Rousseau argues.






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