Russia Launches Joint War Games with China Amid Tensions with the U.S.

Russia recently launched a weeklong war games exercise involving forces from China and other nations, highlighting burgeoning defense cooperation between Beijing and Moscow amid ongoing tensions between the superpower nations and the United States.

The defense maneuvers are meant to demonstrate that Russia has ample military might for substantial military drills while its troops are engaged in a military offensive in Ukraine. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) military exercise will continue until September 7 in the Sea of Japan and at seven firing ranges in Russia’s Far East, which involve over 5,000 weapons units, and 50,000 troops, including 60 warships and 140 aircraft.

Russia’s Defense Ministry noted that the maneuvers will involve the Chinese and Russian navies who will “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity and support for ground troops in littoral areas.” Russian General Staff Chief, General Valery Gerasimov, will oversee the drills involving several ex-Soviet nations, including India, Mongolia, China, Laos, Syria, and Nicaragua.

China joins Russian training, sends forces from three military branches

According to Chinese news reports, China sent more than 2,000 troops along with 21 combat aircraft, three warships, and more than 300 military vehicles to participate in the drills. According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the maneuvers marked the first time China has sent forces from three military branches to participate in a single Russian drill to show the depth of cooperation between Russia and China, as well as mutual trust and collaboration.

Additionally, the drills showcase the increasing defense ties between Beijing and Moscow, which had only grown stronger since February, when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in an unprovoked attack. China has refused to criticize Putin’s actions, blaming NATO and the United States for provoking Russia while blasting the sanctions imposed on Moscow.

In turn, Russia has emphatically backed China amid tensions with the U.S. that followed a recent visit by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. President Putin has pointed out similarities between the U.S.’s support for Ukraine and the trip by Pelosi, describing both as part of alleged efforts by the U.S. to incite global instability.

Political analyst Alexander Gabuyev, who closely follows China-Russia ties, noted that “it’s very important for Beijing to show to the U.S. that it has levers to pressure America and its global interests.

“The joint maneuvers with Moscow, including the naval drills, are intended to signal that if the pressure on Beijing continues, it will have no other choice but to strengthen the military partnership with Russia,” said Gabuyev. “It will have a direct impact on the interests of the U.S. and its allies, including Japan.”
He emphasized that the Kremlin wants to demonstrate that the country’s military is strong enough to flex its military might elsewhere despite its months-long campaign in Ukraine.

“The Russian leadership demonstrates that everything goes according to plan and the country and its military have resources to conduct the maneuvers along with the special military operation,” Gabuyev said.

The current exercise continues a series of joint war games by China and Russia in recent years, including patrols by long-range bombers over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan and naval drills. Last year, Russian troops deployed to Chinese territory for joint maneuvers for the first time.

The participation of China in the drills “aims to deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the militaries of the participating countries, enhance the level of strategic cooperation among all participating parties, and enhance the ability to respond to various security threats jointly,” said Col. Tan Kefei, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Putin have developed solid personal ties to buoy a “strategic partnership” between the former Communist opponents as they both are clinched in a rivalry with the U.S.

Although Beijing and Moscow rejected the possibility of forging a military alliance in the past, Putin has said the prospect could not be ruled out. The Russian president noted that Russia has been sharing confidential and sensitive military technologies with China to help it significantly bolster its defense capabilities.