VLADIVOSTOK–Russia (AP)–Russia and China began unprecedented joint military exercises involving air–sea and land forces August 18–as commanders from both nations insisted the war games were not meant to intimidate other countries.
The United States is not sending observers to the exercises–which symbolize the bolstered ties between Russia and China since the end of the Cold War–but the US has said it hopes they do not shake regional stability.
"Our exercises don’t threaten any country," Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky–the head of the Russian armed forces general staff–told a news conference at Russia’s Pacific Fleet command in the Far East city of Vladivostok.
Gen. Liang Guanglie–chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army–said the exercises were taking place in accord with UN principles and would serve to boost the countries’ common interests and "protect peace and stability in our region and the whole world." He said they took part in the context of the "fight against international terrorism–separatism and extremism."
The generals insisted the eight days of exercises were a result of the warming ties between the countries on many levels. China and Russia have drawn closer together since the end of the Cold War after decades of estrangement–united in their opposition to US dominance in world affairs.
The exercises–dubbed "Peace Mission 2005," started with strategic consultations between commanders–and will climax next week with an amphibious and paratroop landing on China’s Shandong peninsula in the Yellow Sea. Some 10,000 troops are involved–mostly Chinese and about 1,800 Russia’s.
Analysts have noted the involvement of Russia’s Tu-95 strategic bombers and Tu-22M long-range bombers in the exercises – warplanes that can carry conventional or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles–which are not usually part of peacekeeping operations. The aircraft are expected to top China’s shopping list both to deter US assistance to Taiwan in the event of a conflict and project Chinese strength across the region.
The US Defense Department said in a report last month that China’s military was increasingly seeking to modernize and could become a threat to American and other forces in the Asia-Pacific region as it looked to spread its influence.
The Russian military is also eager to show it can still flex its muscles despite much-publicized woes. Its weaknesses were highlighted again earlier this month when the country was forced to call for outside help to rescue seven men’stranded in a mini-submarine off its Pacific coast in operations that involved the Vladivostok-based Pacific Fleet.