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Russia Gears Up for Massive Military Drills with China

By Vusala Abbasova July 18, 2023


The capability of the warships involved in the joint drills highlights the strategic importance of the exercise to both countries.

Russia and China are joining forces for military drills in the Sea of Japan as part of the Northern/Interaction-2023 exercise. The aim of these exercises, according to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, is to safeguard the national interests of both countries.

“This joint exercise aims at enhancing the level of strategic cooperation between the Chinese and Russian militaries, as well as strengthening both sides’ ability to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability when dealing with various security challenges,” Interfax quoted a statement released by the ministry on Saturday.

The statement reveals that the Russian army will deploy its navy and air force to participate in these exercises. The capability of the warships involved in the joint drills highlights the strategic importance of the exercise to both countries.

On Saturday morning, a Chinese naval flotilla of five warships, including guided-missile destroyers Qiqihar and Guiyang, the guided-missile frigates Zaozhuang and Rizhao, and the comprehensive supply ship Taihu, carrying four ship-borne helicopters, set sail from the military port in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province. This flotilla is heading to the designated training waters, where it will meet up with the Russian forces in a predetermined area to engage in the Northern/Interaction-2023 military drills.

While the main focus of the exercises is to enhance bilateral cooperation, some experts speculate that geopolitical dynamics might also influence the timing of this joint display of the military. The maneuvers may be a response to Washington’s efforts to strengthen ties with regional allies Japan and South Korea as part of their preparations for any potential conflict with China over Taiwan, posing a potential threat to both China and Russia.

The Sino-Russian military build-up comes amid heightened tensions with the United States. On the one hand, Washington has been adopting a stringent stance towards Russia, imposing economic sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine. On the other hand, the US has been engaged in trade disputes with China, exacerbating the already complex relationship between the two superpowers.

China and Russia have significantly increased their joint military exercises in the past two decades. Last year, the two nations conducted six joint military exercises, marking the highest number in the past twenty years. Data compiled by the US National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs reveals that these exercises constituted around two-thirds of all China’s military drills with foreign nations in 2022.

Five of the exercises took place after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Four of them were conducted bilaterally, deepening the strategic ties between China and Russia, while two exercises involved joint operations with US adversaries, namely Iran and Syria, underscoring the geopolitical implications of their collaborative military endeavors.