Russian-Chinese Military Relationship Not Just a ‘Marriage of Convenience’
Aug. 14, 2021 (EIRNS)—U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Charles Richard isn’t just worried about Chinese ICBMs. He’s also worried about what he thinks the implications of the developing Russian-Chinese military relationship are. “I think it’s a mistake to think about them in isolation of each other,” Richard stated, citing a series of recent military exercises between the two powers. “The continued defense relationship should not be underestimated or ignored, and I don’t think our national intellectual capacity has been sufficiently engaged to consider all the ramifications here.”
Richard, in fact, was speaking as the PLA and Russia’s Eastern Military District were wrapping their joint exercise in northern China. Both the Chinese and Russian defense ministers highly praised the exercise as a success. “These drills have great significance,” Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said yesterday, reported RT. “These are the first joint drills organized in China since the outbreak of the epidemic. And these are the first-ever Chinese operational and strategic maneuvers with the participation of Russian troops.”
Wei went on to explain that the exercises reflect the “unwavering support between China and Russia,” noting the development of inter-army ties at a “high level.”
“This fully demonstrates the close relationship between China and Russia, the unbreakable bond between the Chinese and Russian armed forces, and the strong and enduring friendship between us personally,” Wei said, talking to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Shoigu, for his part, observed the troops’ coherent operations and the high professionalism of the participants in the joint maneuvers and awarded the personnel who had distinguished themselves during the drills.
For Russia and China, the military relationship is more than a “marriage of convenience” as it is often portrayed in the West. For Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, “it is getting clear that Russia-China military drills are not just symbolic shows of camaraderie, but are increasingly aimed at enhancing battlefield interoperability,” he told South China Morning Post. SCMP observes that since their first joint drill in 2005, the Chinese and Russian militaries have sought to increase the frequency, scope and complexity of their exercises, but have yet to demonstrate the ability to conduct a major joint operation.
Vasily Kashin, a military and China specialist at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said sharing of weapons and equipment contributed to a better understanding of each other’s capabilities and was standard NATO practice. “The current exercises, starting from Vostok-2018 joint strategic exercise, are more aimed at fighting a high intensity war against a major power,” he said. “The level of trust appears to be very high. Currently the level of access which the Russians give to the Chinese appears to be similar or higher than that given to the closest allies among the former Soviet countries like Belarus and Kazakhstan.”
Retired PLA colonel and military commentator Yue Gang said China had never given this level of access before to a foreign military. “China’s treaty with North Korea is only on paper and the exercises we had with Pakistan were much smaller in scale,” Yue said. “China and Russia have to stick together when facing the United States. We are not allies but as good as allies with our collective capabilities.”
The Chinese military, which has not taken part in any real armed conflicts since the 1980s, has long sought to absorb experience from its Russian counterpart. “Russia’s battlefield experience in Syria, Crimea and Chechnya is very valuable to us, in particular on how they have adjusted their military strategy across time,” Yue said.