Washington Free Beacon on September 2, 2015, reported that Russia and China recently completed largest ever joint naval exercise. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview on September 1 that his country’s relations with China have reached a historic level as the two nations, often at odds with the United States, increase their military and economic cooperation. Excerpts below:
The Russian president is visiting China…to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The ceremony in Beijing will feature a large military parade where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could unveil a new missile known as a “carrier-killer,” which some defense experts say could challenge U.S. naval dominance in the Asia-Pacific.
“Russian-Chinese ties have now probably reached a peak in their entire history and continue developing,” he said. “The partnership between Russia and China is based on sincere friendship and sympathy between our peoples, on deep respect and trust, consideration for each other’s key interests and commitment to make our countries flourish.”
Putin has noticeably extended a hand toward China in recent months amid the crisis in Ukraine, where Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014… The closer cooperation between the two countries comes despite decades of distrust and military tensions during the Soviet era.
Russia and China are also forming a “strategic energy alliance” that “will play a significant role in international economic relations,” Putin said. The Russian gas giant Gazprom inked a $400 billion deal with China in May 2014 to transport gas from Russia’s east to its southern neighbor. Additionally, the Kremlin has touted plans for a Siberian gas pipeline that could access Chinese markets and make Russia less reliant on consumers in Europe.
However, both gas deals have been slow to advance due to a lack of financing and enthusiasm from Beijing. China is still grappling with the aftershocks of its stock market plunge in recent weeks. Concerns about Beijing’s economy have further depressed global oil prices, Russia’s main export.
As a result, trade between Russia—currently in a recession—and China actually declined by nearly 30 percent in the first half of this year.
Cooperation between the Russian and Chinese militaries has visibly increased in recent months. The two nations just concluded their largest ever joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok, involving dozens of warships, submarines, aircraft, and at least 500 marines. The countries have also signed a pact on cyber security issues.
The increasing global presence of the Russian and Chinese militaries has raised concerns among U.S. military leaders. Russia has said it will shadow multinational naval exercises involving the United States and Ukraine in the next couple weeks in the Black Sea, which follows dozens of Russian bomber flights in the last year over Europe and near U.S. airspace.
Five Chinese naval ships were observed near the coast of Alaska on Wednesday, the first time the country’s vessels have been spotted in the area.
China has also rankled the Obama administration and U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific with its construction of man-made islands in the South China Sea, some outfitted with military radar and artillery stations.
Comment: Wall Street Journal on September 4 reported Pentagon officials said for the first time that five Chinese navy ships operating off Alaska in recent days had come within 12 nautical miles of the U.S. coast, entering U.S. territorial waters, but they complied with international law.
The cooperation of Russia and China is a long time geopolitical threat to the West. Russia is the main heartland power of Eurasia while China is part of the rimland. Moscow has an authoritarian regime and Peking a totalitarian one. During the Cold War the Soviet Union and China were adversaries.
One of Russia’s main geostrategic problems is access to the world oceans. A possible future alliance may give Russia wider access to the Pacific Ocean threatening partners of the United States in the Asia Pacific.