China will join Russia in a giant military exercise, sending a message of deterrence to the U.S. which has designated Beijing and Moscow as “revisionist powers”.
The five-day Vostok 2018 exercises, to be held from September 11, will be bigger than Zapad 81 — the mammoth manoeuvres carried out in Eastern Europe by the former Soviet Union in 1981. Mongolia will be the third country participating in the drills.
The Vostok-2018 will involve 300,000 troops. They will engage in tri-service mock-operations, involving 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets and all its airborne units, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.
Nearly 36,000 military vehicles will participate in the drills that will take place at Russia’s Tsugol training range in the trans-Baikal region. China will dispatch about 3,200 troops, along with more than 900 pieces of weaponry, as well as 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicoptersstate-run Xinhua reported, citing China's Ministry of National Defence.
These exercises are taking place amid Washington’s growing friction with Russia and China, which include mounting sanctions and a trade war. The Pentagon’s national defence strategy unveiled in January focused on Russia and China as principle strategic challenges to the U.S. In presenting the new strategy, U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis called China and Russia “revisionist powers” that “seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models”.
He stressed that “great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security”.
Russian foreign policy commentator Mark Sleboda was quoted by Sputnik as saying the upcoming exercises are “a clear indication to the U.S. that it’s a response to their national security strategy, as well as a response to U.S. and NATO posturing in the South China Sea, in the Taiwanese Straits, as well as…the permanent stationing of troops that we are seeing on Russia’s western border”.
He also quoted an editorial re-published by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) website, which spotlights the exercise as a response to the intentions of “hegemonic powers”. “Some hegemonic powers target China and Russia as their biggest threats, giving heavy blows to the two countries in political, economic and military areas.
Such actions have severely threatened regional and even global peace and stability,” says the edit. “Therefore, the China-Russia alliance is a reasonable stance against the hegemonic impulse and for safeguarding peace and stability of the region and the world,” it added.
Mr. Sleboda points out that since last year, China and Russia have begun joint missile defence exercises — a signal that Beijing and Moscow “foresee that any strategic nuclear conflict that embroils one would, naturally, involve both”.
A PLA affiliated website, China Military Online, cited experts who said the upcoming exercise shows that the China-Russia “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is further deepening in the military and security fields”.
The article asserts that China’s participation in mega-drills have dispelled doubts that ‘Vostok-2018’ might be directed against Beijing. It notes that the manoeuvres concentrate on “traditional security, unlike previous China-Russia joint military exercises which focused on non-traditional security challenges”.
The write-up cited Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defence magazine, as saying that in view of the escalating pressure exerted by the U.S. on Russia and China, “such military drills show that America's attempt to contain Russia and China will not work”.