INTERNATIONAL

A challenge to American dominance in world

STRATEGIC DIMENSION: The head of the Russian armed forces, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky (left), and the chief of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Gen. Liang Guanglie, in Vladivostok, Russia, on Thursday. — PHOTO: AP  

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: Russia and China have launched the first ever joint war games seen as a demonstration of the two nations resolve to challenge the United States' dominance in world affairs.

The week-long military manoeuvres which started on Thursday involve 2,000 Russian and 8,000 Chinese troops, combat aviation, and warships.

Under the scenario of the joint exercises, dubbed "Peace Mission 2005," Russian and Chinese forces acting on a United Nations mandate land in an imaginary country to stop ethnic strife.

However, the involvement of several Russian long-distance bombers Tu-22M and Tu-95 armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles add a strategic dimension to the war games.

More exercises planned

Analysts said the manoeuvres must be seen in the light of recent efforts by the two countries to check U.S. influence in Central Asia.

The war games come a month after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), dominated by Russia and China, called for a deadline to the U.S. military presence in Central Asia.

Significantly, it is only the four other members — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — of the SCO who have been invited to attend the exercises as observers.

Briefing the media on the war games, Russia's Chief of General Staff Yury Baluyevsky said "bigger-scale exercises" with China may be held in the future.

He also said SCO member-states would stage a joint military drill in September.

The war games "should demonstrate that mutual understanding between the two countries has reached a level when they are capable of asserting joint control over a strategically-important region in Eurasia and pursue the goal of building a multi-polar world," Russia's influential Kommersant daily said on Thursday.

Bejing's agenda

China also has its own agenda for the military exercises. To step up pressure on Taiwan, Beijing wanted the war games to be held in Zhejiang, a coastal province near Taiwan.

However, Moscow insisted the location be shifted 800 km north to the Shandong Peninsula.