Russia-China military maneuvers: One enemy, different goals

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

China conducts a situational tactical rapprochement with Russia in the military and political sphere to press the US and help reduce the import duties on Chinese products
12:39, 29 August 2018

Open source

Information has appeared that on September 11-15 the Russian armed forces would conduct large-scale Vostok-18 or East-2018 military exercises in the Far East, in which China and Mongolia will also take part. The future maneuvers will involve 200,000 servicemen of the Central and Eastern military districts, ships of the Northern and Pacific navies, the Russian aerospace forces, and three assault and assault brigades. More than 3,000 Chinese servicemen will take part in military exercises, at least 400 units of military and special equipment, about 30 aircraft to be involved. The exercise will be led by representatives of the Eastern Military District of the Russian Federation and the Northern Zone of the Chinese Combat Command, which will establish a joint headquarters. The Vostok-2018 exercise has been conducted by Russia since 2010, and its purpose is to check the large military formations for the ability to quickly move over significant distances and operate in unfamiliar theaters of military operations. Military According to senior research fellow at the Center for International Strategy and Assistance, Rick Fisher, during the Vostok-18 exercises, a simulation of the use of low-power nuclear weapons might be carried out. American officials demand clarification from their Russian counterparts.

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Russia already compares Vostok-18 with military maneuvers during the Cold War. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called the upcoming Vostok-2018, or East-2018, exercises "the largest preparatory action for the armed forces since Zapad-81," referring to a Soviet military exercise in 1981 involving about 100,000 to 150,000 troops, according to a CIA estimate at the time. Then the Soviet Union demonstrated the strength in Europe to the then-new administration of the American Republican President Ronald Reagan. History is repeated. Now Russia and China decided to flex its muscles before the United States in the Far East. China is trying to get its benefits from the exercises, which can threaten Russia with unpleasant consequences.

The Kremlin's demarche in response to sanctions

With the help of the Vostok-18 exercises, Russians are trying to create a stereotype that, despite sanctions and deterioration of relations with America and Europe, they have enough money to maintain a high level of combat training for the Russian army and navy. Russia is trying to create the impression that it allegedly has an influential military-political partner, China, which has recently had a complicated relationship with the United States. The Russian leadership is trying to convince the international community that the Russian Federation, together with the PRC, has all the necessary resources to change the alignment of forces in the Asia-Pacific region (APR) and shake the influence of the White House. Since the Cold War, the stronghold of the US geopolitical influence in the Asia-Pacific region has been represented in a powerful navy, economic and security ties with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand. With the help of military exercises, Russia exerts psychological pressure on the regional allies of the United States - South Korea and Japan, with which Russians have a dispute around the Kuril Islands.

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The Kremlin is trying to embarrass the administration of US President Donald Trump, which continues the policy of anti-Russian sanctions and introduces new restrictive measures against Russian individuals and legal entities. On Friday, August 24, the US State Department confirmed the imposition of new sanctions against Russia in response to a chemical attack in the British city of Salisbury and poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal. At the first stage, the United States will impose a ban on the supply of goods and services for the defense sector of Russia, technologies that can be used to produce chemical weapons. At the second stage, American banks will be banned from lending to the government of the Russian Federation, bilateral trade will be suspended (excluding agricultural products), and Russian state airlines will not be able to fly to the US. The other day the US Treasury imposed sanctions against Russian shipping companies Primorye Maritime Logistics and Hudson Shipping, the management of the Patriot trade vessel for transferring processed oil to the North Korean ships, which is prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions. Also, the US Congress is working on a new bill that provides for sanctions against companies that are involved in the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline.

The Kremlin is trying to blackmail the US with a military-political rapprochement with China if sanctions continue. The Russian authorities want the Republicans to give back and begin to establish relations with the Putin regime in order to avoid the formation of a full-fledged anti-American military alliance between the two nuclear powers in the Far East. Otherwise, it makes no sense to conduct Vostok-18 exercises on the eve of the midterm elections to the US Congress and to involve China in maneuvers. If Russia's previous military exercises in the Far East were perceived as training the armed forces in the event of China's armed aggression, now only the US can be perceived as a common conventional enemy for the Russian and Chinese military. It is impossible to treat the demarche of Russia without a share of skepticism. The military exercises of the Russian Federation and its partners, including last year's Russian-Belarusian West-17 maneuvers, did not make the West more compliant. On the contrary, the US increases military spending and invests in the development of new types of weapons to deter Russia.

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Leady greetings from the Middle Kingdom

At first glance, it may seem that China pursues the same goal as Russia, participating in the Vostok-18 exercise. According to the information of the Ministry of Defense of China, the goal of the exercises is to strengthen Russian-Chinese strategic military cooperation, strengthen the parties' potential in the field of joint response to various security threats, as well as the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. In other words, China is trying to play on US concerns about the formation of a military-political alliance with Russia in the Far East, where the leading role will be played by Beijing. The Chinese military takes part in the so-called International Army Games (a hybrid of military exercises and sports), which Russia organized for the first time in 2015. In July 2018, four competitions were held in the territory of China. China conducts a situational tactical rapprochement with the Russian Federation in the military and political sphere in order to press the United States and help reduce the import duties on Chinese products, imposed by the Trump administration.


Related: NATO, Ukraine's Navy to hold joint drills in Black Sea

Now bilateral relations between the US and China are in a state of a trade war. With the help of high import duties, Trump wants to force the Chinese to buy more American products and reduce the trade deficit ($ 376 billion). China delivers goods to the US market more than it buys in the US, creating competition for the local producers. In 2017, China exported to the US products worth $ 505.6 billion (while the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $ 600 billion). In March 2018, the US imposed duties on Chinese steel (at a rate of 25%) and on aluminum (at a rate of 10%). In June, the States introduced 25% import duties on more than 800 Chinese goods worth $ 34 billion. In response to the US actions, the Chinese introduced similar duties on US imports worth $ 34 billion. China stole from the US intellectual property and trade secrets for hundreds of billions of dollars, including military technology.

China participates in the Vostok-18 exercises for the sake of demonstrating strength in the Far East. China has territorial disputes with the US regional allies: with Japan around the Senkaku islands, with Malaysia, Taiwan around the islands in the South China Sea. Moscow and Beijing are against the desire of the US for world leadership. Vostok-18 is only part of the military-political events of the Celestial Empire aimed at strengthening its influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Chinese Communists are interested in strengthening the military presence in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, where the United States is active. The US Navy is modernizing its navy create a counterweight to the Pacific Fleet, it includes 714 ships, boats, and submarines. Starting in 2018, the Chinese plan to build 30 frigates and to put into operation the second aircraft carrier by 2019-20. China creates artificial islands in the South China Sea, builds runways, warehouses for the weapons storage.

Related: US make modification of technique of military trainings using Ukrainian experience

However, it is too early to say that China's naval forces are able to compete on an equal footing with the American armada in the Pacific. The Pacific Fleet of the US Navy is the largest regional naval formation in the world. It consists of 200 ships, including aircraft carriers, 2 thousand aircraft, 250 thousand sailors, and marines. According to Business Insider, 11 US aircraft carriers are constantly kept at sea in the world various regions, including the APR. The Chinese sailors have only one aircraft carrier in the ranks, which was converted from the Soviet aircraft ship in Mykolaiv, the aircraft carrying cruiser ("Riga", "Varyag"), inherited by independent Ukraine.

China borrows some experience of the Third Reich

Power projection in front of the US is not China's only goal in terms of Vostok-18. The Russian leadership made a big mistake, revealing to the Chinese military the maps of the modern defensive and offensive tactics of the Russian armed forces. The Kremlin has not learned the lessons of history. In the 20-30-ies, the future personnel German military pilots and tankmen were practicing at the military training grounds of the Soviet Union, who were able to familiarize themselves with the terrain of the European part of the country, which during the Second World War became the theater of military operations of the Third Reich. China has already tried to change the borders in the Far East, using military force. In 1969, the Chinese military wanted to seize Damansky Island, which resulted in a local border conflict with the use of Soviet military MLRS Grad (in 1991 the RF voluntarily transferred the island to the PRC). In the long term, China can carry out provocations in the Far East, drawing conclusions about the combat capability of the Russian army, which will be based on the results of the Vostok-18 exercises.

Related: Russia conducts military training in annexed Crimea

China is practicing passive territorial expansion in the Far East. Celestial Empire develops and strengthens its bank of the Amur River, carries out dredging works, influencing the change of the riverbed. As a result of the actions of the Chinese side, the flow of the Amur is washing away the Russian coast, and the riverbed goes to Russia. Since the Russian-Chinese border is in the middle of the Amur River bed, the territories on which the river had previously flowed are on the Chinese shore. China is carrying out demographic expansion in the Far East and Siberia, which the Kremlin does not focus on, calling it a myth or an exaggeration. Last year, 400,000 migrant workers arrived in the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia, while in recent years about 2 million Russian citizens left the depressed region (the population of the Far East is 6.3 million people). People from Central Asia, China, and the DPRK come to the Far East for work. According to the results of the 2010 population census, about 30,000 Chinese lived in Russia. Nevertheless, according to the Japanese publicist Hideaki Sakamoto, from 1977 to 2016, The number of Chinese living in the Far East and Siberia has grown from 250 thousand to 2 million people. In 20-30 years, the Chinese can become the largest diaspora in the Far East.

Interests of Ulaanbaatar

For the first time, military units of the Mongolian armed forces will take part in the military exercises with the Russian Federation and China. Mongolia is considered a neutral state and pursues a multi-vector foreign policy, China and Russia are its only neighbors – a window to the outside world. During his election campaign, incumbent Mongolian President Battulga Khaltmaa of the opposition Democratic Party was creating his campaign on anti-Chinese rhetoric. Relations with China were complex until the early 90's. From the 17th century to the beginning of 20-ies Mongolia has been under the control and occupation of China. North China's autonomy Inner Mongolia tended to reunite with independent Mongolia (Outer Mongolia). Now Battulga conducts rapprochement with Beijing, as evidenced by the participation of the country in the military exercises "Vostok-18". He is interested in China implementing some of the projects of the "Silk Road" in the territory of his country and giving a reprieve on the payment of the debt. Mongolia delays payment of $ 2.2 billion in debt to China.

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Battulga uses participation in the Vostok-18 exercises to intensify relations with Moscow. During the Cold War, Moscow and Ulaanbaatar were allies in containing Beijing in the Far East. There were Soviet troops on the territory of the country. After 1991, relations with China began to improve, and Russia fell into the background. Participation in military exercises with Russia is a kind of attempt by Battulga to gainPutin’s confidence. Since coming to power in July last year, the Mongolian president held four tripartite meetings with his Russian counterpart Putin and Chairman of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping. Former Transport Minister Battulga, who, like Putin, knows judo, is interested in rearming the Mongolian army, increasing the supply of the Russian weapons. He wants Russia to take part in the construction of a hydroelectric power station, the modernization of the railway in Mongolia. Battulga is interested in boosting trade and economic cooperation with Russia. In 2016, Mongolia's exports to Russia amounted to only 47.9 million dollars. Mongolia is trying to diversify export routes and reduce economic dependence on China. China's share in Mongolia's exports is 90% and represents a third of imports.

The Russian market is perceived by the Mongols as an alternative to the United States, with which it has not been possible to fully realize cooperation in the business sphere. Since the Reagan administration, the United States has been drawing closer to Mongolia in the humanitarian sphere, and during the reign of former President George W. Bush, they began to conduct military-political cooperation. After 9/11 in New York, the United States began to modernize the Mongolian army (Khan Quest military exercises).

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In 2016, the United States allocated $ 28.4 million to Mongolia for the development of education and health. However, this is not quite what the Mongols needed from the Americans. During a meeting with US Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, Battulga asked to release Mongolian exports of sewing and knitted goods from import duties on the American market. There were only promises to consider this issue, any measures were taken. Mongolia is out of US interest as a trade and economic partner.

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