Why Growing Military Ties Between China and Russia Worry the West - Latest Global News

Why Growing Military Ties Between China and Russia Worry the West

For two years, Chinese support for Russia’s war in Ukraine has been Western governments’ biggest concern regarding the burgeoning relationship between the two countries. But two weeks ago, U.S. officials expressed alarm about their cooperation in another key security area: the seas around Taiwan.

“We see that they, China and Russia, are training together for the first time regarding Taiwan,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told U.S. lawmakers. “[We are] “We recognize that China certainly wants Russia to work with them here, and we see no reason why they wouldn’t.”

The U.S. had to prepare for closer cooperation between the Chinese and Russian militaries, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Jeffrey Kruse said at the same Senate hearing.

Even if the Russian and Chinese forces were unable to work together seamlessly, “they would definitely be cooperative, and we have to take that into account in our force structure and planning,” Kruse said. “We are in the middle of this revision today.”

Her comments reflect how intense military ties have become under Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, who are meeting in Beijing this week.

Military ties have evolved to include closer joint exercises and missile defense cooperation. And although Russia and China do not have a mutual defense treaty like the US does with its allies, analysts believe that does not preclude military cooperation with significant global implications.

“They don’t have to physically fight together to be effective in terms of warfare,” Oriana Skylar Mastro, a professor at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, said in a study on Russian-Chinese military alignment published last month.

The joint training that Russian and Chinese forces have been conducting for almost 20 years has deepened significantly since 2018. They mutually participate in national strategic exercises and jointly conduct regular naval exercises and strategic bomber patrols.

Chinese and Russian naval forces take part in a joint exercise in eastern China in April 2019 © Reuters

Most joint sea and air activity took place near Japan, where strategists watched the increasing military alignment of their two neighbors with unease.

Russia could “take supportive military measures in coordination with China’s Taiwan operations,” Yoji Koda, a former commander of Japan’s self-defense fleet, said in a chapter of an upcoming book. Japan should be prepared to contain the Russian fleet in the Sea of ​​Japan by blocking strategic straits, he added.

The clearest evidence of a Taiwan connection can be found in joint exercises like Northern Interaction 2023, air and naval drills that build on Russia’s sobering experience in Ukraine, where its Black Sea fleet was hit by Ukrainian coastal defense missiles.

Ukraine’s success in sinking Russian warships from shore is a prime example of “controlling the sea from land,” said Lin Ying-yu, an expert on China’s People’s Liberation Army at Tamkang University in Taipei, citing the Harpoon coastal defense missiles , which exist in Taiwan from the USA and their own anti-ship missiles. “This is exactly the situation Chinese forces would find themselves in if they invaded Taiwan.” . The PLA must learn from the Russians’ operational experiences.”

Alexey Muraviev, professor of national security and strategic studies at Curtin University in Perth, argued that Russia and China are well on their way to building the communication structures needed to fight together.

They have started sharing sensitive data such as the maximum speed of aircraft, “something that under normal circumstances you can only do with a formal ally,” Muraviev said. He added that the exchange of operational data, likely taking place during patrols where Russian and Chinese nuclear-capable bombers fly together near Japan, also suggests “strategic intimacy.”

According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, the two navies use a special joint command and control system during joint exercises. Last year, Chinese and Russian admirals began jointly leading naval exercises aboard a PLA Navy destroyer. They have also switched from Russian as the coordination language to real-time communication through interpreters on both sides’ ships.

Many Western analysts believe the two militaries still have only rudimentary interoperability and argue that their joint exercises do not reflect plans for joint combat.

But even if this assessment is correct, Russian support could give the PLA a decisive advantage in a possible conflict with the United States.

The most critical factor could be the Russian technology transfer for a missile defense early warning system, which Putin himself confirmed in 2019. Since then, there have been few public details on progress, other than a statement regarding a contract awarded to a Russian supplier. However, Chinese military scientists said joint work on a “missile shield” was underway.

If Moscow and Beijing integrate their missile defense systems, sensors in northern Russian territory could warn China sooner of U.S. ICBMs that need to pass through that territory to hit China, Mastro said at Stanford.

Asian defense officials said a joint early warning system would also allow China to fire nuclear weapons if it receives a warning of an impending nuclear strike. That would mark a shift from its strategy of using nuclear weapons only in retaliation for an attack that has already occurred – a change that nuclear experts say Beijing has long been considering.

An effective Chinese ballistic missile early warning system would “enable China to achieve launch readiness for its strategic nuclear forces, further strengthening China’s deterrence strategy,” said Paul Schwartz, a Russian military expert at CNA, a Washington Defense Department think tank , in an article published in 2021.

However, China’s technological advances mean that advanced Russian weapons are losing their luster for Beijing, according to a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry.

“China still has interest in some Russian aviation technologies used in the last generation of Russian fighter jets, as well as in importing Soviet-model aircraft engines, as China’s own production is still behind.” But these are the final contracts, and in one In the next few years, Chinese interest will wane here too,” the person said.

“Now the Russian military is more interested in advanced Chinese weapons systems and military technology, but there has not been much progress here,” they added.

Beyond technology, Russia’s importance as a supplier to Beijing would increase significantly if China waged a war over Taiwan, according to Andrea Kendall-Taylor, director of the transatlantic security program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

Overland shipments of energy, food and military supplies from Russia could significantly mitigate the impact of a US naval blockade against China.

Russia would likely not fight alongside China but take a similar stance to Beijing toward Ukraine, offering political support and economic and military resources to withstand U.S. pressure, Kendall-Taylor added.

She said that given the development of the war in Ukraine, “Russia will be looking very hard at ways in which it can militarily support China’s efforts without becoming directly involved in the war in order to maximize costs to the United States.”

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