The Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi-Beijing Alliance
Debarkation in Shandong Province
Marie Jégo, Le Monde's capable correspondent for Central Asia, has written an analysis of the recent joint Russian-Chinese military maneuvres. Beyond the maneuvres, Russia has at last satisfied its centuries old pursuit of warm water ports in Asia though a new alliance.
LE MONDE | 24.08.05 | 13h25
On Thursday 25 August, China and Russia are scheduled to complete their joint military maneuvers which has engaged 8,880 troops: 7,000 Chinese, 1,800 Russians, 17 planes and 140 warships and submarines for an entire week. The exercises, which initiated in Vladivostok, the great Far Eastern port, and concluded in the Yellow Sea off the Jiaodong Peninsula of eastern China were the first of its size between the two countries.
The goal of the maneuvers is to test the combat ability of our forces to better face the new challenges which await us in the Asia-Pacific region and in the world in general, explains the Russian Chief of Staff Yuri Baluevski. Meant to test the ability of Russian and Chinese forces to meet new threats, the maneuvers gamed a Russo-Chinese intervention in a third country caught in the throes of "an ethnic conflict", and victim of "terrorist attacks".
According to the scenario created by their general staffs, China and Russia acted out Peace Mission 2005 (the name of the exercise) in which they would be asked by the United Nations to land on the Jiaodong Pensinsula. However, it was a strange “peace” mission because, as Russian military experts point out, Russian strategic bombers (Tupolev 95’s) and long-range bombers (Tupolev 22M’s) took part in the exercise.
On Saturday, the debarkation by Russian commandos of the Pacific Fleet and paratroops from the 76th Division on the Jiaodong Peninsula was carried by Russian TV. In announcing the dates for the exercises at the beginning of August, the Russian Defense Ministry was careful to make clear that the exercise gamed a fictitious scenario and that the theatre was in no way meant to suggest "North Korea or Taiwan." Since then, Russian commentators have been theorizing as to why the maneuvers took place. If it was meant to be a warning to Taiwan by Beijing, then what was the point of involving the Russians?
Alexander Duguin, the "Pope" of Russia's Eurasian Movement, has one opinion. According to him, the "color-themed revolutions of 2003 and 2004 in the post-Soviet space" have pushed Moscow and Beijing to strengthen their military partnership. The American influence has been felt in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. This proves that Washington is intent on reforming the post-Soviet space and on pursuing its own interests to the detriment of Russia and China, whose positions have become more vulnerable, explains Duguin.
Since 2001, Moscow and Beijing have formed the nucleus of a new regional coalition: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Inspired by the War on Terror, the alliance also includes four central Asian republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. On July 5th, it was the through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that Uzbekistan demanded the departure of US troops stationed at the Karshi-Khanabad base in the south of the country since 2001. Recently, the group has granted observer status to Pakistan, India and Iran.
Ivan Safrantshuk, Director of the Moscovite Center for Defense Information, believes that the exercises are meant, above all, as far as the Russians are concerned, to be a showcase for the Chinese of the Russian military hardware which it has already purchased from Moscow or for future arms sales. Since 1992 Beijing has become Moscow’s best client and purchases nearly $2 billion per year in weaponry. (Russia sold $5.7 billion worth of weaponry in total in 2004). The local press wonders if the Chinese will purchase TU-22 and TU-95 strategic bombers used in the exercises.
Beyond strictly commercial purposes, the theme of the rapprochement with China is airpower. The Russian President never foregoes an occasion to emphasize to Beijing the importance of a trading partnership. Since coming to power in 2000, Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his country's Eurasian ambitions.
The creation of a Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi-Beijing axis which guarantees Russia, a continental country, “access to warm water ports” while conferring on it the status of a Third Rome (according to the Manifesto of Eurasian-ness created by Alexander Duguin ) is viewed favorably by the Kremlin which is happy to show that it can turn towards the East incase of rejection by the Europeans. It is India, Russia’s largest buyer of weaponry, with whom Russia will hold its next large-scare military exercises in October.