Russian-Chinese first-ever joint military exercise, Peace Mission 2005, will take place in the north-east of China on August 18-25. All kinds of troops, including naval forces, will be involved in the exercise. Officially, the exercise is supposed to demonstrate joint anti-terrorist measures, although even Russian and Chinese leaders say that the entire event is meant to reveal the nearing tendencies between the two countries. The news about the joint efforts made Washington feel rather nervous, taking into consideration the fact that Russia and China called upon the USA to withdraw its army bases from Central Asia before.
Moscow and Beijing will stage a mock intervention to stabilize an imaginary country riven by ethnic strife. But they insist the ''Peace Mission 2005" exercises -- which were to start today and include some 10,000 troops from land, sea, and air forces -- aren't aimed at a third country.
And analysts agree Russia and China are unlikely to team up against a common foe. They say the maneuvers are more of an exhibition of Russian arms -- including its long-range strategic bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons -- in the hope of luring Chinese buyers.
The US Defense Department said last month that China's military was increasingly seeking to modernize and could become a threat in the Asia-Pacific region as it looked to spread its influence.
The Russian military is also eager to show it still has muscle despite much-publicized woes. Its weaknesses were highlighted again earlier this month when Russia had to call for outside help to rescue seven men stranded in a mini-submarine off its Pacific coast.
The exercises come amid warming ties between the countries since the end of the Cold War, driven by mutual concerns about the United States' dominance in world affairs and a shared interest in combating extremism in Central Asia.
The two are the dominant countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes four former Soviet republics in Central Asia and added Iran, India, and Pakistan this year as observers. Representatives from the organization's countries have been invited to watch the exercises.
At a July summit, the organization called on Washington to set a date for withdrawal from Central Asia, where its forces have been deployed since after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to help support operations in neighboring Afghanistan.
The United States had said it would withdraw from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan once combat operations in Afghanistan were finished. Last month, however, Uzbekistan ordered US troops to leave the country within 180 days.
Kyrgyzstan's new administration called for a re-evaluation of the US base in that country, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later won assurances that American troops can stay for as long as they are needed to bring stability to Afghanistan.
The United States said it has been advised of the exercises by both China and Russia, but isn't sending observers.
''We expect that whatever activities take place would be ones that would further what we believe is everybody's shared goal of stability and peace in the region," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington. ''We would hope that anything that they do is not something that would be disruptive to the current atmosphere in the region."
Speaking to Vremya Novostei about Peace Mission-2005, Russian-Chinese war games in the Far East, Yihong Zhang said the exercises showed that Russia and China trusted each other more now than they did in the past. The expert said China was deliberately exaggerating the degree of its rapprochement with Russia because Beijing took the view that the exercises could be used to threaten Taiwan, and send a warning to Japan and the United States. Zhang said the move had been successful, as some newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan had already written that Russia would help China annex Taiwan.
However, Zhang said he was convinced this would not happen because Russia had no such commitments to China, and if a conflict broke out around Taiwan, Russia would not take on Japan and the U.S. However, he said the exercises were politically advantageous for Russia. According to the expert, Russia and China have had more clashes with the West, and the exercises have given them an opportunity to remind the West of their military might. The expert said stronger military ties between Washington, Japan and South Korea would ensue as a reaction to Moscow-Beijing military rapprochement.
It is noteworthy that Russia and China have similar problems with extremists in Chechnya and in Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region. It therefore gives more reasons to intensify the military cooperation. Nevertheless, the Russian administration is quite concerned about the ongoing expansion of Chinese citizens in Russia's Far East and Siberia. Despite the anti-American statements released by separate Chinese leaders, the USA still remains commercial partner No.1 for China. The military exercise is most likely meant to play the role of a tactical step, from which Russia and China will probably benefit in the future, Pravda.Ru comments.