Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

China, Russia to hold joint maneuvers

THE GUARDIAN , MOSCOW

Russia and China will carry out their first joint military maneuvers in the second half of next year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

"For the first time in history, we have decided to hold large-scale military exercises with China," he said.

Ivanov said the joint exercises would involve Russia's strategic bombers and submarines and troop maneuvers in China.

"We will try to develop our cooperation with China through different sorts of military forces," he said.

The joint military exercises sparked fears that Russia and China could be paving the way for a military alliance. Those fears have been exacerbated by souring relations between the US and Russia over elections in Ukraine.

Russia and China, once traditional foes who fought a brief border war, have been working on a strategic alliance since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and have repeatedly expressed their desire for a multi-polar world free of US dominance.

But Russian defense analysts said the rapprochement was little threat to the West.

"Both Russia and China have a limited level of cooperation with the West, but these exercises don't necessarily mean these two countries are bent on forging an anti-West military alliance," said Alexander Golz, a defense analyst. "They are rather a sign of growing trust between both countries, and of Russia's desire to show China that it is not an opponent."

Ivan Safranchuk, an analyst with Moscow's center for defense information, said the main reason behind the maneuvers was that Russia and China had similar military equipment.

China is the world's biggest importer of Russian military equipment and has spent billions of dollars on Russian fighters, rockets, submarines and destroyers.

"Russia is much more likely to carry out joint military operations with Europe and the US than with China, which tends to be reluctant to enter military alliances of any kind," he said.

But he warned that Russia and China could use their military friendship to scare the West and promote their own interests.

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