China-Russia poised to dominate 21st century
A growing number of military near-misses involving Russia and Nato forces point to a strategic rebalancing based on a growing relationship between Moscow and Beijing, analysts have argued.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said its SU-27 jet intercepted US and Swedish reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea where Nato is holding the Baltops 2019 naval drills.
“On June 10, Russia airspace control means over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea detected two air targets approaching Russia’s state border,” the ministry said.
It said an SU-27 fighter from the Baltic Fleet’s Air Defence Force was scrambled to intercept the Nato planes. The Russians identified them as a US RC-135 and Swedish Gulfstream, which were escorted to prevent “the violation of Russia’s state border”.
Around 40 ships and submarines, and 40 aircraft from 18 countries are taking part in the military exercise.
The increased military cooperation between China and Russia is worrying former Nato chief James Stavridis.
The recent near-collision of the US cruiser Chancellorsville and a Russian destroyer that came within 30 metres of each other in the Philippine Sea, which the Chinese increasingly see as their territory, was evidence of increasing Russian assertiveness.
The US vessel was reportedly recovering a helicopter at the time.
“If the cruiser was actually conducting helicopter operations, that trumps everything,” argued retired US captain, Rick Hoffman, who commanded two warships. “If she’s operating a helicopter, she’s constrained and permitted by the rules of the road to maintain course and speed. She has the right of way.”
At the time, the Chancellorsville was considered a “vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre.”, or a “a vessel engaged in the launching and recovery of aircraft”, according to the internationally accepted navigation rules for preventing collisions at sea.
Stavridis, a former US admiral, argues that the growing number of challenges to the US military is indicative of an alliance between Moscow and Beijing. The countries, which share a lengthy border, could create “a unified block that dominates the Eurasian continent, may be the most important geopolitical trend of the 21st century”.
Chinese troops trained with their Russian counterparts during Vostok [east] 2018, the largest military exercise since the Cold War, on the Siberian border between Russia and China.
Joint Russian-Chinese naval exercises are becoming increasingly frequent in the Pacific Ocean, Baltic Sea and Arctic Ocean. Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin appear to be enjoying an ever closer relationship, symbolised by the pictures of the dictatorial pair flipping burgers together on Vostok. They now proclaim themselves “best friends”.
The neighbours have many compatible goals. China has a vast population but lacks natural resources. Meanwhile, Russia has a falling population but copious amounts of timber, water, minerals, gold, oil and natural gas. They both have dictatorial presidents and share a dislike of the west.
In 1904, the British geographer Halford MacKinder wrote for the Royal Geographic Society that any nation or alliance which could dominate the “world island” of Eurasia and Africa would ultimately dominate the planet.
Vostok showed the growing nature of the China-Russian friendship. Picture credit: Wikimedia