Brussels (Brussels Morning) The Russian military and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are holding a series of military drills in north-central China, with more than 10,000 troops participating in the manoeuvres.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the drills will continue until Friday, and mark the first time that Russian troops have used Chinese weapons during joint exercises. The two countries have been conducting these drills since 2005, and have stepped up the level of their military cooperation in recent years.
On the Russian side, the Kremlin has sent a number of Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter aircraft to participate in the Sibu/Cooperation-2021 exercise, as well as several motorised rifle units and air defence batteries. No information is publicly available on the exact number of Russian troops participating.
Moscow and Beijing seem to be drawing closer into an alliance of necessity, as both countries face increasingly adversarial relations with Western democracies.
The Kremlin’s pivot towards China began after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, when unmarked Russian troops cut off communications to the Ukrainian territory and helped hold a referendum on rejoining Russia, the results of which remain unrecognised by a vast majority of Western countries.
Russia was suspended from the G8 group of the world’s wealthiest democracies and has faced increasing sanctions from the West, for its support of the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine’s Donbass region, as well as for its ever more frequent authoritarian crackdowns on opposition figures and critical media.
China, on the other hand, is facing growing sanctions from the West over its treatment of the ethnic Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region, as well as the brutal crackdown on civil liberties in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which was previously guaranteed a level of independence and democratic self-government.