First Russia-China naval war games underway in Mediterranean

Neither Russia nor China has one inch of coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, making it an unlikely and provocative venue for their first joint naval war games.

The 10 days of maneuvers that got underway Monday will include live-fire exercises in the strategic sea connecting Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The point is lost on no one: A powerful new alliance of eastern giants is flexing its muscles in the very backyard of Western Europe — much as China has done on its own in the Pacific.

The war games follow Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, where he headlined Victory Day celebrations and spent three days making billion-dollar deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s World War II allies mostly stayed away.

Russia has been driven into the arms of its communist neighbor by Western sanctions imposed for its role in the bloody Ukraine crisis. The United States and European Union have cut off Russia’s businesses and its government from international lending and provoked tit-for-tat trade embargoes that have hurt both sides.

In response, Putin has steered his country away from a U.S.-dominated post-Soviet world order, pivoting instead toward China, its not-always-friendly eastern neighbor.

“People who call this an axis of convenience … are missing the bigger picture,” said Gilbert Rozman, a Princeton University professor who writes and teaches on Northeast Asian affairs. “This is a relationship about national identity and the big efforts in both countries to establish a different kind of international order.”

“The Russians’ claimed sphere of influence, their domestic characteristics, the revival of pride in the Soviet history, including Stalin — all this is connected, and China is reinforcing that pride, saying, ‘We support your view of the world,’” Rozman said.

The all-smiles display at the Moscow meetings ignored the ups and downs of Sino-Russian ties over the last four centuries. A documentary, “Russia and China: The Heart of Eurasia,” that aired on state-run television Friday night suggested that any historical animosity between the two powers was largely behind them.

Full article: First Russia-China naval war games underway in Mediterranean (LA Times)

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