Cavan Hogue. Russian and Chinese naval exercises.

From August 20-28 Russia and China will conduct a large scale naval exercise in the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. Russia will send 20 ships and China seven plus11 aircraft. They will practice air defence and anti-submarine drills as well as a beach landing.

Both countries are publicly beating up their defence ties as part of a closer relationship. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jin Ping have met and made appropriate noises about their growing friendship. Clearly both countries see advantage in closer relations as they face criticism from the USA and some other countries.

We sometimes forget that while its primary focus is Europe Russia is a Pacific power and sees itself as a global power. Western sanctions are driving it to seek friends elsewhere. Similarly, while China’s focus is primarily on Asia Pacific it also has pretensions to being a global power. Both countries resent what they see as American meddling in their affairs.

Given the long history of troubled relations between the two it is hard to know how long this rapprochement will last. Is it just a reaction to outside criticicism or will it develop into something deeper? At least in the short term, the more both countries see themselves, rightly or wrongly, the victims of foreign interference, the more they will move away from the West and seek friends elsewhere. Both do want good relations with the the USA and others but on their terms.

Watch this space.

Cavan Hogue was Australian Ambassador to Mexico, USSR, Russia and Thailand, and High Commissioner to Malaysia. 

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