Russia and China kicked off a week of war games together, at a time when the two countries appear to be growing closer over their respective tensions with the United States.
The exercise, known as Vostok 2022, will go until September 7 at seven firing ranges in the Sea of Japan and Russia’s Far East, the Russian Defense Ministry said and will feature 140 aircraft, 60 warships, and more than 50,000 troops. The drills will also involve India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria, and several former Soviet states, with Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov overseeing them.
The exercises will include Russian and Chinese navies practicing “joint action to protect sea communications, areas or marine economic activity and support for ground troops in littoral areas,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The war games come at a time when both countries have been looking to show strength. Russia is in the midst of a months-long invasion of Ukraine, which China has specifically not criticized and even blamed on the U.S. and NATO.
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China, meanwhile, has grown increasingly adversarial with the U.S. regarding Taiwan and threatened retaliation before a visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Russian President Vladimir Putin supported China through this, accusing the U.S. of using both Ukraine and Taiwan to create unrest.
Russia and China have conducted joint war games for years, with last year being the first time the Kremlin had sent troops to Chinese territory for joint exercises.
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Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Col. Tan Kefei said last week that through these drills, China “aims to deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the militaries of the participating countries, enhance the level of strategic cooperation among all participating parties, and enhance the ability to jointly respond to various security threats.”
Both countries have also strengthened ties to another U.S. foe, Iran. The Islamic nation recently sent Russia hundreds of drones to use against Ukraine, although Russia reportedly has been experiencing technical difficulties with them. Iran also signed a cooperation agreement with China last year that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf described as “definitely not good for the region.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.