China and Russia Continue to Strengthen Their Military Alliance
August 29, 2018 marked the end of Russia’s seventh joint anti-terrorism military exercise under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The “Peace Mission 2018” events and exercise began taking place in the Chelyabinsk region in the Urals on August 24, 2018; over 3,000 troops from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, and Tajikistan took part in the maneuvers while representatives from Uzbekistan observed.
This year’s “Peace Mission” exercise was the first joint military exercise organized by all member states of the SCO. India and Pakistan participated in their first “Peace Mission” after becoming full members of the SCO in June 2017. Uzbekistan traditionally declines attending the biennial exercise; however, this was the first drill since 2010 that Uzbekistan attended. The scope of the exercise included establishment of joint command and control structures, elimination of terrorist threats in urban counter-terrorist scenarios, mutual understanding of drills and procedures, and professional interaction; more than 500 weapons and equipment were used, including helicopters, fighters, Infantry Fighting Vehicles, self-propelled weapons systems, tanks, and so on.
The August 24 opening ceremony and keynote address were led by the Director General of the Joint Director Department and Commander of Russia’s Central Military District, Lieutenant General Alexander Rabin; a representative from each participating country delivered remarks individually. The military parade followed and was performed at the camp location of Combined Arms Range in Chebarkul, Russia by each of the seven militaries participating.
These military exercises are considered crucial in preparing for times of hardship. China’s Senior Colonel Ma Qixian said in his keynote speech that this year’s exercise is held amid an increasingly complex international and regional anti-terrorism situation and an important part of the SCO’s deepening cooperation in the field of defense and security, and it serves as an important platform reflecting the mutual trust and cooperation among SCO member states.
The strengthened cooperation between China and Russia follows the early July meeting that Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe and Russian Ground Forces Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleg Salyukov had in Beijing. Salyukov had made it clear that Russia stood prepared to work with China to develop the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.
Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov privately met with the Head of the Joint Staff Department of the Chinese Central Military Commission General Li Zuocheng in Moscow shortly after the opening ceremonies. Both parties discussed the prospects of expanding and deepening Russia’s bilateral relations, including joint military exercises and exchanging opinions on the situation in the critical regions of the world. General Zuocheng’s visit also comes ahead of the Vostok exercise which will commence on September 11. Moscow will be holding their largest post-Cold War military exercise with troops from the People’s Liberation Army and the Mongolian military in eastern Russia; this exercise will welcome almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, and nearly all the ranges of the Central and Eastern military districts.