Russian, Chinese navies begin first joint drill in Mediterranean
MOSCOW - Reuters
CİHAN PhotoNine Russian and Chinese navy vessels have gathered in the Mediterranean Sea for a joint military drill that will continue until May 21, the Russian Defense Ministry has stated.
The first joint military exercises by the two countries in the region come amid high tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine and as China is increasingly assertive in pursuing territorial claims at sea.
The ministry stated May 17 that a headquarters for the exercises had been set up aboard the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, which belongs to the Black Sea Fleet with its base in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.
It quoted Vice-Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov, a deputy commander of the Russian navy who is leading the exercises from the Russian side, as saying the “Sea cooperation – 2015” drills were “not aimed against a third country.”
“The goal is to strengthen mutual understanding between the navies ... regarding boosting stability, countering new challenges and threats in the sea,” Fedotenkov said.
Moscow has stepped up military drills as its ties with the West have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine, triggering criticism from NATO.
Russia claims that it must protect its interests against the alleged growing role of NATO.
Beijing has also been increasingly flexing its military muscles since Xi Jinping assumed the presidency in 2013, leaning on the navy to better project the country’s power, especially in the disputed South China Sea.
Both veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, China and Russia are often at loggerheads with the West and tend to hold similar views on key international policy matters.
“The aim is to deepen both countries’ friendly and practical cooperation, and increase our navies’ ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng had said earlier this month.