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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
China-Russia exercises no seismic shift
By Nick Childs
BBC world affairs correspondent

Col Gen Vladimir Moltenskoi greets Gen Liang Guanglie in Vladivostok
The exercises bring together two former ideological enemies

Russia and China's first joint military exercises are clearly a significant step for both countries.

Even in purely military terms, they appear ambitious.

They also add some substance to the political rhetoric that's now emerging from these two formerly uneasy and even hostile neighbours of a new strategic partnership.

And they underscore a common view of the desirability of a multipolar world in which there's some counterweight to US power.

Still, officially, the scenario for these exercises - aid to a state suffering political violence - isn't aimed against any specific country.

And, while the Americans regularly sound alarm bells about China's growing military strength and say they'll be keeping an eye on events, they also insist they're not particularly worried.

The Taiwanese, too, will be watching these exercises closely, although they're being held at some distance from Taiwan itself, and there's no appetite in Russia to be sucked into that particular argument.


There are specific practical benefits for both participants in these manoeuvres. For the Russians, they're a showcase for possible further arms sales to Beijing.

For the Chinese, they're a chance to participate in the kind of complicated operations that are an increasing priority for them.

But there are clear limits to all of this.

These manoeuvres won't significantly alter the regional military balance. And both Moscow and Beijing remain wary of each other.

For Moscow, there must be questions over China's long-term strategic goals, and for Beijing continuing doubts about Russia's reliability as an ally.

And, in the long run, this hardly looks like a stable relationship. Russia approaches it from the perspective of a former and declining great power. And while China is a country whose ambitions for the moment outstrip its actual power, that may not be the case for too much longer.

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