Russia and China to Launch Joint Military Exercise

A joint four-day military exercise between the militaries of China and Russia will begin today at a People’s Liberation Army

China Russia Military

Photo: Vadim Savitsky/Defense Ministry Press Service/TASS

A joint four-day military exercise between the militaries of China and Russia will begin today at a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) training base in Ningxia province.

Zapad/Interaction 2021 will see the participation of 10,000 troops, in addition to aircraft, artillery, and armored equipment. Chinese forces will come from the PLA’s Western Theater Command while Russian troops will participate from its Eastern Military District.

Expect the drills to prioritize security and stability in Central Asia, particularly in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country this year. In recent months, Taliban forces have seized a number of strategically significant border crossings and supply routes, targeting infrastructure known to support trade as well as mineral extraction operations. China is concerned that the insurgent operations may bleed into its Muslim majority and border province, Xinjiang.

Both Russia and China similarly rely on regional trade routes, particularly for oil and natural gas imports. Short-term, expect bilateral military cooperation to unite Beijing and Moscow toward stabilizing Afghanistan, especially if the current Taliban offensive threatens key trade routes passing through Russia’s neighbor states. Beijing and Moscow disagree on whether to support the Taliban’s political objectives, meaning a permanent Afghan solution is unlikely.

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