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Russia and China Go Sailing

Superpower on Display in the Eastern Mediterranean

A sailor stands under a Russian naval flag on the missile cruiser Moskva in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol September 16, 2008. Denis Sinyakov / Reuters

On May 21, Russia and China concluded ten days of joint naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, which included live-fire drills. Although the militaries of the two countries claimed that the naval exercise was meant only to improve interoperability, their presence in the sea has far broader political implications.

For some years, Russia and China have been participating in bilateral and multilateral exercises in Asia, mostly with other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. This is the first time that Russian and Chinese naval forces have conducted joint tactical exercises in Europe and the first major exercise for China in such distant waters.

Chinese navy officers prepare for the arrival of the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring to the north side of the bund at Huangpu River in Shanghai, December 10, 2013.
Chinese navy officers prepare for the arrival of the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring to the north side of the bund at Huangpu River in Shanghai, December 10, 2013. Carlos Barria / Reuters
The exercise followed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow for the May 9 commemoration of the Russian victory over the Nazis. To kick it off, three Chinese and six Russian ships departed from the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.

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