Sino-Russian Military Maneuver A Great Commercial Opportunity For Moscow
Beijing (AFP) Aug 24, 2005
For Russia's sprawling military industrial complex, it may be the sales pitch of the year that reaches a stirring finale when "Peace Mission 2005," the joint maneuver with China, wraps up on Thursday.
While 10,000 officers and men from the Russian and Chinese militaries have engaged in eight long days and nights of war games, commercial concerns have been very near the top of the Kremlin's agenda, observers said.
"They will tell the Chinese 'look at how effective our weapons are', so this should help Russia promote its weapons systems," said Arthur Ding, an expert on the Chinese military at Taiwan's National Chengchi University.
"The Russian defense industry has been in bad shape since the end of the Cold War, so they need money from China to revitalize," he said.
China, which boasts more than 700 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves - the world's second-largest after Japan - has indeed helped keep the Russian armament industry afloat for years.
With sales of up to three billion dollars a year, Russia has supplied 85 percent of China's arms imports since the early 1990s, becoming a "significant enabler of China's military modernization," according to the Pentagon.
"Russian conventional weapon technology transfers ... have advanced the lethality of every major category of weapon system under development in China," the Pentagon said in its annual report on China's military last month.
"Peace Mission 2005" is the first major joint Sino-Russian war game involving all three services, and it has helped drive home the fact that Russia has all a country needs to wage a modern war on land, at sea or in the air.
Using military maneuvers in this way to persuade other countries to buy more hardware may strike the layman as an odd blurring of distinctions between security and mercantile concerns, but it is quite common, analysts said.
"It's something that every country interested in export sales does. Every US exercise has a commercial aspect to it," said Robert Karniol, the Bangkok-based Asia-Pacific editor for Jane's Defence Weekly.
While in pure dollar terms Moscow stands to gain more from the drill, Russian media have reported that China has in fact paid for the entire exercise.
It is possible that Beijing has valued the drill's potential for intimidating Taiwan, an island that it claims as part of its territory, some observers said.
Significantly, a naval blockade simulation, one of the key scenarios for a conflict across the Taiwan Straits if tensions boil over one day, formed a major part of the exercise.
"China is sending a signal to Taiwan not to go down the road to independence and to the United States not to push (China) into a corner by backing Taiwan independence forces," said Ding.
But even so, China's objectives for "Peace Mission 2005" are probably broader than merely deterring the island, according to observers.
China has built up an impressive military inventory - everything from multi-role fighters to advanced surface-to-air-missiles - but it is still behind in the crucial software of modern war.
By this experts mean China's ability to use the weaponry efficiently and in a coordinated manner, involving a variety of unit types at the same time.
"China needs to develop better capabilities for its air force, navy and land forces to operate together. During these exercises they can study how Russia does this," said Ding.
Amphibious warfare, the immensely complex operation of putting troops ashore under enemy fire, is an example of a field where China hopes to gain more experience, not least because this is how Taiwan may one day be taken.
"The Chinese certainly have an interest in improving their amphibious capabilities and have in the recent past sought access to amphibious exercises by the Americans and the South Koreans," said Karniol.
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