World on alert as China and Russia send chilling warning with step to integrate militaries

China and Russia is a 'challenge' for UK says Tobias Ellwood

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Analysts say the two rogue states are on the verge of sharing each other’s electric communications systems to bolster their strategic presence. Moscow and Beijing have been conducting a drill with more than 10,000 troops in the western region of Ningxia. Statements by their defence ministries say the focus is on early warning and reconnaissance, electronic warfare and joint attacks.

Experts are reported to be watching closely over the operation because of China and Russia’s recent contact with the Taliban.

It comes after the US and many other western forces have started their withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving the already war-torn country in chaos.

Moscow and Beijing are being watched for signs that they are learning to coordinate missions and conduct joint operations.

Roderick Lee, research director at the China Aerospace Studies Institute at Air University, told the FT: “This is the first time the Chinese are really delving in, letting the Russians participate in one of their exercises.

“The dedicated bilateral drills often are aimed at developing the relationship rather than actual war-fighting capabilities.”

Mikhail Barabanov, a senior search fellow at the Centre for Analysis of strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based think-tank, said Russia’s decision to join the drills was “undoubtedly a step towards deepening interaction and military cooperation”.

He added: “It seems like this co-operation will deepen sooner than expected, involving all the new strategies of both parties.”

While Moscow and Beijing’s relationship is not formalised, experts say their two armies could start building joint command structures to enhance their work together.

Mr Lee said: “I am somewhat hesitant when they are saying this is not an alliance.

“If we see them operating side by side and they start sharing some intelligence and communications, then there will be some interoperability in a conflict or crisis.”

Chinese military media outlets have reported that Russian soldiers would be granted access to Beijing’s arsenal of armoured vehicles for the first time.

“The question is whether they are allowing the Russians to access some of the information systems on that,” Mr Lee added.

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“The Russians might start giving China some access to their space-based assets or communications assets.

“That is the direction I get the sense they are moving towards.”

Chinese and Russian military exercises began in 2005, but they only teamed up in the annual Peace Mission drill under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, traditionally focused on fighting insurgencies in central Asia.

But since 2012, Moscow and Beijing have been holding regular naval drills.

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And since 2018, the People’s Liberation Army has taken part in three of Russia’s annual strategic exercises.

But China is expected to skip a larger upcoming exercise, in a move experts say is to stop fuelling Nato concerns.

Richard Weit, director of the Centre for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, said: “China cleverly dodged the question whether to bring their ground forces right up to Nato’s eastern borders by making this exercise in China a substitute for participation in the Russian one.”

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