ELITE troops from Russia and China have joined forces to compete in this year’s International Army Games amid warnings the two superpowers were preparing their forces for a day when they might fight alongside one another.
Around 260 Chinese troops are taking part in the annual tournament organised by the Russian Defence Ministry. The games are nicknamed the “War Olympics” because of their mix of traditional military drills with the sports-like competition. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army forces plan to take part in a range of contests over the next two weeks.
The International Army Games include a tank biathlon, armoured vehicle trials, a military intelligence competition, a marine platoon landing event and an airborne troops competition.
Chinese defence ministry spokesman Colonel Ren Guoqiang said: “At such a critical moment in fighting COVID-19, the Chinese military’s participation in Russia’s International Army Games aims to further strengthen the strategic cooperation between the Chinese and Russian militaries and deepen their practical cooperation in military training.”
The bulk of the army games will take place in Russia, though some were scheduled to be held in other countries such as Belarus, which has been gripped by weeks of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.
They got underway as the US military led selected allies in maritime drills near Hawaii.
The games are just one aspect of increased Chinese-Russian joint military training in recent years.
The 2020 International Army Games have begun in Russia
This year’s International Army Games come at a time of heightened global tensions
They have conducted multiple joint naval drills every year since 2012, including flashpoints such as the South China Sea and the Baltic Sea.
China and Russia also held their first joint naval exercise with Iran in the Gulf towards the end of last year.
That followed their first joint strategic bomber patrol in July 2019 over the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, which sparked protests from both Seoul and Tokyo.
China has also become a frequent participant in Russia’s annual strategic exercises.
Two years ago Beijing sent 3,200 soldiers and 900 tanks to join 300,000 Russian troops and 36,000 tanks in eastern Siberia for Vostok-2018, Russia’s largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War.
China joined another large-scale Russian exercise the following year.
World’s largest militaries
Russian defence expert Viktor Murakhovsky said the drills offered China an opportunity to learn from Russia’s recent military operations.
He said: “If you look at the period following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Russia’s armed forces have continuously accumulated combat experience from conflicts within Russia and those in neighbouring territories, beginning in Tajikistan and ending in Syria.
“All the while, they have done so using the latest weapons and command and control systems.
“For China, Russia’s experience of deploying weapons on the battlefield and organising combat operations is undoubtedly quite valuable.”