Russia’s Pacific Fleet has been placed on high alert for sudden drills, which will include missile launches and the use of nuclear-capable strategic bombers and other warplanes. The exercises are intended to demonstrate Russia’s military capability to respond to aggression, according to Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu. The drills will also involve the naval aviation of the Pacific Fleet. While the bulk of Russia’s forces are concentrated on the front lines in Ukraine, regular drills continue across the country to train its forces and demonstrate their readiness. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the war games as part of regular training intended to “maintain the necessary level of the armed forces’ readiness”.
Shoigu noted that the scenario envisages a response to an adversary’s attempt to make a landing on Sakhalin Island and the southern Kuril Islands. Japan asserts territorial rights to the Kuril Islands, which it calls the Northern Territories. The Soviet Union took them in the final days of World War II, and the dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities. Russia has built up its military presence on the islands in recent years, deploying advanced fighter jets, anti-ship missiles and air defence systems there.
The Pacific Fleet drills began just days before a planned trip to Moscow by Chinese Defence Minister General Li Shangfu. The Russian defence ministry said Shoigu and Li would discuss “prospects of bilateral defence cooperation and acute issues of global and regional security”. A three-day visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping last month demonstrated the two nations’ partnership in the face of Western efforts to isolate Russia over Ukraine and gave a political lift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow and Beijing have accused Washington of trying to isolate them and hold back their development as they challenge the United States for regional and global leadership. Putin and Xi said they would increase contacts between their militaries and stage more joint sea and air patrols and drills, but there was no hint that China would help Russia with weapons, as the US and other Western allies feared.