Tuesday, March 22, 2005


"Terrorism" makes strange bedfellows:
Russian Chief of General Staff Yury Baluyevsky flies home from the Far East this week after finalizing plans for large, ambitious joint-military exercises to be held with China this fall.

But the negotiations were far from a bed of roses. China wanted the exercises -- the first ever between the two countries -- to be held in its southwestern Zhejiang province near the island of Taiwan, the Moscow newspaper Kommersant reported Thursday.

The political message of holding the exercises there would have been dramatically clear: Russia would be prepared to support China in an eventual military confrontation with the United States over the island whose president, Chen Shui-bian, has been moving toward full legal independence from the mainland . . . .

Instead, the Russians wanted the exercises to be held in China's vast northwestern Xinjiang province in the heart of Central Asia. From the point of view of the exercises' ostensible purpose -- to coordinate the military of the two giant nations in the struggle against international terrorism -- this made more sense.

In Beijing, the Russian general said developing a strategic cooperative partnership with China was one of Russia's priorities. He told his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie during a meeting Thursday Russia was willing to work with China to strengthen bilateral ties, the official China Daily reported.

The exercises would be on a considerably larger scale than simple anti-terrorist coordination. They would reportedly involve the Russian and Chinese armies, navies and air forces as well as submarines. Russia would dispatch an airborne company, long-range aircraft and frontline fighters, a marine unit and a group of warships of the Pacific Fleet . . . .

A Russian military official told the China Daily last week that the exercise should help both sides coordinate the fight against "terrorism." He has come to China with "major powers delegated (to me) by the defense minister," the general said. "We have things to discuss and offer to our Chinese colleagues in military-technical cooperation and other spheres."

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