Russian-Chinese naval exercise in the Med as sign that Moscow may be warming to milpact with China

"We are planning to conduct another joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea next spring. There are also plans to conduct a joint naval exercise in the Pacific Ocean,” Russian Defense Minister Shoigu was quoted by Interfax on Nov. 18th as saying after talks with his Chinese counterpart. (After the talks between the two countries’s defense chiefs, Deputy Defense Minister of Russia Antonov also said that his agency believes Russia and China should jointly counter color revolutions. “We think Russia and China should work together to counter this new threat to the security of our countries.”)
This is a significant development. As far as I recall, all bilateral Russian-Chinese military training have so far taken place in either Russia or China while multilateral (under aegis of SCO) have also taken place in Central Asia. That the two countries, neither of which abut the Med, have decided to train in that sea could be a sign that a previously reluctant Moscow has been either warming up to China’s proposal for a military/security alliance  or is trying to signal to West that it could enter such an alliance if West continues to try isolate Russia.
Chinese leaders have stated more than once they would like Russia to help China gurantee security in Asia-Paciv an dbuild a new regional security architecture.  Back in October 2013, Xi told Putin on sidelines of an APEC summit that China would like to work with Russia to guarantee security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.We need to innovate our security cooperation (and) establish new regional security cooperation architecture," Xi told an audience that included President Vladimir Putin of Russia and leaders of Central Asian countries in May 2014. A Chinese academic has also mused whether, since Western countries have NATO, China and Russia should also pursue a pact of their own.
As recently as this summer, Russian leaders were sceptical of that idea.
In June, head of the Russian presidential administration of Russia Sergey Ivanov was telling journalists that Russia and China saw no sense in creating a military alliance; relations between Moscow and Beijing are not directed against anyone. “I find no sense, and the Chinese side, I must admit, also finds no sense in creating a new military alliance or union, or something like that. Our relations, including in the sphere of defense, are not directed against anyone," said Ivanov at the time.

But, as the crisis in Ukraine deepened estrangement of Moscow from West, signs have appeared that Russia might execute not only an economic pivot to Asia, but also pursue a strong defense relationship with China. For instance, FT reported on November 10th that “Russian diplomats and analysts also said Moscow hoped to build the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in 1996, into a more meaningful security alliance.”
I have cautioned that Moscow would find itself to be a junior partner in any alliance it enters with China, but, perhaps, Russian President Vladimir Putin would not feel too uncomfortable in that role. After all, he has repeatedly denied any ambition to turn Russia into a global leader while saying Russia won't contest global leadership of China.
Link to Interfax’ full news item on Shoigu’s is here.


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