Putin, XI meet as their militaries start massive exercises

Both leaders agreed to enhance coordination in global affairs, resist unilateralism

Photo: EPA Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin expressed their firm determination to unswervingly safeguard bilateral ties as the two nations seek to counterbalance the United States’ power on the international stage and Moscow stages its biggest military exercises since the height of the Cold War with Chinese participation.

During their meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok both sides acknowledged that China-Russia ties have been developing with stronger momentum this year and have entered a new period of faster development on a higher level. Putin said Moscow has a "trusting relationship" with Beijing "in politics, security and defence", while Xi, recalling their productive meetings in Beijing and Johannesburg this year, noted that the close high-level contacts between both countries have demonstrated that the two countries give top priority to the ties on their diplomatic agendas respectively. In addition, he also pledged that both countries would continue to "make joint efforts to … push the China-Russia relationship up to a new height".
"China and Russia are the biggest neighbors, we have solid political ties … Chinese and Russian relationships are at an all time high level," Xi noted, adding there is further scope for investments in Russia.

In that matter, the Chinese president called on the two sides to firmly uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, jointly oppose unilateralism and trade protectionism, and forge ahead with the construction of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. He also suggested both countries should continue investing in energy, agricultural projects, tourism, infrastructure an education.

Although neither mentioned the US directly, at a later session with Putin and regional officials, Xi again underlined that Russia and China agreed to oppose unilateral actions and trade protectionism. “Amid the quickly changing international situation and the factors of instability and unpredictability, the cooperation of Russia and China takes on greater and greater importance,” he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, also appeared to criticise protectionist policies.

Tuesday’s summit at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok was the third this year between the two leaders, and the first time Xi has participated in the annual event. The event came at a time when Beijing and Moscow face serious economic pressure from the administration of US President Donald Trump. First of all, there are rising concerns that the US-China trade war - sparked by US President Donald Trump’s “America first” foreign policy - could escalate into a cold war between the two countries. Russia, too, has been under significant pressure from the US as last month, Washington imposed fresh sanctions on Moscow in response to the Kremlin’s cyberattacks and suspected involvement in the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil in March.

Moreover, the EEF began as Moscow kicked off its largest military drills for 40 years in its vast eastern and central military districts, ranging from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific coast. The massive military manoeuvres come as tensions between the West and Russia have intensified to the highest level since the days of the Soviet Union. The drills have been condemned by NATO as a rehearsal for a "large-scale conflict".

Dubbed Vostok-2018, the war games involve more than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft and 80 warships and support vessels, according to Russia's defence ministry. It broadcast images of military trucks being transported on trains, columns of tanks, armoured vehicles and naval vessels on the move, and combat helicopters and fighter aircraft taking off. 

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