An exciting new template has appeared in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific last week when Russia’s Aerospace Force and China’s Air Force carried out their first-ever joint air patrol in the region.
Steadily and imperceptibly but profoundly, the regional alignments are transforming.
Russia and China routinely claim that their entente is neither a military alliance nor is directed against any third country. Yet, the alchemy of that relationship is undergoing a huge transformation, stemming out of a conscious decision by their top leaderships.
Why Russia and China jointly undertook an unprecedented joint air patrol over the disputed islands in the East China Sea (known to the Koreans as Dokdo and to the Japanese as Takeshima) remains unclear. But, quite obviously, it is an affront to the US, which has alliance treaties with both Japan and South Korea.
The incident comes barely two months after the release of the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, which spelt out the US’ dual containment strategy against China (“a Revisionist Power”) and Russia (“a Revitalised Malign Actor”.)
Moscow also says that the first-ever joint patrol of the long-range aviation in the Pacific was the beginning of a wider program, which aims to boost the Russian and Chinese militaries’ ability to work together and the planned program stretches at least for the remainder of the year.