For decades, Russia and China have shared a fervent distrust of the West and contempt for what they perceive as American hegemony in the world.
Now that tensions between Washington and Beijing are ramping up and Moscow is increasingly isolated from the international community due to its ongoing Ukraine invasion, these two allies are turning towards each other.
Over the weekend, Alaska lawmakers reported that a joint Russian and Chinese flotilla sailed near the western state and the Aleutian Islands.
In a joint statement released on Saturday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) outlined that eleven ships were involved. Although the Russian and Chinese flotilla did not enter American territory, the U.S. Navy sent a pair of destroyers and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to monitor the scene.
Not the first time Chinese ships sailed close to Alaska:
This flotilla highlights the strengthening military ties between Moscow and Beijing and also indicates that a permanent naval base in Alaska may be necessary. The incident is “a stark reminder of Alaska’s proximity to both China and Russia, as well as the essential role our state plays in our national defense and territorial sovereignty,” Murkowski said. According to the Navy, this flotilla marks the third year in a row that Chinese naval ships have sailed in or near the Aleutian Islands. Last year, a similar Russian-Chinese joint exercise occurred in the area. In 2022, a Chinese guided missile cruiser was detected off the coast of Alaska’s Kiska Island. One year earlier, the Associated Press reported that Chinese ships were spotted roughly 50 miles off the Aleutians.
What ships were present?
USNI News detailed the ships involved in last week’s flotilla incident. On the Russian side, the Udaloy class destroyers Admiral Tributs and Admiral Panteleyev, the Steregushchy-class corvette Aldar Tsydenzhapov, the fleet tanker Pechenga and the Gremyashchiy-class corvette participated. On China’s side, the Type 054A frigates Zaozhuang and Rizhao, the Type 052D destroyers Guiyang and Qiqihar and the fleet oiler Taihu were present.
The thawing relations between Russia, China and North Korea:
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine back in February 2022, Beijing has said it remains neutral and even declared a “no limits” partnership with the Kremlin. The People’s Republic of China has publicly blamed the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies for “provoking” the “special military operation.” Russia and China have also concerningly buddied up with North Korea in recent years. Last month, delegations from Beijing and Moscow visited Pyongyang to commemorate the country’s Victory Day parade which celebrates the war that ravaged the Korean Peninsula seven decades ago. Pyongyang has launched more than 100 missiles since 2022, a clear escalation in provocations. Also staunchly anti-American, North Korea’s warming relations with Russia and China should be a warning to the West.
While the Chinese-Russian flotilla is highly provocative, it is important to note that the U.S. and its allies also carry out joint military drills in the waters surrounding China’s territorial claims.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.