Kremlin launches Pacific Fleet exercises to boost partnership with China and deter Japan’s support for Ukraine

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The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu will meet with China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu to discuss bilateral defense cooperation and regional and global security. The Kremlin is likely trying to portray Russia as an equal defense partner with China before the visit, Institute for the Study of War reports. However, China has been trying to downplay its support for Russia, stating that it will regulate the export of items to Russia that have dual civilian and military uses. This is a continuation of China’s efforts to demonstrate that there are limits to the partnership with Russia.

To make itself more attractive to China, the Kremlin has launched Russian Pacific Fleet exercises to project its naval power in the Pacific. The Pacific Fleet of the Eastern Military District has been raised to the highest level of combat readiness for checks, and elements of the fleet will conduct combat exercises. This is likely meant to signal to China that Russia supports Chinese security objectives in the Pacific and can operate as a Pacific power.

The Kremlin is also likely trying to deter further Japanese support for Ukraine ahead of the G7 meeting. Combat readiness checks are intended to work out methods to prevent enemy forces from deploying in the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk and to repel a landing on the southern Kuril and Sakhalin islands, both signals to Japan. Russia’s recent deployment of a battery of Bastion coastal defense missile systems to Paramushir Island in the northern portion of the Russian-occupied Japanese Kuril Islands was likely a warning to Japan about further supporting Ukraine. Russia intends to use military posturing in the north Pacific to raise fears about military escalation with Japan, with the aim of preventing Japan from further supporting Ukraine when it hosts the G7 meeting in Hiroshima.

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