The US Navy responded in force when China and Russia expanded their maritime exercise operation from the Sea of Japan to sovereign waters off Alaska. In an unprecedented display of coordinated sea power, the Sino-Russian flotilla transited the La Perouse Strait from exercise operations off the coast of Japan into the Sea of Okhotsk, northwest of the Bering Sea between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and the Kuril Islands chain. On July 28-29, Chinese and Russian vessels sailed close enough to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to get the US Navy’s attention. Significantly, the Sino-Russian naval exercise was the size of a flotilla. According to news reports, there were 11 warships, including destroyers, frigates, corvettes, fleet tankers, and oilers.
Major Naval Exercise Close to United States
Recently, naval exercises between Beijing and Moscow have become more frequent. Consequently, the increased coordination and integration of the two navies is alarming. The Wall Street Journal explained:
“Russia’s Defense Ministry … said that Russian and Chinese vessels had carried out drills that involved communications training, helicopter landings and takeoffs from the decks of each other’s ships and a joint anti-submarine exercise in the southwestern part of the Bering Sea in which a mock target was detected and destroyed.”
Separately, a spokesperson from China’s embassy in Washington, DC, added that the exercises were not directed at the United States. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is not so sure. “This is unprecedented in terms of the size and scope of this joint naval task force between Russia and China, working very closely together,” Sullivan told Fox News Digital. “Whether you live in Alaska like I do, or on the East Coast of the United States, a very large surface action task force between our two main adversaries, probing very closely to United States shores, is concerning,” warned Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in a press release on Aug. 7. “This 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.”
It is instructive to remember among the westernmost US territories in the Bering Sea is Little Diomede Island, which is separated from Big Diomede Island, belonging to Russia, by 2.4 miles of open sea. When Russians and Chinese conduct such exercises in the northwestern Pacific, the inclination is to think, “Well, that’s not even close to Alaska.” It may seem that way on a Mercator Projection (flat map), but on a globe, that area is right on Alaska’s doorstep, or boat dock in this case. Retired US Army Gen. Jack Keane told Fox News that Russia and China have “’one common objective’ to ‘reduce’ US influence worldwide.” Keane went on to say the United States has not faced “in terms of a formidable and dangerous threat like it, since World War II.”
When the Pentagon press corps asked Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Defense Department’s public affairs secretary, about the exercise, he seemed not overly concerned, essentially explaining in a “nothing to see here” voice:
“They were in international waters. At no point in time were they deemed to pose a threat. And so, like any country, they are free to conduct exercises in international airspace, international waters. We will continue to monitor, but, you know, I think that it’s no surprise to anyone that China and Russia continue to look at ways to cooperate, and we’ll continue to monitor this situation and act appropriately, okay?”
Big threat, little threat, no threat — somebody in US Northern Command thought the Sino-Russian naval operation so close to the US waters was worth noticing. Murkowski and Sullivan, who represent the state of Alaska, were briefed on the Navy’s response to the People’s Liberation Army Navy and Russian naval exercise. “The pair confirmed that four US Navy destroyers, along with a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, had been dispatched to the location of the flotilla,” US Naval Institute News reported. The purpose of the US Navy vessels and surveillance aircraft was to shadow the Sino-Russian warships.
As Liberty Nation has reported in the past, the United States, its allies, and its friends participate in combined exercises to ensure the participating nations can operate seamlessly together. Russia and China train together for the same reasons. The number of ships in the Sino-Russian flotilla, the extent of the distance traveled, and the proximity to US territorial waters should interest our country’s national security leaders. It’s a major signal that Moscow and Beijing will have each other’s backs.
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