In Brief

Putin and Xi meet for trade talks amid historic war games

Russia and China appear to signal that they could partner militarily if threatened by Washington

Russia and China have strengthened their economic and military relationship by staging the biggest war games since the end of the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Putin hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok while Chinese soldiers joined their Russian counterparts in military exercises in Siberia for the first time

The drills represent a “potentially major shift,” says the Washington Post. “Two countries that had long considered each other potential military adversaries are now partners in confronting the US.”

Nato has described Russia’s annual military games, which involve more than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft and 80 warships and support vessels, as a rehearsal for a large-scale conflict.

By including the Chinese this year, “both countries are trying to signal: If the US pushes too far, we are going to move closer to each other,” said Alexander Gabuev, chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Programme at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.

But as CNN’s senior international correspondent Matthew Chance points out, this alliance is not new.

Although Putin previously viewed China as a military threat, Russia has undertaken “an intentional geopolitical shift” since the relationship between Moscow and the West started deteriorating in 2014, he says.

Sanctions imposed against Russia in the wake of its invasion of Crimea, as well as result of the Novichok attack in Salisbury, have forced Russia to look for new military and trading partners.

And as the trade war between China and the US continues to escalate, Beijing too is looking for new economic allies. It has also seen relations with Washington sour over the disputed South China Sea.

Few expect Russia and China to enter a formal alliance akin to Nato, the Post says.

But the two countries “are sending the signal that they could partner up in a military entente in the event of a confrontation with Washington in which their interests align,” the paper adds.

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