Monday, May 25, 2015

Sieren's China: Military exercises in the Mediterranean

Turkey is mulling buying missiles in China and nuclear power plants in Russia. Meanwhile, China and Russia are holding military exercises in the Mediterranean. The West has to get used to it, says DW's Frank Sieren.

Frank Sieren

DEUTSCHE WELLE - 04.05.2015

It sounds dangerous to Westerners: For the first time, at the gates of the EU in the Mediterranean, Russian and Chinese military forces are practicing "joint action in distant seas." And they're doing it with live ammunition.
This is perceived as a provocation and a concentrated demonstration of power, but the fact that American soldiers are exercising together with the Philippine army off the coast of China is, on the other hand, viewed as a settled matter.
That maneuver is the largest joint exercise in 15 years and is called Balikatan, which translates to should-to-shoulder in Tagalog. How this is perceived, however, is illustrated by the perspective. Beijing does not find the maneuver any less menacing than the EU finds the Russian-Chinese one.
There are three questions that arise: Are they allowed to do that? Who started it? And most importantly, how can the risks of this development be minimized?
There is a quick answer to the first question: Anyone can practice with whomever they choose in international waters – even with live ammunition. What is new here is that the US is no longer the only global player that can afford to do this, as there are now others, like Russia and China. In the case of the Philippines, at least a neighboring country has asked the USA for support. Russia and China do not have direct access to the Mediterranean. So, in this respect, their maneuver in mid-May is even more irritating, although legal and legitimate.