Monday, April 30, 2012

I See Your Pivot and Raise You One

China and Russia are currently holding joint naval exercises.  This comes at an interesting time, the article points out, when the US is slowly-ish turning its head toward the Pacific theater.  While the article goes on to say that this is not the first exercise of this nature, it is worth commenting on.

 China and Russia, political difficulties aside, have a substantial amount to gain from this type of exercise.  Though they are separated by a number of difficulties, especially in areas related to technology transfer and arms sales, this can be seen as a win-win for both countries and not necessarily as a threat to US interests in the Pacific.

From the Chinese prospective, this can be seen as a study in how modern navies work.  For the past decade, China has been heavily investing in the modernization of its naval forces.  Aside from the acquisition of a former Russia/Soviet aircraft carrier and a massive shipbuilding effort, China has also been developing the other aspects of a modern navy.  These include carrier aircraft, anti-ship missiles and the infrastructure to command and control a blue water navy.

What China lacks, however is experience.  A formation like an American carrier battle group is a complex organism.  Each ship has its part to play in making the unit become more than simply the sum of its parts.  The logistics alone are mind blowing, from the "small" issues like how to get multiple aircraft aloft in a short amount of time to the larger issues like feeding the crews that number in the thousands easily.  To add to this, one does not simply "send" a naval flotilla somewhere, the group must be sent for a specific purpose and every sailor and craft must know its place is in any potential situation that might arise.

Russia has that experience and is willing to share it.

From the Russian viewpoint, this is a good way to get its ships back out into the sea.  Added to this the potential strengthening of a frenemy that can be called on in a time of need.  It can also act as a floating arms dealership, showing the Chinese what can be bought from Russian stocks and expertise.

Lastly, from the American standpoint, a strong naval coalition is not necessarily a game changer.  The US has embraced the "worldwide navy" concept wholeheartedly and this could well be an extension of that idea.  Russia and China would be a natural coalition to police the South Pacific.  Additionally, their mutual distrust can only make America feel better about this alliance, as there are minimal chances of it growing into something that can be more rationally feared.

No comments: