On 7 November we issued an Intelligence Brief entitled Putin accelerates turn to China. In the two weeks since we issued that brief, the pace of Russia’s turn to China has picked up further, including with a trip to Beijing by Russia’s Defence Minister General Sergey Shoygu during which it was announced that Russia and China plan to hold joint naval exercises in both the Pacific and the Mediterranean in 2015.
After talks with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan on 18 November, Shoygu was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Russia and China are concerned by the US’s “attempts to increase its military and political influence” in the Asia-Pacific region. After the talks, Shoygu’s deputy Anatoliy Antonov went further still in alleging that China and Russia faced a joint threat from US-orchestrated ‘colour revolutions’.
Antonov said: “We noticed the events that recently occurred in Hong Kong and the two ministers admitted that no country is safe from ‘colour revolutions’. It only seems like these ‘colour revolutions’, these experiments by Western political technology experts, including ones from the USA, occur somewhere far away from China or Russia. In fact, it all happens nearby and we believe that Russia and China should work together to counter this new challenge to our states’ security.” Antonov referred specifically to Ukraine where, he said, “a coup has taken place”.
Also on the agenda in the Shoygu-Chang talks was the commitment to strengthen the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in “the fight with international terrorism”. Shoygu was quoted as saying: “The main goal of our efforts is the creation of a collective regional security system.”
On the question of joint military exercises, Shoygu said: “We are planning to conduct another joint navy drill in spring next year in the waters of the Mediterranean. A joint navy drill is also planned in the Pacific area.” He added: “Our military cooperation has a strong potential and the Russian side is ready to develop it in a wide range of areas.”
On the same day, 18 November, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blamed the crisis in Ukraine on the West’s “creeping eastward expansion”, and he reiterated the comments made by Antonov in Beijing by calling the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovuch an “unconstitutional coup”. However, speaking in Minsk in Belarus, Lavrov said that he hoped that Russia’s relations with the European Union had not yet passed “the point of no return”. He said: “We have always viewed the EU as our big, important economic partner”, and he called on EU member states to “get down to the creation of a single economic and humanitarian area from the Atlantic to the Pacific”.
Lavrov was less conciliatory with regard to the US, and in particular its “plan to create a global US missile defence system and its European component”. He linked this plan to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE). He said that Russia was being called to implement the CFE Treaty, but “it has long been lying in state and is not subject to resuscitation”.