In a new signal to Joe Biden ahead of next week’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, Russia has embarked on the largest military exercise on the high seas in the Pacific since the days of the Cold War (1947-1991).
The two presidents will meet for the first time on the 16th in Geneva, under a veil of growing tensions between the world’s largest nuclear powers.
The list goes on: the civil war in Ukraine, the repression in Belarus, the cyber attacks attributed to Moscow by the United States, the charge of poisoning and arbitrary arrest of the opponent Alexei Navalni, among others.
Putin has made it clear in recent days that Biden’s aggressive rhetoric will not deter him and has announced fortifications near his European borders. He also saw the Navalni organization banned by the Kremlin-aligned justice.
But by sending 20 ships and submarines, as well as 20 long-range planes, to a point 4,000 km from his base in Vladivostok, Putin is hinting at another problem.
The Indo-Pacific is the central strategic quadrant of the 21st century, centered on the Cold War 2.0 initiated in 2017 by Donald Trump against Xi Jinping’s China.
Usually, the Russians are seen as a card out of the game in this equation, even because of the economic hardships that Putin’s country is going through.
That said, such a claim ignores the recent revival of the Pacific Fleet forces, based in Vladivostok, which have had significant bases in the region since the 18th century.
In addition, Putin elected the region as one of his priorities, in particular because it is the most uninhabited of the country and that it is at the mercy of the economic weight of the Chinese. Finally, despite the suspicions, there is a strong alliance between the Russians and Xi to contain Washington.
So, the exercise reminds Biden that Putin wants to play an active role in the affairs of the region, especially at a time when the American is following Trump’s aggressive policies against Beijing and has articulated support from local allies like the U.S. Australia, India and Japan, in the Group of quads.
The Japanese, for their part, have historical differences with the Russians. The two governments recently reopened talks in an attempt to end territorial disputes over the region’s islands, which date back to the end of World War II.
From a military perspective, the exercise was unique by current standards as it involved the operation of large ships such as the powerful missile cruiser Variag, the Soverchenni corvette, submarines and reconnaissance aircraft. maritime Tu-142 without the support of coastal bases.
Coincidence or not, also Thursday, a North American RC-135 spy plane was intercepted near Russian territorial waters in the Pacific by a Su-35 fighter.
At the end of 2020, there was an incident in which a Russian destroyer nearly crashed into an American destroyer approaching waters that Russia considers its own near Vladivostok.
In a planning document for this year, the Pentagon felt that the US Navy needed to be more assertive and, therefore, should have more such meetings with the Chinese and the Russians.
Biden is already in Europe, where he has an agenda in the United Kingdom, participating this Friday (11) in the G7 meeting. Next week, he attends a NATO (Western Military Alliance) meeting in Brussels and meets with Putin.