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Why Russia is bolstering its Pacific Fleet

July 30, 2013

July 26, 2013 Elena Domashneva, special to RBTH Asia Pacific

Russia’s Pacific Fleet was involved in two major exercises in July: a surprise week-long operational readiness inspection and a joint drill with the Chinese Navy in the Russian Far East.

Why Russia is bolstering its Pacific Fleet
Source: Reuters
Russia’s Pacific Fleet was involved in two major exercises in July: a surprise week-long operational readiness inspection and a joint drill with the Chinese Navy in the Russian Far East. 
Both events testify not just to Russia’s intensified activity in the Pacific but also to the growing significance of that region in international politics on the whole. 
The booming economic growth of Asia-Pacific countries leads to conflicts of economic interests, the forming of new regional associations, and the flaring up of territorial disputes.
The presence of seabed oil and gas reserves contributes to increased maritime activity in the region, if not to greater tension between the different regional powers.
The exact volume of those reserves and their economic value have yet to be assessed. However, given the unstable situation in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific hydrocarbon reserves may prove to be of considerable interest to regional and extra-regional players alike.
Strengthening of the Chinese Navy
The current geopolitical situation is forcing Asia-Pacific countries to bolster their naval power, since a major stretch of state borders and trade routes in the region are maritime.
Particularly noteworthy in this respect are China’s efforts to strengthen its Navy.
Already today China may be considered the world’s third naval power after the USA and Russia, if not in absolute terms then in terms of its potential.
The service entry of the nation’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning in September 2012 became a milestone achievement in the history of the Chinese Navy.
The Chinese government has been repeatedly stressing the Navy’s key role both in increasing the PLA’s combat capability and in developing the country’s economy.
US presence in Asia Pacific
The USA is also actively involved in the Asia-Pacific processes. There is an obvious military aspect to President Barack Obama’s Pivot to Asia strategy.
Washington has notably built up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years.
Examples include the recent deployment of a USMC detachment to Darwin, Australia, as well as the return of the US Seventh Fleet to Subic Bay in the Philippines (which used to be a USN base until 1992). Although it is as yet early to be speaking of an open confrontation between naval powers in the Pacific, let alone of an arms race in the region, the situation is evidently becoming tenser than it was but a decade ago.
An Ocean Not So Pacific
An important aspect of the rivalry between the U.S. and China, which is taking on increasing significance in East Asia, is the potential for naval confrontation.
Source: AP; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM
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