Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90

MILITARY COOPERATION IN CENTRAL ASIA
COL ŚLIWA ZDZISLAW AND COL ONG YULIN INTRODUCTION On the eve of 21st century, the world heralded a new geopolitical situation which arose from a series of changes such as the collapse of bipolar world, quick development of new economies and their “hunger” for resources, competition among old major powers and emerging ones, struggle between globalization and regionalization. These changes, in turn, introduced new geopolitical dynamics as countries aligned themselves with emerging regional powers based on common national, regional and world interests and concerns. These emerging powers in Asia are Russia, China and India. The creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) 1 in 2001, with Russia and China as founding members and India as an observer, is an example of the new geopolitical reality. The main focus of the SCO is to battle terrorist threats and measures include joint multinational training exercises. The direct outcomes of this cooperation are the bilateral and multilateral military exercises held in the territory of member states. JOINT MILITARY EXRCISES The first of such military exercise took place in 2002 when China and Kyrgyzstan conducted bilateral antiterrorist exercise codenamed ‘Exercise-01’ from 11 to 12 October in their border areas. This was the first time that Chinese troops cooperated with other forces in targeting terrorism 2 . Military cooperation in the form of training exercises for soldiers and improving procedures and capabilities continued in 2003, culminating in a anti-terror military exercise – ‘Cooperation-2003’ from 6 to 12 August 2003 in eastern Kazakhstan and in the Ili area of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. This event was important, as it was the first multilateral joint anti-terror drill which took place under the ambit of the SCO. A total of 1300 troops from the armed forces of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan 3 took part. The exercise was divided into two phases. The first phase involved actions against hijackers of a passenger plane and eliminating the terrorists across national borders and the second phase involved a hostage rescue operation and destroying terrorist camps. During the drill, SCO joint forces encircled and annihilated the terrorists using special anti-terrorism equipment, information technology, helicopters, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and self-propelled artillery. This phase was based on a scenario of extensive antiterrorism activities in a small town. After exercise, Major General Cheng Bing, commanding the Chinese troops during ‘Coalition-2003’ stated that the “Joint anti-terrorism exercise of
The SCO members are: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Moreover, the treaty observers are: Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran. Belarus has also applied for observer status. For more discussion on the SCO, see Z. Sliwa and Y. Ong, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Bellona Quarterly, 2/2008, p 81-89. 2 Major PLA-related joint anti-terror military trainings, News Agency Xinhua, PLA Daily 22 December 2007. http://english.pladaily.com.cn/ 3 Liang Yongli and Du Xianzhou, Coalition-2003: a successful joint anti-terrorism maneuver, PLA Daily, 14 August 2003, http://english.pladaily.com.cn/special/5army/txt/61.htm
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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 the SCO member countries was a great success and achieved anticipated results” 4 .These military exercises serve as an avenue to achieve one of SCO goals to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region by fighting terrorism, extremism and separatism. The China and Tajikistan exercise codenamed ‘Cooperation-2006’ from 22 to 23 September 2006 focused on international terrorism, dealing with crises, and strengthening each country’s capacity to handle new form of challenges and threats. Besides, military exercises within the framework of the SCO, SCO member countries are also taking part in military exercises conducted by the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). 5 An example is the joint Russian-Kyrgyz “anti-terror drill” held in early October 2006 at Russia's Kant airbase located 30 km from the Kyrgyz capital. The exercise involved about 350 soldiers from Special Forces units and “combat vehicles, artillery, Su-25 Frogfoot ground support aircraft and Mi-8 HIP multipurpose helicopters in the active phase of the maneuvers, which include the firing of live ammunition at the Osh practice range”. 6 PEACE MISSION 2005 The exercise codenamed ‘Peace Mission 2005’ from 18 to 26 August 2005 is the first joint military exercise between China and Russia. The first part of the exercise was held in Vladivostok (18-19 August), and the second part in China’s Shandong Province in Qingdao (20-26 August) which included the use of Yellow Sea area for long-range strategic bomber flights and cruise-missile drills (23-26 August). 7 The military maneuvers involved about 10,000 military personnel, including 1,800 from Russia, from different services: land forces, navy, air force, airborne troops, marine corps and logistics units. The main purpose of the drill was to improve the cooperation between two armies and establish proper coordination in combating ‘international terrorism, extremism and separatism’ and counter ‘new challenges and threats’. As the exercise was very closely observed by many countries; then chiefs of the General Staff of PLA Gen Liang Guanglie and Russia’s Gen Yuri Baluyevsky underlined that “This exercise does not target, concern the interests of, or pose a threat to any third country“ and “has no intent to build a military bloc by the two giants”. 8 However, the scale of the exercise, numbers of troops, type of forces and equipment (such as the amphibious vehicles, missile destroyers, submarines, Tu-22M3 and Tu-95 strategic bombers and A-50 early warning aircraft) involved in the exercise go beyond its goals of fighting transnational threats such as drug trafficking, organized crime and ethnic separatism, to suggest that the purpose of the exercise was for multinational cooperation and coordination of common military activities against larger scale military threats. 9 PEACE MISSION 2007 The exercise ‘Peace Mission 2007’ held from 9 to 17 August was a continuation of the exercise of a similar code-name, which had taken place two years before. This exercise took place in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region and in Chelyabinsk in Russia's Volga-Ural military district. From a strategic perspective, the
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Liang Yongli and Du Xianzhou, Coalition-2003,…. The Collective Security Treaty Organization consists of: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. 6 Michel Chossudovsky, Military Forces Prepare to Respond to US Attack on Iran, GlobalResearch.ca, Environmentalists Against War, 08 October 2006. www.envirosagainstwar.org/know/read.php?itemid=4726 7 Sun Shangwu and Wu Zhiyi, First joint drill with Russia launched, China Daily, 19 August 2005. 8 Ibid. 9 Fissures in the force - Multilateral co-operation can only go so far, Jane's Intelligence Review, 01 June 2007, p. 4.

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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 exercise was a proclamation to the international community that there is no ‘power vacuum’ in Central Asia's strategic space that needs to be filled by security organizations from outside the region. 10 According to the Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan, the main purpose of the joint anti-terrorist exercise was “to demonstrate the determination of the SCO member states in the fight against the three evil forces (of terrorism, separatism and extremism) as well as the common desire to ensure security and stability in the region and stimulate common development and prosperity”. 11 The importance attached to the exercise was manifested by the visit of the Head of State from all member countries of the SCO, who observed the final phase of the exercise just after they had completed the SCO Summit in Bishkek on 16 August 2007, 12 demonstrating dedication to combat the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, 13 which are recognized as the real threats to peace and stability in the region. 14

Figure 1: Helicopters and armored vehicles advance in formation during the final stage of the Peace Mission 2007 Source: Final stage of SCO drill begins, China Daily 17 August 2007 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-08/17/content_6032538.htm

Exercise Participants It is significant that for the first time all the SCO members participated in the exercise. China and Russia previously held a bilateral exercise, "Peace Mission 2005," where the other SCO members attended as observers. Previous SCO exercises have been on a much smaller scale, and never involved full participation. Peace Mission 2007 involved a total of 6,500 troops including: 4,700 from Russia (2,000 exercise troops and 2,700 exercise support units), 1,600 from China, two paratrooper companies (of about 100 men each) from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, a platoon from Kyrgyzstan and 15 staff officers from Uzbekistan. 15 Russian troop composition was a infantry battalion, a reinforced airborne company and about 500 pieces of arms and equipment (18 pieces of 122-mm and 100-mm artillery systems, some 40 aircraft - 6 Ilyushin Il-76 (Candid) transport planes, 9 Sukhoi Su-25 (Frogfoot), 14 Mil MiM. K. Bhadrakumar, Shanghai Cooperation Organization Primed and Ready to Fire: Toward a Regional and Global Realignment? Posted at Japan Focus on 10 August 2007, revised from an article in “Asia Times” on 4 August 2007. ..http://japanfocus.org/products/details/2494 11 M. de Haas, The “Peace Mission 2007”: Exercises: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Advances, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Advanced Research and Assessment Group, September 2007, p. 2. 12 The text of the Bishkek Declaration available on SCO Website: http://www.sectsco.org/ and on the summit site http://www.scosummit2007.org/ 13 SCO Website: http://www.sectsco.org/ 14 Hu's visit to C. Asia, Russia fruitful, China Daily 29 August 2007. 15 Le Tian, Joint drill enters the final phase, China Daily 17 August 2007, p. 2.
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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 24 (Hind), 18 Mi-8 (Hip) helicopters). 16 In addition to the military forces, Russian Internal Security forces, Borders Troops and O.M.O.N special police also participated, suggesting that military coordination and synchronization within the SCO domestically and internationally, has reached higher levels. China sent an airborne company of 120 soldiers, 40 BMP and 14 BTR armored infantry vehicles, 18 pieces of 122-mm and 100-mm artillery systems, 46 aircraft, i.e. six Il76 (Candid) transport aircraft, eight JH-7-A fighter-bombers (Flying Panther), 16 JG-9W combat and 16 Mi-17 (Hip) helicopters. 17 It is important to note that it was the first time that China demonstrated her airborne units for a military exercise abroad. The units were used for simulated airborne assaults in the final phase of the exercise. Although the Central Asian countries contributions were smaller, they clearly demonstrated their support and willingness to improve antiterrorist skills and readiness and to act collectively act when necessary. Exercise Scenario and Execution What was significant in ‘Peace Mission 2007’ was that it was less heavy (no tanks and strategic bombers) and less offensive than ‘Peace Mission 2005’. The ‘lightening’ as explained by the Deputy Commander of the Russian Airborne Forces General Wladimir Moltenskoj, was that tanks, submarines and bombers are not suitable for a typical antiterrorist exercise. 18 The exercise began on 9 August in Urumqi, China when militarypolitical consultations started at the headquarters of the Uighur Military District, involving all the heads of SCO general staffs. 19 They were briefed as part of the exercise opening narrative that a terrorist attack was carried on a small town in the Urals about 2,000 km away. A terrorist group with the support of political opposition and ethnic groups, planned to overthrow the government and seize control of a country. With a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) mandate, the coalition force commenced operations. The military leaders then briefed national leaders on the situation, developed plans to solve the conflict and started preparations to conduct military operation against the terrorist group. This phase of the exercise was conducted as a command-staff exercise using maps of the area, terrain models and advanced information technologies. The execution phase of the exercise was carried out in Russia from 11 to 17 August and required the redeployment troops to new locations. The directive ordered the designated troops to contain the militant groups, isolate them, and destroy their bases and ammunition depots in order to either eliminate them or force them to surrender. This phase included intensive combat drills and joint training at a range of the Russian Army's 34th Motorized Rifle Division. In the final phase on 17 August, the joint forces “retook” a small town from “terrorists”, bringing an end to “operation rescue”. 20 In this phase, Russian and Chinese special units, supported by airborne troops, ground troops, units of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops, Special Forces from the
http://www.mil.ru/eng/1866/12078/details/index.shtml?id=28697.Peace Mission 2007 exercise starts in Tchebarkul.11.08.2007. 17 M. de Haas, The “Peace Mission 2007, …, p. 3. R. N. McDermott, The Rising Dragon: SCO Peace Mission 2007, The Jamestown Foundation, Washington October 2007, p. 3. www.jamestown.org/. The data considering the number of equipment differ slightly in different sources. For example: Russia – 6 x Ił-76, 9 x Su-25, 13 x Mi-24, 18 x Mi-8; China - 6 x Ił-76, 8 x JH-7F, 13 x JG-9W, 15 x Mi- 17. See: V. Litovkin: Kitajskaja armija raz”erty”aetsja na territorii Rossii. „Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, No 25, 03 August 2007, p. 3. http://www.arba.ru/news/2588 18 V. Litovkin: Kitajskaja armija…, s. 3. 19 R. N. McDermott, The Rising Dragon,…, op. cit., pp. 17-18. 20 Le Tian, Joint drill enters the final phase, China Daily 17 August 2007, p. 2.
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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Directorate of the Federal Penal Service (GUFSIN) “liberate the town”. Chinese troops blocked exits from the town to facilitate Russian troops to storm the buildings and carry out searches in an urban assault. 21 The assault on the building where the terrorist leader was located was the culminating point of the whole drill, observed by VIPs and media. The other forces observed the exercise.

Figure 2: The last phase of the “Peace Mission 2007”. Source: E. Bolzurowa http://www.scosummit2007.org/gallery/48/

Finally, the exercise concluded with an airborne assault when the paratroopers engaged the remaining terrorists. The airborne assault saw 240 paratroopers and 24 infantry vehicles drooped from 16 Il-76 transport aircraft. In the space of two hours, the SCO coalition troops carried out a joint operation to ferret out, block, pursue, disarm, and destroy a large terrorist organization. According to Peng Guangqian of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, ‘the drill mainly aims to showcase the improved security cooperation among the SCO member states, the reinforced anti-terror capability of SCO members, the improved Sino-Russian relationship and the modernization of the member countries' armed forces’. 22 Such joint exercises provided opportunities for SCO member countries to work closely as “different countries have different anti-terror combat criteria and a few of them push forward hegemony under the cloak of war on terror”. 23 Such exercises are of special significance to China which seeks to improve its troop capabilities and coordination of coalition efforts to deal with contingencies in its border areas before the Beijing Olympics Games 2008. In a broader sense, the united effort and ability to conduct joint operations have contributed to regional security and stability in Central Asian and has impacted the global war on terrorism by building and promoting confidence and trust. 24 Through the exercise, the SCO has sent a clear signal that it is ready to tackle non-traditional security threats.

21 22 23

R. N. McDermott, The Rising Dragon, …, op. cit., p. 17.

M. K. Bhadrakumar, Shanghai Cooperation Organization Primed and Ready to Fire,…, op. cit.

N. K. Gvosdev, A 'Peace Mission' Without the West? The National Interest, 08 October 2007. 24 Chen Hu, A different anti-terrorism military drill; PLA Daily Online, 08 August 2007.

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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 KEY CONCLUSIONS ON THE MILITARY EXERCISES Till date, the SCO troops have not been actively involved in real operations against drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism, and these exercises are opportunities to improve preparedness and readiness as well as develop procedures and techniques, and in particular, exercise “Peace Mission 2007” which sought to improve the anti-terror capabilities of each SCO member. At the same time, it was helpful avenue to enhance military partnership among the armed forces through personal contacts and exchange of combat experiences at different levels and multilaterally. Besides strengthening military bonds, these exercises also highlighted shared security concerns. Table 1: Exercises Within the SCO Framework
CODENAME Exercise 01 Cooperation 2003 TIME 10 – 11 October 2002 6 – 12 August 2003 LOCATION Kyrgyzstan Almaty Oblast in Kazakhstan; Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China Vladivostok; Shandong Province in China; Yellow Sea Uzbekistan COUNTRIES China, Kyrgyzstan China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan China, Russia, about 1300 troops TROOPS

Peace Mission 2005

18 – 26 August 2005

about 10,000 military personnel Civil - military

East-Anti-terror 2006

02 - 05 March 2006

Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan China, Kazakhstan

Tien Shan No 1-2006

24-26 August 2006

Frontier territories of Kazakhstan (Zharkent) and the Peoples Republic of China (Inin). Kulyab, Tajikistan Northeastern Kyrgyzstan

Border security forces

Cooperation 2006 Issyk-Kul Antiterror 2007

22-23 September 2006 28-31 May 2007

China, Tajikistan, Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan

450 troops Civil - military

Peace Mission 2007

09 – 17 August 2007

Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region; Chelyabinsk in Russian Volga-Ural military district

6,500 troops

Source: The Russian federation Ministry of Defence web site www.mil.ru/eng/ SCO Website www.sectsco.org/; Yan Wei. Partnership in Security, Beijing Review 02 August 2007, http://www.bjreview.com.cn/world/txt/2007-08/02/content_71251_2.htm; M. de Haas, The “Peace Mission 2007”: Exercises: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Advances, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Advanced Research and Assessment Group, September 2007, p. 2.

Additionally, such exercises are important marketing opportunities to present new military technologies and equipment such as new multirole aircraft, strategic transport aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks especially by Russia and China, to other SCO members who are potential customers and to international observers for both deterrence and

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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 defence relations purposes. These exercises also function as a kind of trade show bringing arms providers and other potential customers who are not SCO members. The number of troops and number of nations participating in the exercises have steadily increased with each exercise, increasing complexity in command, control, coordination and logistics but multilateral cooperation has been good and exercises have been completed without major problems. Command, control and coordination have steadily improved across militaries as well as non-militaries agencies. Such inter-agency cooperation is especially valuable in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. An important fact is that ‘Peace Mission 2007’ saw participation from all SCO member states, representing their commitment to be actively involved in regional security issues. The smooth execution of such large scale military exercises with both combat and noncombatant troops indicates that command and control has become more effective, even through there is no permanent operational headquarters to oversee such exercises, and there are no standing forces such as a rapid reaction force. As an effect of joint exercises and close cooperation, the SCO is strengthening its antiterrorism capabilities and sending the message that it is able to deal effectively with new threats facing Central Asia, and endorsement from the Central Asian nations that Russia and China are reliable partners. 25 China and Russia are clearly the lead nations as evident by the roles their troops undertook in ‘Peace Mission 2007’, with troops from other member states in supporting or observer roles. The involvement of all Services, number of troops, type and quantity of equipment is a strong signal that the SCO is capable of conducting and sustaining large scale antiterrorism operations similar to the US and NATO operations in Afghanistan. ‘Peace Mission 2007’ also saw the Chinese force projection and logistics capabilities when its 300 troops were deployed by air means, and 1400 soldiers and equipment by ground means over a distance of about 10300 km. Although these force projection arose from a lack of permission from Kazakhstan to transit through its territories, one should not be distracted by the growing Chinese capabilities. Information sharing on potential threats has actively promoted closer intelligence cooperation amongst SCO members and the establishment of the SCO Regional Antiterrorism Structure (RATS) 26 in Tashkent on 1 January 2004 is a collective effort to share intelligence in the long term fight against terrorism. Exercise ‘Peace Mission 2007’ also showcased tactical intelligence capabilities where the Russian “Pchela” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) were employed to locate the enemy, record and transmit enemy coordinates and other data in real-time mode to the control center. Language differences, disparities in tactics, large number of activities – airborne landings from aircraft, air assault landings from helicopters, close air support, combat helicopters support, artillery barrages and attacks by mechanized infantry and Special Forces – in the limited space of the training area in Cherbarkul created some problems during exercise ‘Peace Mission 2007’. Differences in communication equipment and procedures as well as standards in personal language skills were clearly visible. Insufficient numbers of translators at all levels also partially contributed to the problems. However, intensive planning and good coordination helped to overcome these problems.
25 26

R. N. McDermott, The Rising Dragon,…, op. cit., p. 3. http://www.ecrats.com/

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Published in Bellona Quarterly 3/2008 (654) p 84-90 CONCLUSION Military cooperation within the framework of the SCO has grown steadily as small scale, bilateral exercises evolved into large scale multilateral exercises. Of significance, China and Russia were actively involved with large number of troops in both exercises ‘Peace Mission 2005’ and ‘Peace Mission 2007’, and with active involvement of all members of the SCO. Moreover, the coincidence of the SCO Bishkek Summit and Peace Mission 2007 demonstrated the political-military dimension of the SCO. SCO contribution to regional security architecture is also evidently supported by the presence of observers from CSTO and other countries. Military cooperation is progressing well and in tandem with the political and economic cooperation. Whether or not ‘Peace Mission 2007’ is part of an overall plan to turn the SCO into a Central Asian military and political bloc to create a strategic buffer for Russia and counter a growing US influence in the region or a pursuit of security for economic development and hence political security for China, SCO has provided an avenue for China and Russia to pursue their stance in a multi-polar world. The exercise scenario and execution showed that minor problems aside, the militaries of the SCO are ready to conduct not only small scale antiterrorism operations but also large scale conventional operations. However, with the exercise being organized only once or twice a year, it has thrown up some deficiencies; the lack of permanent forces, which could provide the base for subsequent improvement during military exercises, and a command HQ structure (RATS is only a coordination group). 27 This will affect the SCO ability to act rapidly when necessary, requiring each country to be self-reliant. The joint exercises and close cooperation have allowed the SCO to strengthen its antiterrorism capabilities and readiness to deal with new challenges facing the Central Asian region with China and Russia as leading nations, 28 by taking the lead role in planning and execution. Clearly, these series of exercises have shown that SCO cooperation in security matters have now gone beyond ‘the original issues of regional disarmament and border security and delimitation to include practical cooperation on dealing with non-traditional threats’. 29

In contrast, the CSTO has a Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF) with a unified command structure in Moscow. In 2002, the CRRF has 1500 troops, and has since grown to 4500 troops in 2007. Fissures in the force -…, op. cit., p.2 28 R. N. McDermott, The Rising Dragon,…, op. cit., p. 3. 29 Ibid, p.12.

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