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“Russia does not need a military alliance with China, but it is theoretically possible to imagine such a thing”, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on 22 October, at the meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club. “It is possible to imagine everything. We have always assumed that our relations have reached such a degree of interaction and trust. We, in general, do not need this, but theoretically we can quite imagine this,” concluded Mr. Putin.

The Russian leader confirmed that the neighbouring nations conduct joint military exercises on a regular basis, at sea, and on land, within both nations borders. He noted that Moscow and Beijing are actively cooperating in the military-technical area, having projects “on very sensitive topics” which the Russian President didn’t want to disclose publicly.

Mr Putin confirmed that existing cooperation, “undoubtedly increases the defence capability of the Chinese People’s Army”. He mentioned that closer cooperation in the military sphere cannot be ruled out. “Life will show how it will develop further. We are not going to rule it out. We will see”, concluded the Russian President.

Cooperation and Trade

China is one of Russia’s key partners in the field of arms trade. In January 2019, the head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia, Dmitry Shugaev, said that the portfolio of orders for military-technical cooperation with China is more than $7bn. According to the head of Rostec Corporation Sergei Chemezov, China accounts for more than 15 per cent of the Russian export portfolio in the field, with the Rostec annual report having just disclosed several details of this cooperation. According to the document, through 2019, the Russian Helicopters Holding has signed several contracts with China for the supply of 120+ examples of various rotorcraft. The number counts 68 Mi-171 helicopters (including the upgraded Mi-171E), 18 Mi-171Sh (military transport) helicopters, 14 Mi-171 helicopters with a VK-2500 engine and 21 ANSAT helicopters.

The paper confirms the international debut of the Mi-171Sh STORM (the export version of Mi-8AMTSh TERMINATOR military transport helicopter), a machine which is intended to carry up to 37 paratroopers. It can transport various cargo inside the compartment and on its external sling. Simultaneously, the helicopter can provide a fire support to tactical airborne assault forces, reconnaissance and sabotage groups, while destroying of ground targets. The machine can be also used for the evacuation of wounded personnel.

The helicopter can be equipped with various types of weapons on beam holders on the sides of the fuselage, including guided missiles and non-guided rockets. The vehicle is also equipped with means of anti-missile protection and has substantial armour for the cockpit and vital equipment. As reported, Russia was fulfilling a major contract for the supply of S-400 TRIUMPH long range air defence systems and has already delivered 24 Su-35 fighters to PRC.

Yury Laskin