Russia Teams Up With China and Iran Before Ukraine Crisis Meeting With U.S.

Naval drills between Russia, Iran and China have begun on the same day as talks aimed at staving off the threat of a Moscow-led invasion of Ukraine are held in Geneva.

Russia's Defense Ministry had said this week that a detachment of its Pacific Fleet, including missile cruiser Varyag, anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs and the sea tanker Boris Butoma, had entered the Iranian port of Chabahar for the exercises with its allies.

Iranian and Russian media reported that the drills started Friday and included rescuing a floating vessel, releasing a hijacked vessel, shooting at targets, "and other tactical and operational exercises," news outlet Hamshahri reported, according to a translation.

This weekend's drills in the northern Indian Ocean will take place over a 17,000-square-kilometer (around 6,500 square miles) area, Iranian media reported. Tass reported that the "anti piracy" exercises took place in the Gulf of Oman.

While the trilateral exercises dubbed CHIRU had been announced in August 2021, they come at a sensitive time as tensions over Russia's military build-up by its border with Ukraine continue to soar.

Moscow said that the drills with China and Iran were aimed at "ensuring international shipping safety" and "combating piracy," but they start after the announcement of a widespread deployment of Russia's military over the next month.

There will be drills in the Mediterranean, the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Naval exercises will also take place in the North Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk near Japan.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the exercises would help its navy and air forces work together "to protect Russian national interests" in global seas "as well as to counter military threats to Russia from the sea and ocean."

On January 15, six large landing ships from the Baltic and Northern fleets, left the port of Baltiysk and headed to the Mediterranean Sea, with detachments of other ships en route to the North Sea, Tass reported.

The Drive reported some expected that the vessels would eventually go to the Black Sea by Ukraine, which is significant given that Russia seeks a response from the West to its demands that include banning Kyiv from ever joining NATO.

The military maneuvers will spark alarm in global capitals as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva on Friday to discuss Ukraine after talks last week failed to yield a breakthrough between Moscow, NATO and the U.S.

As the U.S. continues to warn about Russia's intentions, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Thursday that President Vladimir Putin "should have no doubt any move by the Russian assembled military across the border of Ukraine is an invasion."

The statement followed the White House having to clarifying comments by President Joe Biden in which he referred to "minor incursions" that seemed to suggest that Western allies were not united on how to respond to a Russian move.

Russia naval drill
The missile boat Dimitrovgrad takes part in the Russia's Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, on July 25, 2021. With tensions high over a military build-up near the Ukrainian border, Russia has started naval drills with Iran and China on January 21, 2022. Getty