US Dispatches Destroyers in Response to Chinese, Russian Aggression

( – Last week Russia and China sent a powerful naval force close to Alaska in what they’re calling a joint exercise. The ships didn’t enter US territorial waters, but they operated within striking distance of US-owned islands in the Aleutian chain. In response, the Pentagon sent US Navy destroyers and surveillance planes to monitor the exercise.

Russia, China Run Major Exercise

A joint fleet of 11 Chinese and Russian warships carried out a major exercise that covered more than 2,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean during the first week of August. The ships formed into what US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Nathan Moore called a “Surface Action Group” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. The ships trained together in the Sea of Japan off the Chinese coast then moved north into the Sea of Okhotsk off eastern Russia for the next stage before heading north again to the Aleutian Islands. The Aleutian chain runs for around 1,200 miles, separating the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea, and while the two westernmost islands are Russian territory, the rest of the chain is part of Alaska.

The Sino-Russian force consisted of a mix of ships, including missile destroyers as well as what appeared to be at least one support vessel. The training carried out included joint helicopter operations, with aircraft flying from each other’s decks, as well as an anti-submarine exercise in the western Aleutians. A Surface Action Group is structured to attack enemy ships but can also defend itself against attack submarines.

US Navy Responds

US officials aren’t saying how close the force came to US territory beyond the fact it didn’t break the 12-mile territorial limit. However, it’s obviously caused some nervousness. When China and Russia ran a similar exercise last September, the US sent a single Coast Guard cutter to monitor it. This year the response was much firmer. US Northern Command, which controls all forces in the region, said it had sent “Air and maritime assets” to ensure security. Those assets consisted of four Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyers — the USS John S McCain, USS Benfold, USS Chung-Hoon and USS John Finn — as well as a P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft.

It’s likely the heavier US response was linked to Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine. As Russian weapon stockpiles run down, it’s forming increasingly close links with China, which can resupply it with equipment. At the same time, Beijing is keeping a close eye on the West’s response to the invasion — because it wants to know how we’d respond to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. By sending a powerful force to monitor the latest exercise, the Pentagon is trying to show that we still have the military muscle to stand up to totalitarian states.

Copyright 2023,