The military of Russia has warships visiting the port of Hong Kong for the first time in modern history in a non-official port call.

The Russians two ships, the guided missile cruiser Varyag and the tanker Pechenga, are based with the Russian Pacific Fleet at Vladivostok. And the purpose of the public visit is two-fold. It is a Russian attempt to boost their presence in the region where they haven’t been in a very long time and it shows a thawing of relations between Russia and China. And a third unstated purpose is to thumb their nose at the United States, who have been visiting the port of Hong Kong since the British settled there in the 1840s.

While port calls to Hong Kong by the US Navy are common, there has been no such arrangement for the Russian Navy.

Hong Kong is final stop for the two ships before returning to their home base. They also visited Busan in South Korea, Manila, Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, Sattahip in Thailand and Singapore.

The visit to Hong Kong was aimed to strengthen Sino-Russian relations, Captain Alexey Ulianenko, commander of the detachment, said on Monday.

It was possible that the ships might also visit other cities in China and Japan on the current deployment, said another senior officer, Alexander Gorbachevsky, but no such orders had been received so far.

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“Although the Varyag is not that advanced in modern military technology, it can still impress countries like the Philippines and Vietnam, who have competing maritime interests with China. In this way, Russia is taking advantage of China’s trust to sail in the South China Sea and perhaps secure business or even military deals.”

Commissioned in 1989 for the Soviet Navy, the Varyag features an array of deadly anti-ship, anti-sub and anti-aircraft weaponry. It has a crew of 520 and a maximum of speed of 32 knots (59km/h).

The Russians under Putin, continue to expand their influence and their fleet, while not up to the Soviet Union size is a formidable foe. And it least for now, with the Chinese and Russians cooperating, it will give the US more to think about in the region. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

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Photo courtesy SCMP