Russia starts biggest war games since Soviet fall near China

Leroy Wright
September 12, 2018

The ministry of defence said that nearly a third of its active military personnel was taking part in the week-long exercises in Siberia and the Russian far east, although independent analysts suggested that the numbers may have been overstated. Mongolia also sent a small contingent.

"These are very important drills and they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces", Dimitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.

The main aim was to check the military's readiness to move troops large distances, to test how closely infantry and naval forces cooperated, and to ideal command and control procedures.

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The war games demonstrate "Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict", North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokesman Dylan White said in late August, stating that the Western alliance had been briefed about Vostok-2018 and would monitor it.

Russian Federation also staged a major naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean this month and its jets resumed bombing the Syrian region of Idlib, the last major enclave of rebels fighting its ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Alex Kokcharov, a Russia analyst at the London-based risk assessment firm HIS Markit, said that China has never before participated in war games on Russian soil that were not under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

"Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles - and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible", Shoigu said.

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The Russian army is rolling out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.

At sea, the Russian fleet will deploy several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria.

Vostok 2018 are the biggest military exercises or so-called "war games" since the Cold War and the Zapad drills in 1981.

He noted that China feels that the Washington's hostile attitude and actions, such as deploying the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, relieve it of any need to take USA views into consideration when deepening strategic trust with Moscow.

Last month, the Kremlin´s spokesman said Russia´s "ability to defend itself in the current worldwide situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative". That alone would be enough to make headlines, but another twist has cinched it: China is taking part in the war games as well-the first time Russian Federation has invited any country beyond its former Soviet satellites, notes the Wall Street Journal.

Relations between Russian Federation and the West have been severely strained by Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.

Part of Russia's response has been to increase the number of large-scale military exercises across the globe in an apparent bid to project power and ward off perceived Western aggression. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.

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