Russian Federation holds biggest military drills since Soviet era

Leroy Wright
September 13, 2018

This opinion was shared by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which said that Vostok-2018 "demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict".

Watling, an expert at RUSI, said the drills also help Russian Federation and China develop their capacity to make small-scale interventions in hotspots overseas, as Russian Federation already appears to be doing in the Central African Republic, as a means to have more heft on the world's stage.

Russia's largest war games in recent history have kicked off in the Far East.

"We have a trusting relationship [with China] in the spheres of politics, security, and defense", Putin said at the start of his meeting with Xi.

By chance or design, the exercise - which is to involve more than 1,000 military aircraft, two Russian naval fleets and all Russian airborne units - is taking place while Russian President Vladimir Putin holds talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.

Dubbed Vostok-2018, the war games involve hundreds of thousands of troops, armoured vehicles, tanks, drones and warships.

From China's perspective, the emerging military alliance with Russian Federation sends a strong signal to the US and its ally Japan as Beijing moves to defend its interests in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, as well as Taiwan and the Senkaku and Diaoyu islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last month said Russia's "ability to defend itself in the current global situation is justified, essential and without alternative".

Chinese military vehicles through a field in Chita, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises, September 11, 2018.

The bulk of the troops taking part in the five-day drills in eastern Russia near the Chinese border are Russian: 300,000 vs. about 3,200 from China.

"This is a milestone for Sino-Russian military ties", Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on Twitter. "These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces", he said.

Russian Federation has faced ever harsher sanctions since angering the West and Kiev by annexing Crimea in 2014 and backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The drills are being held in Russia's Eastern and Central military districts, which encompass more than half of the country's territory.

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.

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