Russian Federation launches largest military drill since Cold War

Frederick Owens
September 12, 2018

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 Vostk-2018 and would monitor it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the games after hosting an economic forum in Russia's far eastern city Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is one of the prominent guests.

The global military exercise, named Vostok-2018, will involve 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships, according to Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu. Thirty-six thousand tanks, 80 ships, and nearly 1,000 aircraft are also taking part, according to the ministry.

Some 3,500 Chinese troops will take part in the games.

China's presence is being seen as a signal from both countries emphasizing their cooperation at a moment when Moscow and Beijing find themselves in a confrontation with the United States.

Russia´s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was nearly half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating.

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.

China and Russian Federation have staged joint drills before but not on such a large scale, and the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) exercise signals closer military ties as well as sending an unspoken reminder to Beijing that Moscow is able and ready to defend its sparsely populated far east.

Last month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov 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".

"The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defense and counterattack", a China defense ministry statement said.

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"Fundamentally, the goal of this specific exercise is to project Russian military power in the Asia-Pacific region", Kokcharov said.

When asked if he was concerned about a potential military alliance between Russian Federation and China in the future, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not see the two countries aligned in the long-term.

Russian Federation on Tuesday launched its largest military exercise at the Tsugol training range in Russia's Trans-Baikal region in eastern Siberia.

- Vostok-2018 it includes 297,000 servicemen.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns on Tuesday.

"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.

Whereas during the drills on its western borders last year, known as Zapad 2017, Russian Federation was accused of downplaying the number of troops involved, this year's war games are the opposite, with Moscow apparently eager to flaunt their scale.

Shoigu has said they are the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981.

The drills, however, allow Russian Federation to practice mobilizing and effectively transporting a large number of forces.

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