Russia starts biggest war games since Soviet fall near China

Russia starts biggest war games since Soviet fall near China

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.

The location of the exercises close to Japan, North and South Korea and China suggest that Russian Federation is keen to increase its influence in the region, and Mr Putin himself underlined this message with a visit to Vladivostok this week to meet with Chinese opposite number Xi Jinping.

In total, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two Russian naval fleets, up to 36,000 tanks and armoured vehicles plus all Russian airborne units took part. Thirty-six thousand tanks, 80 ships, and nearly 1,000 aircraft are also taking part, according to the ministry.

The last war games in Vostok were in 2014 but were nearly half of the size with 155,000 soldiers taking part.

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.

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.

Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian army colonel and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, said: "With its Vostok 2018 exercise Russia sends a message that it regards the USA as a potential enemy and China as a potential ally".

Chinese President Xi for his part said the two countries' "friendship is getting stronger all the time".

China's official People's Liberation Army Daily said on Wednesday that the drill was aimed at maintaining regional peace, was not aimed at any third party and did not "have anything to do with the regional situation".




Experts said in reality neither China or Russian Federation believe the two are close to a full-fledged military alliance, but the joint drills nonetheless reflected how much more cooperative the two countries' relationship has become, after decades of suspicion during the Soviet period.

The exercise is meant to test the capability of the Russian military.

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

But Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns.

The drills kicked off close to Russia's border with China on Tuesday and will run through Saturday.

The week-long war games dubbed "Vostok-2018" (East-2018), "have kicked off" in far eastern Russian Federation and on the Pacific Ocean, the defense ministry said in a statement.

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.

Giles said Moscow's foreign policy decisions are "driven by delusions" such as the notion "Russia matters" and "hostile powers" are lining up to invade the country.

Russian Federation has denied the drills are a cause for worry.

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