Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Russia Launches Biggest-Ever War Games. China Participates Too

A boy looks through the gun sight of a bazooka next to military men at a weapon exhibition during the celebrations of 'Tank's Day' in Sertolovo town outside Saint Petersburg Russia stages world’s largest military drills, NATO worried
Faye Gross | 12 September, 2018, 12:58

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

Exercises similar in scale have not been held since 1981 when the Zapad-81 drills that involved about 100,000 troops were held in the Soviet Union's Belarusian, Kiev and Baltic Military Districts and in the Baltic Sea.

The five-day military exercise known as the Vostok-2018 drills in Russia's eastern and central military districts has mobilized nearly a third of the country's soldiers, making it the largest Russian or Soviet military exercise since 1981, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement last month.

Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the games were a "preparation for a future world war".

Moscow and Beijing have forged what they described as a "strategic partnership", expressing their shared opposition to the "unipolar" world, the term they use to describe perceived USA global domination.

Xi Jinping, left, met Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

"They feel they need to embrace to deal with the increasingly high pressure and containment from the USA", said Yue Gang, a military expert and retired Chinese army colonel.

The Russian 9K720 Iskander missile system carrier.

China's participation will enhance its counterattack abilities and reinforce ties with Russia, Chinese government officials said Tuesday.

The Chinese media touted the Chinese involvement in the maneuvers as the country's largest-ever dispatch of forces overseas for war games.

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

But Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said this time would be even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in the drills. "If Russia had not invited China, that would have been viewed by Beijing as a potentially risky activity by Russia".

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.

For Russia, the increasingly robust alliance with China is particularly important amid the growing tensions with the USA and its allies, and a looming threat of more biting U.S. sanctions. "They demonstrate the seriousness of our intentions".

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 Pentagon are expected to be watching exercises closely, an expert told CNBC.

"We're aware of Russia's right to sovereignty and to exercise in order to ensure their readiness", he said.

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

Vladimir Isachenkov reported from Moscow.

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