Published: Wed, September 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Russian Federation begins its largest ever military exercise with 300,000 soldiers

Russian Federation begins its largest ever military exercise with 300,000 soldiers

The start of the exercises coincided with a bilateral meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping at a forum in Valdivostok, where they vowed to fight attacks on their economies.

Taking part in the drills are around 300,000 Russian soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and drones, as well as 3,500 Chinese troops.

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.

Some experts pointed out that the USA helped spawn closer Russia-China military ties by labeling them strategic competitors.

Some of the first exercises will revolve around anti-aircraft technology, according to Russia's defence ministry. Mongolia also has sent a military contingent.

The exercises are taking place at a time of heightened tensions between the West and Russia, including accusations of Russian influence in Western affairs and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

The People's Liberation Army, China's military, was "still in the process of acquiring combined arms training and expertise as it transformed into an informationised and modern fighting force", he said.

But Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the latest exercises are even larger. The exercise will be spread across five army training grounds, four airbases and areas in the Sea of Japan, the Bering Strait and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Russian Federation will showcase some of its latest military hardware at Vostok-2018, including nuclear-capable Iskander missiles T-90 tanks and Su-35 fighter jets.

Eighty warships are taking part and the Russian fleet is deploying several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles - the same type that been used in Syria.

"It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time - a more assertive Russian Federation, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence", the alliance's spokesman Dylan White said late August. "These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces", he said.

Peskov has earlier said Russia's "ability to defend itself in the current global situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative".

Relations between Moscow and Beijing have always been marked by mutual wariness, with Russian nationalists warning of encroaching Chinese influence in the nation's mineral-rich far east, but Russia pivoted east toward China after the West sanctioned Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and trade links between the two, who share a land border more than 4,200km long, have blossomed since.

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.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokesperson Dylan White said that the military organization has been briefed about the exercise in May and it would monitor it. "Vostok demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict". 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.

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