Russian Federation joined by China for biggest 'war games' since Soviet era

Erika Holt
September 13, 2018

The exercise kicked off on Tuesday along with a bilateral meeting between Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

"We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defense spheres", said Putin, who also posed for a photo op with his Chinese counterpart to cook up traditional blini pancakes.

For his part, Xi said the two countries' "friendship is getting stronger all the time".

As well as Russian soldiers, those of China and Mongolia will also be involved, offering clear evidence of closer ties between Moscow and Beijing.

While both Russian Federation and China have said the manoeuvres are not directed against other countries they do coincide with Nato's Rapid Trident 2018 military exercise in Ukraine, which started on September 3 and ends on Saturday.

In the strategic drills, the PLA and Russian armed forces have formed a joint operational commanding system, under which military forces from the two countries will hold joint exercises including mechanized defense,fire strike and counter-attack training.

The planned week-long manoeuvres will be the largest since 1981, according to Russia's Defence Ministry.

- The exercise will be spread across five army training grounds, four airbases and areas in the Sea of Japan, Bering Straits and Sea of Okhotsk.

The Russian army will roll out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.

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Warships equipped with Kalibr missiles, which have been deployed in Syria, will also play their part in the drill as forces are tested in real combat conditions.

"Vostok demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict".

"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.

But Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns.

"This is a very important exercise, but it is still part of the annual routine development of the Russian armed forces", he said.

"The reason is a simple one: unlike the rest of the world, Russian Federation thinks that a state of hostility now exists between it and Europe which is just as unsafe and threatening as during the Cold War, and it needs to prepare for warfare on a huge scale accordingly".

However, sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West in response to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, coupled with tighter trade links, have seen them grow closer in recent years.

The Kremlin has also accused North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of expanding westwards and threatening Russian national security.

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