Russia launches biggest war games since Cold War
Moscow, Sep. 11 (IANS): Russia on Tuesday launched its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, with the participation of around 300,000 troops in eastern Siberia, the Defence Ministry said.
China was sending 3,200 troops to take part in “Vostok-2018”, with many Chinese armoured vehicles and aircraft. Mongolia was also sending some units, the BBC reported.
The last Russian exercise of similar scale took place in 1981 during the Cold War, but Vostok-2018 involves more troops and the week-long manoeuvres come at a time of heightened Nato-Russia tensions.
According to Efe news, members of the Eastern and Central military districts as well as ships of the Pacific and Northern Fleets, the Airborne Force, more than 1,000 aircraft and around 36,000 tanks as well as other armoured vehicles were expected to take part in the Vostok-2018 exercises.
As the exercises began, Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok and told him “we have a trusting relationship in the sphere of politics, security and defence”.
The actual operations will start on Thursday and last five days, said General Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian general staff.
Relations between Russia and Nato — a 29-member defence alliance dominated by the US — worsened since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the drills were justified given “aggressive and unfriendly” attitudes towards Russia. The drills, set to conclude on September 17, will be carried out in two stages.
In the the first phase, troops will be deployed in the Russian Far East, the North-Pacific and the Northern Sea, while the second phase would test inter-forces coordination in both defensive and attack operations.
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. Up to 80 naval vessels will take part, from two Russian fleets.
The scale of Vostok-2018 is equivalent to the forces deployed in one of the big World War II battles, the BBC said.
NATO spokesman Dylan White said he was briefed on Vostok-2018 in May and would monitor it. He said “all nations have the right to exercise their armed forces, but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner”.