Russia has announced that it is planning to hold massive war games involving 300,000 military personnel next month. This exercise will be the biggest military manoeuvre held by the country since a Cold War drill in 1981.
The exercise will involve 300,000 troops supported by 1,000 aircraft and two of its naval fleets will also take part in the drills, Russia’s defence minister said today. The Vostok-2018 exercises will be carried out from September 11 to 15. "This will be something of a repeat of Zapad-81, but in some senses even bigger," Sergei Shoigu said of the 1981 war games in Eastern Europe, in comments reported by Russian news agencies.
He said "more than 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 troops and almost all the ranges of the Central and Eastern military districts" would be involved in the exercises. "Imagine 36,000 pieces of military equipment moving together at the same time -- tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles. And all of this, of course, in conditions as close to combat as possible."
Russia also disclosed that it has invited China to participate in the war games which will be held across Siberia and the Russian Far East.
The Chinese defence ministry put out a neutral statement which underlined deepening military co-operation and "enhancing both sides' capabilities to jointly respond to various security threats". But it did say the exercises would "not target any third party".
The ministry also confirmed the extent of the Chinese involvement - "3,200 troops, more than 900 pieces of military hardware as well as 30 fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters" - and confirmed the location - the Tsugol training range in Russia's Trans-Baikal region. Some of the forces have already arrived.
The scale of Vostok-2018 is equivalent to the forces deployed in one of the big World War Two battles.
The announcement of these war games comes in the backdrop of continued tensions between NATO and Russia. Distrust has only increased since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Nato has since reacted with an increased deployment of forces in eastern Europe, sending 4,000 troops to member nations which Russia has called provocative.