Russia reportedly plans to holds its largest military exercises since the height of the Cold War next month, including approximately 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft.
The Vostok-2018 exercises are slated to take place in eastern and central Russia from Sept. 11-15, and will involve almost a third of the nation’s soldiers, the Russian news agency TASS reported.
Gen. Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, compared the Vostok exercises to Zapad-81 in 1981, which involved training for a possible conflict with NATO nations.
Russia planning largest military exercise since Cold War: August 23, 2018 — Russia is preparing to stage its largest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Vostok-2018 exercise will take place across the Far East and Siberia and involve… https://t.co/9REOxBwKOs pic.twitter.com/dyE6XS4QG7
— Graphic News (@GNgraphicnews) August 24, 2018
“In some ways, they resemble the Zapad-81 drills, but in other ways they are, perhaps, even larger. Over 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 servicemen at almost all the training ranges of the Central and Eastern Military Districts and, naturally, the Pacific and Northern Fleets and the Airborne Force will be fully employed,” the defense minister said.
“Just imagine that 36,000 pieces of military hardware are simultaneously in motion: These are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all this is, naturally, checked in conditions close to a combat environment,” Shoigu added. The scale of the exercise rivals some of the largest battles in World War II in Russia.
Military personnel from China and Mongolia will be joining in the maneuvers.
The BBC reported that the Chinese defense ministry characterized the exercises as an indication of a deepening military cooperation with Russia and “enhancing both sides’ capabilities to jointly respond to various security threats.”
The ministry revealed that Chinese involvement to be “3,200 troops, more than 900 pieces of military hardware as well as 30 fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters.”
The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford wrote, “The scale and scope of Vostok-2018 is unprecedented for modern Russia, but no surprise. The giant drill is clearly meant as a show of strength by Vladimir Putin and his military, a demonstration that — despite Western sanctions, including against the defence sector — the country remains defiant.”
“It’s also a reminder that while Russia is seen as a hostile and aggressive force in the West, Moscow has long seen NATO encroachment as the threat,” she added. “President Putin’s spokesman argued that Vostok was essential, in what he called a ‘very aggressive and unfriendly’ international context.”
NATO spokesman Dylan White said his organization was briefed on Vostok-2018 in May and will be monitoring the exercises.
“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” White said. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: A more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence.”
In June, NATO conducted its eighth annual Saber Strike military exercises in the Eastern European nations of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, AFP reported.
The maneuvers involved 18,000 soldiers from 19 mostly NATO countries.
NATO has sought to raise its profile in Eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine.
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