Russia on Tuesday will launch the biggest military drills in its history,
with the war games to involve 300,000 troops as well as Chinese soldiers, in a
move NATO denounced as “exercising large-scale conflict.”
The weeklong deployment alongside Chinese and Mongolian armies dubbed Vostok-2018 (East-2018) will start in eastern Siberia on Sept. 11.
It comes at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR’s 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in Zapad-81 (West-81) — the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.
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, as well as its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.
At sea, the Russian fleet will deploy several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles, which have been used in Syria.
Russia’s previous military exercise in the region, Vostok-2014, was almost half the size, with 155,000 soldiers participating.
The country’s war games in Eastern Europe last year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part according to Moscow. Ukraine and the Baltic states said the true number was far bigger.
President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend Vostok-2018 after hosting an economic forum in Russia’s far eastern city Vladivostok, where his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is one of the star guests.
Russia has denied the drills are a cause for worry.
Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Since then Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic.
At the same time the Kremlin has accused NATO of expanding eastwards and threatening Russian national security.
This week, Russia held military exercises in the Mediterranean.