Russian Federation launches largest military drill since Cold War

Russian Federation launches largest military drill since Cold War

Russian Federation launches largest military drill since Cold War

They have been held every four years since Russian President Vladimir Putin revived them in the mid-2000s, but, this year, Russia's military said they are on an unprecedented scale, passing the previous largest that was held by the Soviet Union in 1981.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the war games after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where Chinese leader Xi Jinping is one of the guests.

But Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said these exercises are even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in the drills.

Some of the first exercises will revolve around anti-aircraft technology, according to Russia's defence ministry.

The last war games in Vostok were in 2014 but were nearly half of the size with 155,000 soldiers taking part.

They also serve as an exercise in "military muscle-flexing" to Russia's global rivals.

"With its Vostok 2018 exercise Russia sends a message that it regards the U.S.as a potential enemy and China as a potential ally", wrote Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian army colonel and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.

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.

"The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defence and counter-attack", China's defence ministry said in a statement.

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 latter comprise six Mi-171s, which were bought from Russian Federation in 2014 and are making their first appearance in such an exercise, nine Z-9s and nine Z-19s. Vostock includes many smaller scale exercises that happen every year and obsolete equipment has also been put into use, apparently to inflate the war games size, Jack Watling, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), wrote in an article this month.

Tanks roll during the military exercises in Chita, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises, September 11, 2018.

The war games are held a year after Russian Federation staged major drills in the country's west last September, unnerving neighbouring former Soviet republics.

"Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles - and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible", Shoigu said.

It involved deploying forces to Russia's far east and building up its Northern and Pacific fleets.

"Vostok-2018 is far from NATO´s area of responsibility and does not affect the security of its member states", the Russian foreign ministry´s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Giles said Moscow's foreign policy decisions are "driven by delusions" such as the notion "Russia matters" and "hostile powers" are lining up to invade the country.

While simulating a great power conflict, experts say the drills do not mean Russian Federation is preparing to fight with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation rather, some say, Moscow is using the war games as a form of aggressive diplomacy, meant to impress and intimidate western countries and to persuade them to be more accommodating of Russia's interest.

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