Russia includes China in biggest war games in decades

Russia began its war games — the largest show of military force since the height of the Cold War nearly four decades ago — Tuesday, amid heightened tensions with the United States.

Koalitsiya-SV tanks participate in Russia's Victory Day military parade on May 9 in Red Square, Moscow. File Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Koalitsiya-SV tanks participate in Russia’s Victory Day military parade on May 9 in Red Square, Moscow. File Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE

The five-day military exercise known as the Vostok-2018 drills in Russia’s eastern and central military districts has mobilized almost a third of the country’s soldiers, making it the largest Russian or Soviet military exercise since 1981, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement last month.

In addition to mobilizing 300,000 Russian troops, the exercise includes 1,000 aircraft and 36,000 military vehicles, South China Morning Post reported, which is the biggest show of force since Zapad-81 drills at the height of the Cold War.

The drills kicked off close to Russia’s border with China on Tuesday and will run through Saturday. The drills are underway at five military training grounds in Russia’s Far East region, and in the waters of the East Sea, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.

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The demonstration of military might will include some joint exercises with the Chinese army.

About 3,200 Chinese troops, more than 900 pieces of weaponry and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters will participate in joint training to conduct fire strike and counterattacks, the Chinese Defense Ministry said.

China’s participation will enhance its counterattack abilities and reinforce ties with Russia, Chinese government officials said Tuesday.

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“The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defense and counterattack,” a China defense ministry statement said. It also “signifies that the political strategic trust and military cooperation between China and Russia has reached a historic high.”

U.S.-China tensions have heightened with an ongoing trade war. U.S.-Russia tensions have also increased with the Pentagon recently sending more than 100 U.S. Marines to reinforce a coalition outpost in southern Syria after a threatened attack from Russia, according to U.S. officials.

“Cooperation in traditional security fields between China and Russia has a very clear target,” the United States, Song Zhoping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, told the South China Morning Post. “Beijing and Moscow have to show Washington that they have an unbreakable strategic partnership.”

BySommer Brokaw