Russia prepares for biggest war games in its history

Map showing planned Russian military manoeuvres for

- Up to 80 naval vessels and support ships from two Russian fleets will take part in the war drill, reports said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Russian Federation this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin at an economic forum in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok.

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

Dubbed Vostok-2018, the war games involve hundreds of thousands of troops, armoured vehicles, tanks, drones and warships.

"The fact that the last thing Europe and the United States want is any open conflict with Russian Federation is immaterial - it may take two to tango, but it doesn't take two sides to start a war".

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

Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian army colonel and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, said: "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".

China and Russian Federation have staged joint drills before but not on such a large scale, and the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) exercise signals closer military ties as well as sending an unspoken reminder to Beijing that Moscow is able and ready to defend its sparsely populated far east.

Chinese President Xi for his part said the two countries' "friendship is getting stronger all the time".

"China, by sending a PLA element to train with the Russians, is signalling that US pressure is pushing it towards much closer military cooperation with Moscow".




China's official People's Liberation Army Daily said on Wednesday that the drill was aimed at maintaining regional peace, was not aimed at any third party and did not "have anything to do with the regional situation".

Joint military drills are not uncommon but are rarely seen on such a large scale.

The Vostok 2018 exercise will last until September 17.

That alone would be enough to make headlines, but another twist has cinched it: China is taking part in the war games as well-the first time Russian Federation has invited any country beyond its former Soviet satellites, notes the Wall Street Journal.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has derided the provocative exercise, lasting for five days between September 11-15, as "exercising large-scale conflict" as hostility between Russian Federation and the West continues to esculate.

"Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving all at the same time; tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles - and all of these in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible", Sergey Shoigu, Russia's defense minister, said this month.

Watling, an expert at RUSI, said the drills also help Russian Federation and China develop their capacity to make small-scale interventions in hotspots overseas, as Russian Federation already appears to be doing in the Central African Republic, as a means to have more heft on the world's stage.

Forces from 10 member nations are taking part in the drills amid an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists.

In a statement in August, Gen. Sergi Shoigu, supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces, said the games would be at an "unprecedented scale both in territory and number of troops involved".

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