Russia to launch biggest war games in its history
Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops will take part in the country's largest-ever military drills Tuesday, in a massive show of force featuring Chinese soldiers that has rattled the West. The week-long deployment dubbed "Vostok-2018" (East-2018), which will kick off in eastern Siberia and includes the Chinese and Mongolian armies, has been condemned by NATO as a rehearsal for "large-scale conflict". Here's more.
Russian 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 prominent guests. The military exercises come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and 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. But Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said this time would be even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in drills.
The Russian Army will roll out all of its latest additions for the event, including Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes. At sea, the Russian fleet will deploy several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria. NATO said that Vostok-2018 "demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict".
Last month, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's "ability to defend itself in the current international situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without an alternative." Relations between Russia and the West declined sharply in 2014 with Moscow's annexation of Crimea and subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia has also accused NATO of threatening Russian national security.