WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Russia will hold its biggest war games next month since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
- The exercise, called Vostok-2018, will involve nearly 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all of its airborne units.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that Chinese and Mongolian military units will participate in the war games.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Tuesday that Russia will hold its biggest war games on Sept. 11-15. The massive exercise is the country’s biggest since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The military exercise, dubbed Vostok-2018 (East-2018), will be held in central and eastern Russian military districts. The drill will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two naval fleets, and its full airborne force. The Chinese and Mongolian armies will also participate in the drill.
“Imagine 36,000 armored vehicles – tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored infantry vehicles – moving and working simultaneously, and that all this, naturally, is being tested in conditions as close as possible to military ones,” Shoigu said.
There is an existing tension between the West and Russia, stating an unexplained ‘build-up’ of the NATO military alliance on the western side.
NATO explained that it has strengthened its forces in eastern Europe to discourage a potential Russian military action after “Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine,” Reuters reported.
Vostok-2018 will likely concern Japan, which has already complained about a Russian military build-up in the Far East. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be in Vladivostok, Russia over the same period to attend a forum.
Shoigu noted the war games would be the biggest since Zapad-81 (West-81), a Soviet military exercise in 1981.
“In some ways they will repeat aspects of Zapad-81, but in other ways the scale will be bigger,” Shoigu said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked if China’s participation meant Moscow and Beijing are now allied. Peskov said that it meant that the two countries were cooperating in all areas.
NATO Spokesman Dylan White said the alliance will monitor the military exercise.
In an emailed statement, White said: “All nations have the right to exercise their armed forces, but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner.”
“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”