Russia is preparing to hold the biggest military drill for almost 40 years, since Soviet Union times.
China and Mongolia will also participate in the drills and will be of “unprecedented” scale, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, cited by RT. The series of drills, titled Vostok-2018 will take place in Russia’s Siberia and Far east and will be “of unprecedented scale when it comes both to geographical coverage and to the total number of troops and forces taking part in it,” the Russian defense minister added.
Shoigu also said that the drills will be bigger than the biggest exercises held in Soviet time in 1981 on the territory of Belarus, Ukraine, three Baltic republics and some countries in the Warsaw Pact.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said President Vladimir Putin could attend the exercise.
The total number of troops that will partake in the exercise has not been confirmed. China has announced that it will send upwards of 3,000 troops to participate. RT also cited the Chinese Defense Ministry who said that More than 900 pieces of military hardware as well as 30 warplanes and helicopters will also be deployed to Russia as part of the exercise.
The drills are poised to exceed the scale of the Zapad-2017 exercises, staged by Russia last year. As RT reported those drills – which involved some 12,700 troops, 70 military aircraft, 10 ships and some 680 ground vehicles – sparked accusations that Russia had surpassed the declared number of troops participating, and even more alarming claims that the drills were cover for an “invasion” of neighboring countries.
RT reported that the Zapad wargames, despite their deterring and defensive nature, were widely used by NATO officials and mass media to fuel the Russian aggression narrative and to further justify the NATO building of forces in Eastern Europe.
Back in 2017, as a response to Zapad-2017 Poland organized its “national” Dragon 17 exercise. It was national only formally, since it involved contingents from the US, the UK, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia and Ukraine. The troops that partook in Dragon 17 far exceeded those that were part of Zapad-2017.
Military Times reported that a smaller, separate exercise took place on August 20th under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group dominated by Moscow and Beijing, Chinese warplanes landed Monday at a Russian air base in the Chelyabinsk region in the Ural Mountains.
Military Times also reported that the Russian military has increased both the scope and frequency of its maneuvers amid tensions with the West. It also has expanded military ties with China. The outlet further claims that the two countries have forged what they described as a “strategic partnership,” expressing their shared opposition to the “unipolar” world — the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.
NATO also held large military drills, notably Saber Strike 18, which took place between June 3rd and June 15th. The massive US-led exercise involved 18,000 soldiers from 19 nations, primarily NATO members. The exercise took place near the Russian border in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Moscow responded to the exercises as calling it a provocation and that it increases “mutual distrust.” US Army Europe said that “Saber Strike 18 is not a provocation of Russia but an exercise with our allies. This is what normal deterrence business looks like.”
Before the exercise took place, Poland revealed that it is considering proposing a permanent deployment of US troops to the country, Russia denounced the move as a “gradual expansion of NATO” towards its borders.
There is also a massive NATO military exercise that is to take place in October. Trident Juncture will include 40,000 U.S. and allied troops which will converge on the sea and in the air over Norway. The exercise will envisage an armed attack against Norway, a scenario that presumably seems real after the recent increase in tensions between Russia and NATO. Sweden, a country which has an “enhanced opportunity” partnership with NATO, has never taken part in exercises in the past, however will take part in Trident Juncture.
The NATO exercises are a show of force and part of the US Department of Defense’s policy of strengthening deterrence against Russia in Europe.
Vostok-2018 is also a defensive exercise and is purely aimed at deterrence. It also will be a presentation of military power by Russia and China.