Russian Federation joined by China for biggest 'war games' since Soviet era

Russia stages world’s largest military drills, NATO worried

Analysts have said that Moscow had to invite the Chinese and Mongolian militaries given the proximity of the war games to their borders and because the scale meant the neighboring nations would probably have seen them as a threat had they been excluded. Putin is expected to visit the war games later this week.

NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said that the training "fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russian Federation, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence".

Peskov has earlier said Russia's "ability to defend itself in the current worldwide situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative".

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said Beijing, which regards the defence of its sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and the self-ruled island of Taiwan as core interests, needed to strengthen its capabilities in preparation for possible real-life military conflicts.

Russian Federation has substantially increased the size and frequency of its military exercises in recent years, particularly following its invasion of Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin has insisted the exercises are routine and purely defensive.

But Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said that Vostok-2018 "demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict".

Russia's Defence Ministry boasted on Monday that the drill will be the largest since Zapad-81, when the USSR held war games involving around 150,000 troops.

Most experts say the figure of 300,000 is likely an exaggeration with not all of those actually taking part in the field exercises.

"It is important not to exaggerate the significance of the Vostock 2018 drills", Watling wrote.

He added: "Russia also thinks that the worldwide reactions to its appalling behaviour over recent years - including the seizure of Crimea, aggression against Ukraine, causing and abetting untold suffering in Syria, the attempted murder of the Skripals and more - are just more indications of this "aggressive and unfriendly" attitude by the rest of the world".

While both Russian Federation and China have said the manoeuvres are not directed against other countries they do coincide with Nato's Rapid Trident 2018 military exercise in Ukraine, which started on September 3 and ends on Saturday.

"The war games have laid a foundation for China and Russian Federation to enhance cooperation on worldwide arena and will lift the combat proficiency of both sides", he said.

The latter comprise six Mi-171s, which were bought from Russian Federation in 2014 and are making their first appearance in such an exercise, nine Z-9s and nine Z-19s.

"The key question is not whether Russian Federation will launch a war against NATO", Watling wrote, "but where Russian Federation - and China for that matter - aim to use their burgeoning capacity for expeditionary logistics and combined operations to project power".

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