Russia launches its biggest ever war games involving China

Russia stages world’s largest military drills, NATO worried

Russian Federation today launched its largest ever war games involving hundreds of thousands of battle-ready troops alongside their Chinese comrades in arms.

The global military exercise, named Vostok-2018, will involve 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships, according to Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

Tensions have been heightened between Russian Federation and the West in the wake of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and the Novichok attack in Salisbury.

Putin admitted Russian Federation had forged close ties with China and said: "We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defence spheres".

However, the military drills they had until now were far smaller in scale, reflecting China's caution about alliances.

Tanks roll during the military exercises in Chita, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises, September 11, 2018.

Some 3,500 Chinese troops will take part in the games.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the training "fits into a pattern we have seen over some time, a more assertive Russian Federation, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence".

Maintaining Russia's defence capabilities is "justified as rival powers are frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in August in comments carried by state news agency, TASS.

He said that an increasingly unpredictable geopolitical climate made partnership between Russian Federation and China particularly important.

Alex Kokcharov, a Russia analyst at the London-based risk assessment firm HIS Markit, said that China has never before participated in war games on Russian soil that were not under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Vostock includes many smaller scale exercises that happen every year and obsolete equipment has also been put into use, apparently to inflate the war games size, Jack Watling, an expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), wrote in an article this month.

He added: "Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time - tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible".

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.

"Russia has very strong real combat abilities and the participation of the [People's Liberation Army] in such a large-scale military exercise ... indicates China's intention to learn more valuable combat practices and lift its ability for joint combat", Mr Song said.

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