Russia is to hold its biggest military manoeuvres since the height of the Cold War next month, mobilizing about 300,000 troops and including the participation of thousands of soldiers from China, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
The Vostok-2018 exercises in Russia’s eastern and central military districts — spanning from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific coast — from Sept. 11-15 will involve almost a third of the country’s soldiers, making them the largest since 1981, Shoigu said, according to a ministry press release. Some 1,000 aircraft and both the Northern and Pacific fleets will be deployed.
“Imagine 36,000 tanks and armoured personnel carriers all moving at the same time,” the defence minister said. “This will all be tested under conditions as close as possible to war.”
Russia stoked alarm a year ago when it staged major war games on its western flank neighbouring Poland and the Baltic States that NATO said involved 100,000 troops — far above the 13,000 soldiers that Russian officials said took part. Next month’s military exercises will be the most ambitious since the “Zapad-81” drills in 1981 staged by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Chinese and Mongolian forces will also participate.
“In some ways, these manoeuvres repeat Zapad-81, but in others they’re probably even bigger,” Shoigu said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the drills were needed to ensure Russia’s military capabilities “in the current international situation, which is often quite aggressive and unfriendly to our country.”