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

13 September 2018
Russian Federation joined by China for biggest 'war games' since Soviet era

They have been held every four years since Russian President Vladimir Putin revived them in the mid-2000s, but, this year, Russia's military said they are on an unprecedented scale, passing the previous largest that was held by the Soviet Union in 1981.

"We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defense spheres", said Putin, who also posed for a photo op with his Chinese counterpart to cook up traditional blini pancakes.

Russian officials have said that the war games are not meant as a threat to any particular country but are justified by what Putin's spokesman described on August 28 as a hostile global environment.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov argued the exercises were "justified" in "the current worldwide situation" given "aggressive and unfriendly" attitudes towards Russian Federation.

Hong Kong-based commentator Song Zhongping said China is anxious to acquire more experience in large-scale operations that might become a factor in a conflict with the US and others over territorial claims in Asia.

Since then Moscow has increased the number of its large-scale military exercises in the Caucasus, the Baltic and the Arctic.

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

The September 11-17 exercises, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018) and billed by Moscow as its biggest in decades - or in history - come amid persistently high tension between Moscow and the West and are being closely watched by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Moscow said the weeklong Vostok (East) 2018 maneuvers will span vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific Oceans and involve almost 300,000 Russian troops - almost one-third of the country's 1-million-strong military.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns on Tuesday.

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

- Vostok-2018 it includes 297,000 servicemen. "There is also an element of theatre in this exercise".

In 2017, Russian Federation conducted series of military drills in its western regions, in collaboration with Belarus.

The exercises are taking place at a time of heightened tensions between the West and Russia, including accusations of Russian influence in Western affairs and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

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

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