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Russia hosting biggest post-Soviet war games

August 28, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of troops are expected to participate in Russia's biggest military maneuver since the Cold War. Also taking part in eastern Russia at its "Vostok-2018" drill will be Chinese and Mongolian forces.

Russian military maneuver Sapad 2017
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/Vayar Military Agency

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans for an upcoming military exercise – dubbed Vostok-2018, which translates to East 2018 – on Tuesday.

Some 300,000 troops are expected to take part in the exercise, which will run from September 11-15. In remarks carried by Russian media, Shoigu said Vostok-2018 would "in some senses [be] even bigger" than 1981 war games staged in eastern Europe during the-then Soviet era.

Also taking part would be Chinese and Mongolian army units, two Russian naval fleets and over 1,000 military aircraft.

The defense minister's announcement Tuesday coincided with NATO planning for Trident Juncture 18, a western alliance maneuver centered on Norway in late October, set to involve 40,000 personnel.

Read more: international military exercises

Alarm in Baltic nations

Last year, Russia staged its Zapad-2017 military drill in western regions of Russia and allied neighbor Belarus (pictured above), deploying roughly 13,000 troops.

That raised concerns in the Baltic republics – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – that Russia might be practicing tactics to enter the former Soviet satellite republics.

'More assertive' Russia

From NATO headquarters in Brussels, western spokesman Dylan White told Reuters that Russia had briefed NATO in May, when alliance ambassadors met.

Russia's focus during Vostok-18 would be on "exercising large-scale conflict" and fitted a pattern of a "more assertive Russia" with a larger military budget, White said.

NATO speaker Dylan White
Russia 'more assertive,' says NATO's WhiteImage: NATO/F. Garrido-Ramirez

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia needed "defense capability" to deal with an international situation he described as "quite aggressive and unfriendly."

Japan watching

Japan, which borders on Russia in the northwestern Pacific, has already complained about what it described as a Russian military build-up in the Far East.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Tokyo paid attention to shifts in Russian-Chinese military cooperation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to attend the international Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, in September.

ipj/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)