Russia launched its largest military exercises in modern history in the morning of September 11. The exercises, called Vostok 2018 (East 2018) involve about 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, more than 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and about a hundred warships.
The manoeuvres that will last through September 17 are held to practice massive air strikes, interception of cruise missiles, landing missions of sea and airborne assault forces, as well as actions of mobile groups in the deep rear of the enemy under the conditions that would be as close to combat conditions as possible, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said. Russia has not held such military exercises since 1981, when the USSR conducted Zapad-81 manoeuvres.
Vostok 2018 war games are held under the status of an international event. They involve the troops of the Eastern and Central Military Districts, forces of the Northern Fleet, all formations and military units of the Airborne Forces, long and military transport aircraft. Chinese and Mongolian armed forces will join the war games at a certain stage of their development.
The most dynamic part of the war games will unfold on one of the largest range grounds of the Transbaikal region - Tsugol. More than 7,000 units of military hardware and special equipment, about 250 aircraft and helicopters have been delivered to the site. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation tried to make the task for participants as much complicated as possible - they will have to act in the rapidly changing environment and take prompt and non-standard decisions. In particular, the war games will see the Russian military practice mobile defense and operations to destroy enemy with the use of artillery fire and military aircraft. Robotic equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles are to be used in the operations as well.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, almost all models of military hardware and weapons available in the arsenal of the Russian army will take part in Vostok 2018 drills, including Iskander missile systems, upgraded T-72, T-90 and T-80BVM tanks.
Su-34 bombers and Su-35 multipurpose fighters will protect ground forces from the air. Mi-28 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, Tu-95MS strategic bombers, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 missile carriers. Su-24 bombers, Su-25 interceptors and Su-25 interceptors from the Chelyabinsk region, Perm and Krasnoyarsk territories were delivered to the range ground.
Vostok 2018 war games will be held with the use of the combat experience that Russian forces have gained in Syria.
The naval part of the manoeuvres involves forces of Pacific Northern Fleets of the Russian Federation - about 80 ships and supply vessels. In the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk and in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, Russian warships will show resistance to air attacks, strike retaliatory blows on groups of ships and launch Caliber missiles.
Vostok-2018 war games are held on nine range grounds, in the waters of the Bering Sea and in the Sea of Okhotsk, in Avachinsky and Kronotsky bays. These are two-way manoeuvres with two opposing groups participating: the Central Military District and the Northern Fleet "fight against" the troops of the Eastern Military District and the Pacific Fleet.
Vostok 2018 war games have caused serious concern for the United States and its NATO allies in Europe, especially the Baltic countries and Poland. NATO officials said that Vostok 2018 war games demonstrate "Russia's emphasis on the work to practice participation in a large-scale conflict."
Le Nouvel Observateur quoted French military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, who said making references to the Russian General Staff that a major war in the world would unfold after 2020. It would be either a global war or a series of major regional conflicts, in which the United States and its allies would be Russia's enemy, the expert added.
Russia holds the international war games with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian troops against the backdrop of growing tensions with Western countries, the Ukrainian crisis, the conflict in Syria and countless accusations of Russia's interference in internal affairs of Western countries.
In 1981, the USSR held Zapad 81 exercises that mobilised between 100,000 and 150,000 troops of the Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe. Zapad 81 were the largest manoeuvres ever organised in the Soviet era.
Servicemen from the People's Republic of China have never taken part in Russia's strategic military exercises. For Vostok 2018 war games, China will send about 3,000 troops, as well as aircraft and helicopters of the People's Liberation Army of China.
Since 2003, Russia and China have held about 30 military exercises, but none of them have targeted Russia's strategic efforts to ensure security. The PLA takes part in Vostok 2018 war games not only for integrated, anti-terrorist exercises with the police, but also for strategic exercises - a goal that the Chinese had set for themselves long ago, senior fellow at the European Council for International Relations (ECFR), Gustav Gressel told DW, adding that the Chinese military wanted to learn the experience that Russia had gained in Syria.
Kremlin officials say that Russia is holding such large-scale war games because of the need to maintain Russia's defensive capability in the current international situation, which can often be very aggressive and unfriendly.
Spokespeople for the Defence Ministry of China stated that the PLA takes part in Vostok 2018 war games to develop the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership and further strengthen the ability to jointly respond to various security threats.