Chinese troops take part in Russia’s biggest military exercise in 40 years


Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the shift away from anti-terrorism drills to more conventional war games could pave the way for greater cooperation between China and Russian Federation.

The location of the exercises close to Japan, North and South Korea and China suggest that Russian Federation is keen to increase its influence in the region, and Mr Putin himself underlined this message with a visit to Vladivostok this week to meet with Chinese opposite number Xi Jinping.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has described the drills as even bigger than the country's largest Cold War-era exercise - Zapad 1981 - that put North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on edge. According to reports, Chinese soldiers are also taking part in the war exercise for the first time.

Russian Federation yesterday began its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union close to its border with China, mobilizing 300,000 troops in a show of force that is to include joint exercises with the Chinese army.

Given the closeness to Alaska, some analysts believe Mr Putin is also seeking to send a message to the United States.

They also serve as an exercise in "military muscle-flexing" to Russia's global rivals.

Hundreds of Chinese armoured combat vehicles, attack helicopters, fighter jets and thousands of soldiers take part in the biggest military exercise in Russian Federation since 1981, in a show of strength and friendship between Asia's two largest military powers.

Speaking of the forum, Jinping said the two countries "friendship is getting stronger all the time".

"In some ways (Vostok-2018) will repeat aspects of Zapad-81, but in other ways the scale will be bigger", Shoigu said.

"China, by sending a PLA element to train with the Russians, is signalling that USA pressure is pushing it towards much closer military cooperation with Moscow".

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"The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defence and counter-attack", China's defence ministry said in a statement.

Experts said in reality neither China or Russian Federation believe the two are close to a full-fledged military alliance, but the joint drills nonetheless reflected how much more cooperative the two countries' relationship has become, after decades of suspicion during the Soviet period.

"These are very important drills and they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces", Dimitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.

"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", Shoigu said.

- Vostok-2018 it includes 297,000 servicemen.

The war games are held a year after Russian Federation staged major drills in the country's west last September, unnerving neighbouring former Soviet republics.

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

It involved deploying forces to Russia's far east and building up its Northern and Pacific fleets.

His Chinese counterpart commented that both countries would continue to "make joint efforts to... push the China-Russia relationship up to a new height".