Russia, China Start Biggest Military Drill Since Cold War

A boy looks through the gun sight of a bazooka next to military men at a weapon exhibition during the celebrations of 'Tank's Day' in Sertolovo town outside Saint Petersburg

Russia stages world’s largest military drills, NATO worried

Russian Federation today launched its largest ever war games involving hundreds of thousands of battle-ready troops alongside their Chinese comrades in arms.

The huge week-long exercise, called Vostok 2018, is being held in eastern Siberia, and also includes the Chinese army.

It comes at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (Sep 11) said that Moscow and Beijing plan to use their own national currencies more often in trade deals as Russia's relations with the West deteriorate.

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.

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

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 USA and others over territorial claims in Asia.

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China is sending about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft to join the drills at a Siberian firing range, a significant deployment that reflects its shift toward a full-fledged military alliance with Russian Federation.

"This is a milestone for Sino-Russian military ties", Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on Twitter.

Putin said Moscow has a "trusting relationship" with Beijing "in politics, security, and defense".

Exercises similar in scale have not been held since 1981 when the Zapad-81 drills that involved about 100,000 troops were held in the Soviet Union's Belarusian, Kiev and Baltic Military Districts and in the Baltic Sea.

"These are very important drills but they are part of routine annual work to develop the armed forces", he told reporters Tuesday.

He added: "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".

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokesperson Dylan White said that the military organization has been briefed about the exercise in May and it would monitor it. "Vostok demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict".

Russia's defence ministry hailed the drills as successful.

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