Russian Federation teams with China for biggest war games since Cold War

A Russian tank goes through its paces. The Vostok 2018 war games start on Tuesday

A Russian tank goes through its paces. The Vostok 2018 war games start on Tuesday

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.

The worldwide military exercise, named Vostok-2018, will involve 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships, according to Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu. Mongolia is also taking part in the drill.

In total, more than 1,000 military aircraft, two Russian naval fleets, up to 36,000 tanks and armoured vehicles plus all Russian airborne units took part.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokesman Dylan White said the war games revealed "a more assertive Russia" which is "significantly increasing its defence budget and military presence".

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Last month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's "ability to defend itself in the current worldwide situation which is often aggressive and unfriendly to our country is justified, essential and without alternative".

Vostok 2018 comes amid increasing tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia's involvement in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is expected to attend the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, is a guest. The latter comprise six Mi-171s, which were bought from Russian Federation in 2014 and are making their first appearance in such an exercise, nine Z-9s and nine Z-19s. President Vladimir Putin treated Xi to pancakes with caviar and shots of vodka in a show of their warm rapport.

Mr Trump later said the "war-games" - as he described them - would have been "provocative".

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The drills kicked off close to Russia's border with China on Tuesday and will run through Saturday.

The demonstration of military might will include some joint exercises with the Chinese army. "If Russia had not invited China, that would have been viewed by Beijing as a potentially risky activity by Russia".

The Russian army has compared the show of force to the USSR's 1981 war games that saw between 100,000 and 150,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers take part in "Zapad-81" (West-81) - the largest military exercises of the Soviet era.

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

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"We have a trusting relationship [with China] in the spheres of politics, security, and defense", Putin said at the start of his meeting with Xi.

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