MOSCOW is continuing to flex its military muscles, with Russian warships, tanks, planes and helicopters taking part in the nation’s largest-ever military war games since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The drills have however been blamed for ratcheting-up international tensions, and have even lead NATO to declare its concerns that Russia is “rehearsing for large-scale conflict” in the area.
Dramatic photos show tanks and some of the 300,000 marines storming the Sea of Japan’s coast from high-tech landing craft.
And they are joined by some of the 1,000 military aircraft and two naval fleets are taking part in this week’s Vostok training drills off Russia’s east coast.
The significant military build-up has raised diplomatic tensions with Japan, because of their proximity to the disputed Kuril Islands.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time – a more assertive Russia”
NATO spokesman Dylan White
And NATO is also monitor the exercises closely amid simmering pressure between Moscow and the United States, which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The planned procedures coincide with the fallout from the Salisbury poisoning assassination plot and international agreement about Kremlin-sponsored attempts to interfere in numerous elections.
In a speech to soldiers at the drills, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to strengthen the Russian army and supply it with new-generation weapons and equipment.
Putin added that although Russia is a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.
During the earlier drills the Northern Fleet’s Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer and the Alexander Obrakovsky landing ship took part in a mock-up rescue operation in the Bering Sea.
(Pic: AFP/Getty Images)
Scores of paratroopers were seen leaping from a plane and descending from helicopters by ropes in the eastern Siberian territory of Zabaikalsk.
Missiles were also launched from Russia’s S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system and its Buk medium-range missile system.
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.
At sea, the Russian fleet is deploying several frigates equipped with Kalibr missiles that have been used in Syria.
Putin praised Russia’s increasingly close ties with China as he met Xi at the economic forum in Vladivostok on Tuesday, saying: ‘We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defence spheres.”
The drills have been condemned by NATO as a rehearsal for “large-scale conflict”.
“It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time – a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence,” the alliance’s spokesman Dylan White said this August.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has sought to downplay the significance of China’s participation.
“I think that nations act out of their interests. I see little in the long term that aligns Russia and China,” he said.