Russia is making plans to hold its biggest war games in nearly 40 years.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the military exercises on Tuesday.He said they will take place next month and also involve the armies of China and Mongolia.
The Reuters news agency says the exercises, called Vostok-2018, will take place in Russia’s central and eastern military districts.It will involve almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, and two of Russia’s naval fleets, Shoigu said in a statement.
The war games are coming at a time of increased tensions between Russia and the West.Russian officials are concerned about what they say is an unjustified build-up of the NATO military alliance along their country’s western borders.
NATO officials say the alliance strengthened its forces in Europe to stop possible Russian military action after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.They add that the Russian government supported a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
The war games will take place from September 11 to 15.They are likely to displease Japan, which is already worried about a Russian military build-up in East Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to attend a meeting in the Russian city of Vladivostok over the same period.A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday that Japan is closely watching military cooperation between Russia and China.
The Russian defense minister said the war games would be the biggest since 1981.That was 10 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
When asked if the cost of holding such a massive exercise was justified, a Russian government spokesman said such war games were important.
“The country’s ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly towards our country,means (the exercise) is justified,” the official said.
When asked if Chinese involvement meant China and Russia were moving towards an alliance,spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it showed that the two countries were cooperating in all areas.
China and Russia have held military exercises together before, but never exercises this large.
NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had told the alliance about the planned exercises in May.He said NATO planned to watch it closely.
Russia has invited military attaches from NATO countries to observe the war games.White said that offer was under consideration.
“All nations have the right to exercise their armed forces,” he wrote in an email.He added that it is important that exercises be “transparent” and “predictable.”
Russia is “increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said,adding that these large exercises show that Russia appears to be preparing for large conflicts.
Shoigu had earlier announced the start of immediate conflict readiness checks in the central and eastern military areas before the planned exercises.
I’m Susan Shand.