Russia, China Start Biggest Military Drill Since Cold War

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"The fact that the drill is vastly greater in size than previous exercises in the same location is also part of the natural progression of Russia's practice for war", Giles said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Russian Federation this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin at an economic forum in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok. Thirty-six thousand tanks, 80 ships, and nearly 1,000 aircraft are also taking part, according to the ministry.

300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships will take part in the drills.

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

Russian Federation also staged a major naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean this month and its jets resumed bombing the Syrian region of Idlib, the last major enclave of rebels fighting its ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Besides their size, the drills have attracted attention because of the participation of Chinese troops, the first time they have been invited by Russian Federation to take part in an exercise of this scale.

The September 11-17 exercises, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018) and billed by Moscow as its biggest in decades - or in history - come amid persistently high tension between Moscow and the West and are being closely watched by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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

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.

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.

"The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defense and counterattack", a China defense ministry statement said.

In this photo provided by the Russian Defence Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, a Russian soldier guards an area during the military exercises in the Chita region, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises.

The wargames - officially known as Vostok-2018 - are the biggest of their type since the height of the Cold War, and will involve about 300,000 troops.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed such concerns on Tuesday.

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The country´s war games in Eastern Europe past year, Zapad-2017, saw 12,700 troops take part according to Moscow.

Amid growing recent tensions between Moscow and the West, NATO has said it will monitor the drills closely.

"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.

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

Russian Federation has denied the drills are a cause for worry.

"[It also] signifies that the political strategic trust and military cooperation between China and Russian Federation has reached a historic high".

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