Vostok 2018 drills involving 300,000 troops kick off in Russian Federation

Russia stages world’s largest military drills, NATO worried

Russia launches largest military drill since Cold War

Shoigu said that about 300,000 military personnel would take part, twice as many as the largest war games conducted by the Soviet Union: the Zapad-81 exercises in 1981.

With 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 vehicles, 1,000 aircraft and 80 ships, the Vostok 2018 exercises will be even bigger than the mock battles fought during the Cold War.

Some of the first exercises will revolve around anti-aircraft technology, according to Russia's defence ministry.

Russia's Defence Ministry boasted on Monday that the drill will be the largest since Zapad-81, when the USSR held war games involving around 150,000 troops.

Vostok 2018 comes as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation simultaneously conducts its own Rapid Trident military drill programme in Ukraine.

Some experts pointed out the USA helped spawn closer Russia-China military ties by labelling them strategic competitors.

China is sending 3,200 troops to take part in the Vostok 2018 exercises later this week.

By chance or design, the exercise - which is to involve more than 1,000 military aircraft, two Russian naval fleets and all Russian airborne units - is taking place while Russian President Vladimir Putin holds talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.

Relations between Moscow and Beijing have always been marked by mutual wariness with Russian nationalists warning of encroaching Chinese influence in the country's mineral-rich far east.

Relations between Russian Federation and the West have been severely strained by Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.

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In addition, 24 helicopters and six jets belonging to the Chinese air force have been brought in.

- Beijing has said 3,200 members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to join in the operations, about 5,000km east of Moscow.

"The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defence and counter-attack", China's defence ministry said in a statement.

"The Chinese officers and soldiers participating in the drills will demonstrate the determination and ability to maintain regional peace and stability with practical actions", it said. "Beijing and Moscow have to show Washington that they have an unbreakable strategic partnership".

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.

For his part, Xi said the two countries' "friendship is getting stronger all the time".

"I think that nations act out of their interest".

Asked on Tuesday if the U.S. was anxious about a possible military alliance between Russian Federation and China, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon reporters he thought "that nations act out of their interests".

Putin, who is armed forces commander-in-chief, is expected to observe the exercises this week alongside Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing them.

Xi, whose country is locked in a tense confrontation with the United States over trade and tariffs, said that Russian Federation and China should work together to oppose protectionism and what he called unilateral approaches to worldwide problems.

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