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    Russia’s Biggest Military Drills Since Cold War

        Russian soldier patrolling near military vehicles in Moscow in April | Yuri Kochetkov|EPA
    Russia is mobilizing for its biggest military exercise since the height of the Cold War, the Kremlin says, citing a very tense international climate that is “frequently aggressive and unfriendly toward us.” The exercises, which are set to involve nearly 300,000 Russian troops, 1,000 aircraft and 900 tanks. The war game with code name ''Vostok 2018'' will also include units from People's Liberation Army of China for the first time. The military exercise involving land and air units, and will start on 11 September 2018, at Tsugol, the eastern border with Russia, China and Mongolia.  In a separate display of military power, Russia was reported on Tuesday to have assembled a large flotilla of warships off the coast of Syria. Russian news media outlets, citing unnamed defence ministry officials, described it is as Russia’s largest naval deployment in the area since Moscow first intervened in Syria’s civil war in September 2015. 

    The participation of China, which will send helicopters and about 3,200 troops from the People’s Liberation Army.  President Vladimir V. Putin, his ties with the West severely strained by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and military incursions into eastern Ukraine, has put a premium on developing ever closer ties with China as a counterweight and insurance policy against the United States.

    Asked on Tuesday at a regular briefing with reporters why Vostok-2018 would be so big, a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said, “The country’s ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly toward us, is absolutely justified and has no alternative.” Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the exercises in Russia’s far east would be the “biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981.” The large exercises that also scared the westerners it was Zapad, or West, held by the Russian force and its Warsaw Pact allies.

    The last iteration of the Zapad drills was held in September 2017 in conjunction with Belarus, the former Soviet republic and close Russian ally. That action makes some Baltic States and Poland, which feared that the Russian military is preparing for the invention.  In the West, Russia faces off against NATO, but on its eastern flank, it has no obvious enemy or rival

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