Russian Federation holding largest war games in its history

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Russia launches what it has called its largest ever military drills, with hundreds of thousands of Russian troops taking part along with Chinese soldiers in a massive show of force that has rattled the West.

Moscow said the weeklong manoeuvrers, known as Vostok (East) 2018, would span vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean and involve nearly a third of Russia's million-strong military.

But defence minister Sergei Shoigu said this time would be even larger, with 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 1,000 planes and 80 warships taking part in the drills. Mongolia also sent a small contingent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (Sep 11) said that Moscow and Beijing plan to use their own national currencies more often in trade deals as Russia's relations with the West deteriorate.

Chinese military vehicles through a field in Chita, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises, September 11, 2018.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said that Vostok-2018 "demonstrates Russia's focus on exercising large-scale conflict".

"With its Vostok-2018 exercise, Russia sends a message that it regards the United States as a potential enemy and China as a potential ally", wrote Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian army colonel and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.

Alex Kokcharov, a Russia analyst at the London-based risk assessment firm HIS Markit, said that China has never before participated in war games on Russian soil that were not under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The military exercises come at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over accusations of Russian interference in western affairs and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

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"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. The exercise will be spread across five army training grounds, four airbases and areas in the Sea of Japan, the Bering Strait and the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Russian army will roll out all of its latest additions for the event: Iskander missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, T-80 and T-90 tanks and its recent Su-34 and Su-35 fighter planes.

Relations between Moscow and Beijing have always been marked by mutual wariness, with Russian nationalists warning of encroaching Chinese influence in the nation's mineral-rich far east, but Russia pivoted east toward China after the West sanctioned Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and trade links between the two, who share a land border more than 4,200km long, have blossomed since.

They also serve as an exercise in "military muscle-flexing" to Russia's global rivals.

"It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time - a more assertive Russian Federation, significantly increasing its defence budget and its military presence", said the alliance´s spokesman Dylan White.

The war games are held a year after Russian Federation staged major drills in the country's west last September, unnerving neighbouring former Soviet republics.

Speaking of the forum, Jinping said the two countries "friendship is getting stronger all the time".

Part of Russia's response has been to increase the number of large-scale military exercises across the globe in an apparent bid to project power and ward off perceived Western aggression.

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