The drills will also include tanks and troops from China.
Russia is gearing up for what could be the largest military exercises in half a century. The Vostok 2018 exercises will involve 300,000 Russian soldiers, sailors, and airmen, far more than previous exercises, and involve troops from across Russia. The drills will also include several thousand Chinese troops.
A gigantic country that spans 11 time zones, Russia splits its military preparedness drills into two separate events. Every four years it holds the Zapad (“West”) drills in the Urals and the following year holds the Vostok (“East”) in Siberia. This year is a Vostok year, according to Russian state media Vostok 2018 looks to be a truly massive event.
A report by the TASS news agency states that Vostok 2018 will involve 300,000 troops, far more than last year’s Zapad exercises. Zapad 2017 which saw Russian and Belarusian troops take part, involved about 100,000 troops. TASS quotes Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as stating, “Taking part in it will be about 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 planes, helicopters and drones, up to 80 combat and logistic ships and up to 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles.”
While it’s possible the “300,000” number is correct, it should also be taken with a grain of salt. Russian figures for military exercises vary wildly, in part to conceal the true size of the exercises. Zapad 2017, for example, officially included less than 13,000 troops but unofficial estimates ranged as high as 100,000.
Also taking part in the exercises will be troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reports that 3,500 troops and 30 aircraft will take part in exercises at the Tsugol training range in Russia’s Trans-Baikal region. On September 3rd a photo of Chinese Type 99 main battle tanks and Type 86 infantry fighting vehicles headed to Russia on flatbed railcars appeared on Twitter.
Vostok 2018 will run from September 11-17. According to Shoigu, it will be held at nine different proving grounds across Russia’s Eastern Military District. The naval component will be held in the Sea of Okhotsk, Bering Sea, and Sea of Japan. Russian forces that could reinforce the country’s East, including the Russian airborne forces, will also be involved in the drills.