Russia Launches Massive War Games Blitz

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia

From Elias Groll, Passport:  No one seems to be paying much attention, but in the seas off the coast of Japan, the wilderness of Siberia, and little towns north of Moscow, the Russian military is currently engaged in a massive training blitz.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a snap military exercise in the country’s Far East, deploying 160,000 troops, 1,000 tanks, 130 aircraft, and 70 ships. If those sound like big numbers, that’s because they are — the exercise has been described as Russia’s largest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

But that’s not the whole story. Last week, Russia engaged in an unprecedented naval exercise with China that included live-fire drills and the crown jewel of the Russian Navy’s Pacific fleet — the guided-missile cruiser Varyag. And last Tuesday, Russia convened 500 soldiers from the Collective Security Treaty Organization — the body that emerged out of the Commonwealth of Independent States — for a theatrical counterterror exercise at a training center north of Moscow. Taken together, the three training operations represent a remarkable flurry of military activity — one that has put nearly every component of Russia’s armed forces under the spotlight.

By far the largest of these war games is the current one in the Far East, which has focused on rapid deployment and tested the army’s logistical abilities. Some 100 tanks made a nearly 700-mile train journey to southeastern Siberia, near the Mongolian and Chinese borders, and some 562 train cars have transported 320 tons of equipment. "The peculiarity [of this drill] is that [although] we deployed here 24 hours … it hasn’t yet been disclosed to us where we will move from here and what we will be ordered to accomplish," tank commander Dmitry Manyukin told Russian television — an indication that Russian military leaders are issuing new orders over the course of the drill and probing soldiers’ ability to respond to new sets of directives. . . .

Meanwhile on Russia’s Pacific coast, the country’s Navy has been engaged in a major naval drill with their Chinese counterparts. Russia and China are not allies, and this type of military cooperation between the two countries has little precedent (in fact, it has been characterized as China’s largest deployment ever for training with another country). In addition to the Russian guided-missile cruiser and a Russian nuclear submarine, the Chinese fielded seven warships, including a guided-missile destroyer. "This is our strongest lineup ever in a joint naval drill," Maj. General Yang Junfei, the Chinese fleet commander, told the New York Times. "Our forces come from two fleets — the North Sea Fleet and the South Sea Fleet — and include seven ships, three helicopters and one special warfare unit."  (photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty)

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