Russia on Thursday launched Vostok-2022, sweeping military drills in the country’s east, that will continue till September 7 and involve forces from India, China and several other countries. The drills will “practice defensive and offensive operations" at seven training grounds of the Eastern Military District and in maritime and coastal areas of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan, the Russian Defence Ministry had announced.
The defence ministry said the exercises would also involve military contingents and observers from Algeria, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
“The strategic manoeuvres will bring together over 50,000 troops and more than 5,000 items of armaments and military hardware, in particular, 140 aircraft, 60 combat ships, gunboats and support vessels," it said.
The manoeuvres are believed to be intended to demonstrate that Moscow has sufficient military might for massive drills even as its troops are engaged in military action in Ukraine.
Breaking Down the Drills
The Russian defence ministry said that units of Russian Airborne troops, long-range bombers and military cargo planes will take part in the drills along with other forces.
“The drills are set to master the skills of commanders and headquarters in exercising command and control of combined arms and coalition forces to repel acts of aggression in the eastern direction and in the far eastern maritime zone, raise compatibility and interoperability of the collation forces in jointly coping with the objectives of maintaining peace, protecting interests and ensuring military security in the eastern region," Russia’s defence ministry said.
The manoeuvres will also check the preparedness of military command centres in planning operations in maritime areas, ensuring all-embracing logistics support, command and control of battlegroups in warfare.
The tactical episodes of the drills are based on various scenarios of practical operations by military contingents of Russia and partner states, with the basic stage to be held at the Sergeyevsky practice range.
Russia said its Pacific Fleet and China’s navy would take part in “joint practical actions to defend maritime communications and areas of maritime economic activity" in the Sea of Japan.
Smaller Scale Than 2018
The military exercises in the Far East will take place on a far smaller scale than when they were last held in 2018, reflecting the strain on Moscow’s forces as they struggle to make headway on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine.
Announcing the war games, the Russian defence ministry said last month that its capacity to stage such exercises was in no way affected by what Russia calls its “special military operation" in Ukraine.
But the 50,000 personnel that Moscow said on Monday will take part are a fraction of the official figure of 300,000 that were said to be involved four years ago, though some Western military analysts suspect that number was overstated.
The defence ministry said 140 military aircraft and over 5,000 items of military hardware would be deployed - way down on the 1,000 aircraft and 36,000 tanks and armoured vehicles that were reported to have been sent into the 2018 manoeuvres.
There were no immediate comments from the Indian Army or the Ministry of Defence in New Delhi on the participation of Indian soldiers at the Vostok-2022 military exercises in Russia. Last year, India had attended Exercise ZAPAD 2021 drills in Russia in which 17 countries, including China and Pakistan, took part.
Earlier this month, the Chinese Defence Ministry in a press release said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sent personnel to participate in this exercise, which aims to deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation with the militaries of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic coordination of all participating parties, and enhance the ability to deal with various security threats. The drills are unrelated to the current international and regional situation, it said, apparently referring to the Ukraine war as well as the Ladakh standoff.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas. As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area. So far, the two sides held 16 rounds of Corps Commander Level talks to resolve the prolonged standoff.
The United States, meanwhile, said it is concerned about India’s plans to participate in the joint military exercises with Russia. Asked about India’s participation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the United States was concerned about any country participating in military exercises with Russia while it is at war with Ukraine.
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