Russia has launched in its Far East the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) wargames, the largest exercises in the last 37 years, according to Russian defense officials. A total of almost 300,000 military are taking part in the drills, along with tens of thousands of armored vehicles, helicopters, aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Mongolian and Chinese military forces will also join the wargames at one of the stages. Russian military chiefs specified that maneuvers are aimed at checking the readiness of military commanders to plan and carry out long distance regrouping of troops.
It is worth mentioning that compared to the Zapad-2017 (West-2017) drills Russia jointly conducted with Belarus, the declared number of troops at this year's exercises is much smaller – last year, at least 400,000 military took part, according to official reports. But due to the fact that Vostok-2018 is being held beyond the Urals, in the Asian part of Russia, where the powers of the OSCE monitoring mission do not extend and there are no international observers invited, the actual number of participants may differ significantly – both upwards and downwards. But, I suggest that the announced figures roughly correspond to the real picture, since foreign troops are also involved.
Such large-scale exercises can be regarded as a demonstration of military prowess to the rest of the world
The exercises as such are an actual wargame to train staff command. While earlier, they used to conduct drills, fighting some conventional adversary, such as NATO or one of the Allies (USA, UK, Germany, etc.) , now they are divided into two camps, that is, to dynamically work out military command decision-making while planning and conducting military operations.
By and large, such large-scale exercises can be regarded as a demonstration of military prowess to the rest of the world and an attempt to prove their ability to engage in a continental war. But this is rather aimed at reviving Russia's imperial ambitions and its superpower status, so that the international community sees it and begins to reckon with Russia and discuss with Moscow on an equal footing the whole range of geopolitical issues relating to markets, building a new world order, etc. This, perhaps, is their main objective.
The location was also chosen deliberately. Besides, China also was invited to confirm the authenticity of Russia's intentions. At the same time, foreign observers have not been invited precisely to make sure there is no understanding of what is happening and it is impossible to unravel the essence of the preparation process.
The only springboard is the territory of Ukraine, but this is more difficult, since Ukraine has a large territory and a strengthened army
In parallel with the Russian Federation, NATO is also holding its exercises. The main point of contact is now in Syria, where, in fact, there is a redistribution of the world oil market ongoing between the U.S. and Russia. It is there that the Russian Federation has now deployed its navy armada to stand against the U.S. fleet. Meanwhile, the Vostok-2018 is yet another attempt by Russia to show the U.S. their full combat readiness. But this is more a game of intimidation, since Russia is unlikely to launch an offensive, for example, via the Baltic States, as it is often discussed.
The only springboard is the territory of Ukraine, but this is more difficult, since Ukraine has a large territory and a strengthened army.
By the way, for the same reason, Ukraine has not been accepted to NATO so far, as it is necessary for all Allies to fight for a NATO member state, while it might be just enough for them to provide lethal assistance to a partner country, which Ukraine is today. And this status will further prevail, mostly as a result of Ukraine's geographical location. After all, while previously, the border of confrontation between NATO and Russia passed along the borders of Germany, now it's along the border of Ukraine. And those who will control Ukraine's territory politically will have a huge advantage over the adversary.
Col (Reserve) Oleh Zhdanov is a Ukrainian military expert