The Russian military does not have time for massive shows of force in remote territories, but to suspend them would send a terrible message to its rivals. The traditional military exercises that the Russian armed forces celebrate after the summer will have this year only a sixth of the contingents that they mobilized at the time of greatest deployment in past maneuvers. From 300,000 fighters at Vostok 2018 and 200,000 a year ago at Zapad 2021, to about 50,000 soldiers at Vostok 2022, including foreign troops. A huge cut in personnel for a training to be led by his chief of staff, Valeri Gerasimov, in the Russian Far East, when the Ukrainian army strikes back in Kherson. However, these exercises will also send another warning to the world in a hot region due to the recent crisis in Taiwan and the Japanese sanctions against the Kremlin: the fleets of Russia and China, countries that have strengthened their cooperation in recent years and particularly since the offensive in Ukraine, they will practice side by side with live fire in the Sea of Japan.
The maneuvers will finally take place between September 1 and 7. The Russian Defense Ministry stressed that its troops and command corps, almost all of them belonging to the eastern military district, must have returned to their permanent deployment points “before the end of September.” In addition, the presence there of the chief of the Russian General Staff stands out. Gerasimov has been in the background in the Russian press practically since the first weeks of the offensive on Ukraine.
“The exercise is not directed against any specific state or military alliance. It is purely defensive in nature, ”said Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, reeling off the details of him. One of the keys will be naval cooperation between Russia and China in the waters they share with the main US ally in the area, Japan. “The Pacific Fleet and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy will work their interaction in the northern and central areas of the Sea of Japan to assist the ground forces in the Primorsky Krai (the region whose capital is Vladivostok) and defend the maritime economic activity,” Fomin pointed out.
Japan sent a note of protest to Moscow on July 27 because Russia is expected to take the maneuvers to the disputed Kuril Islands. This Monday, the chief secretary of the Japanese Cabinet, Hirokazu Matsuno, took up the criticism by assuring that the approach to the exercises “does not coincide with the approaches of Tokyo and is unacceptable”, according to the statements collected by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti. “We have conveyed our concerns about Russian troop activity near our country in the context of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our government continues to collect information and will act accordingly,” Matsuno added.
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“Military exercises, national dishes and music”
The rotation of the annual exercises has taken these exercises this year as far as possible from the Ukraine war. If in 2019, 2020 and 2021 they played in the central, southern and western military districts, respectively, Moscow assigned this course to the extreme east of the country, from where it drew thousands of troops in the months before the start of its offensive.
The Vostok 2022 military exercises try to project an image of normality to the world not only from Russia, immersed in war, but also from other participating countries, some with pending cases between them. Two years after killing each other with stones and iron bars in the Galwan Valley, Chinese and Indian soldiers share camps on training exercises. Likewise, the Armenian and Azerbaijani military faces are also seen again just a few days after Azerbaijan replaced the Russian mediation troops in the Lachin corridor, in Armenian hands until its defeat in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.
In total, contingents and observers from the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will take part in these maneuvers, as well as from states as disparate as Mongolia, Algeria, Nicaragua, Syria and Laos.
The total figures handled by Moscow include some 50,000 troops and more than 5,000 military vehicles and parts at Vostok 2022, including 60 ships and support vessels, and 140 aircraft. However, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin pointed out that the participation of China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will not exceed 6,000 combatants due to a 1996 agreement “for the strengthening of confidence in the military zones of the border”. For its part, Belarus, the Kremlin’s main ally in Europe, has sent a symbolic detachment of 250 members of a mechanized brigade.
The maneuvers will take place in two phases. In the first three-day stage, “the command bodies will have to work on making decisions on the use of their forces while repelling air strikes and carrying out defensive and offensive actions in the Primorye area.” In the second part, of four days, they will launch “a strategic operation during the defeat of the enemy.”
A world separates Vostok 2022 from the battle for Kherson, a Ukrainian city under Russian control. The Russian Ministry of Defense channel published a video about life in the APL-500 camp, located in the area where the main joint exercises will take place, under the heading “military exercises, national dishes and music”.
“Some 100 modern tents have been erected at the Sergeyevsky training camp, each holding 16 people, for a comfortable life for military personnel,” says the agency, which breaks down services such as “points of catering, mobile commercial establishments, sports fields and the Casa de la Amistad for cultural events”. And in his recording, he shows how Indian soldiers make immaculate beds, cook traditional dishes, taste unusual desserts in a war and end the evening playing guitars and electric pianos.
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Source: EL PAIS