Russia begins large-scale military exercises in Far East

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Russian forces on Thursday began the large-scale Vostok 2022 military exercises in Russia’s Far East and other locations. The military exercises will last until Sept. 7 and 13 other countries including China and India will take part. The exercises will be the first large-scale drills of the Russian military since its invasion of Ukraine.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, about 50,000 troops will join the military exercises Vostok, meaning East in Russian. Russia apparently intends to dispel concerns over shortages of manpower and equipment amid its invasion of Ukraine and strengthen opposition to the West and Japan. The military exercises will be conducted in the Sea of Japan and the Okhotsk Sea, as well as at seven onshore training fields.

The Russian military conducts large-scale military exercises in autumn every year with the country’s military districts taking turns to host them, and it is the first time since 2018 that the exercises have been held in the Eastern Military District, which holds jurisdiction over the Far East and other regions.

This year’s exercises are expected to be joined by the largest-ever number of foreign countries, totaling 13 nations including observers. The participating countries include India, which also values its relationship with Japan and the United States, and Nicaragua, a Central American country governed by a left-wing government at odds with the United States. Amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin seems to be trying to emphasize that it is not militarily isolated and to check growing U.S. military activity in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, the number of troops taking part in the military exercises comes to only about one-sixth of the figure for the previous Far East military exercises four years ago. The Global Times, a tabloid published by China’s Communist Party, reported that “This is the first time the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has sent three of its forces to participate in a single Russian drill,” but Beijing cut the number of participating Chinese troops for Vostok 2022 to about 2,000 from about 3,200 in the previous exercises.

According to an announcement of the Russian Defense Ministry, multiple fighter jets practiced interception drills in the Khabarovsk and other regions Thursday. From now until the end of the exercises, more than 50 vessels including those of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet will practice drills in the Sea of Japan and the Okhotsk Sea, such as firing exercises against air and sea targets and exercises for detecting submarines. Russia also emphasized that the Russian and Chinese navies will conduct joint military drills for the defense of sea lanes and economic zones in the Sea of Japan. Training fields include Japan’s northern territories Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, and the Japanese government has requested that Russia exclude the northern territories from the exercises.