Russian War Games the Biggest Since USSR Days
Effort may be aimed at China, Japan: experts
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jul 16, 2013 7:10 AM CDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, listen to Russia's military's General Staff Valery Gerasimov during military exercises.   (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service, Pool)

(Newser) – Economic struggles following the Soviet Union's collapse hit Russia's military hard—but today, its power was on full display in the country's biggest war games since the Soviet era. Some 160,000 troops and 5,000 tanks were deployed in Siberia and far eastern Russia, the AP reports, while 130 aircraft and a host of ships joined in. Here's just how massive the war games, which began Friday and run through the week, are: They spanned several time zones, and some army units deployed to areas thousands of kilometers away from their bases.

The military exercises come amid tensions with Japan over a group of disputed islands off Japan's Hokkaido Island, and in the face of fears that a strengthening China could push into Russian land despite agreements between the countries. Though Russian officials maintained the war games were just part of regular training, "it's quite obvious that the land part of the exercise is directed at China, while the sea and island part of it is aimed at Japan," says a Russia-based analyst. Russia plans to spend some $615 billion on improving its military through 2020, but some experts doubt the program's effectiveness.

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