Russia launched a massive military exercise on Tuesday, its biggest since the Cold War, reports the BBC. That alone would be enough to make headlines, but another twist has cinched it: China is taking part in the war games as well—the first time Russia has invited any country beyond its former Soviet satellites, notes the Wall Street Journal. The bulk of the troops taking part in the five-day drills in eastern Russia near the Chinese border are Russian: 300,000 vs. about 3,200 from China. Mongolia also sent a small contingent. The stories note that the joint military exercise is taking place as both nations' relations with NATO in general and the US in particular have soured of late.
“The exercise is an opportunity to prepare for a range of large-scale war and crisis scenarios,” an analyst at the think tank Rand Corp. tells the Journal. “The focus is on the Pacific theater for contingencies, in North Korea, for example. But the capabilities tested could apply to a conflict with the West.” This is China's largest such exercise outside its own borders, reports the AP. The first day coincided with a visit to Russia by Chinese President Xi Jinping. "We're obviously aware of it, we're watching it closely," said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman. "We're aware of Russia's right to sovereignty and to exercise in order to ensure their readiness."