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Report: Kremlin Officials Say War Games Are Largest in Decades

Russian servicemen stand in line during the Zapad 2017 war games at a range near the town of Borisov, Belarus, September 20, 2017. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

This year’s annual Russian war games, which begin on Tuesday, will be the largest since Ronald Reagan was inaugurated during the Cold War, Kremlin defense minister Sergey Shoygu claimed to NBC News Monday.

The military exercises, called Vostok 2018 by the Russian government, will put to use almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 airplanes, helicopters, and drones, as many as 80 ships, and 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles, Russian officials said. They will take place in Siberia and Russia’s Far East, and are a necessary response to the “current international situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

China will also send a military contingent to participate jointly in the exercises. NATO was made aware of the drills months ago, officials said.

Back in June, the U.S. led NATO drills involving 18,000 troops from 19 countries, most of them NATO members, in the Baltic states and Poland. But U.S. Army Europe denied the war games were a “provocation of Russia” and said they were meant to “demonstrate the commitment and solidarity of the alliance.”

NATO deputy spokesman Dylan White last month condemned the upcoming Russian exercises, saying they “demonstrate Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict” and suggest “a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

Russia has invited NATO to send observers to Vostok 2018, which will run from tomorrow through this coming Saturday.

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