The West got a fresh jolt from Moscow last week. That’s when Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu announced that Russian armed forces would hold a military exercise in September, called “Vostok-18” [East-18], on a scale not seen since the early 1980s. If there was any doubt that Russia sees itself in a “New Cold War,” Shoygu’s direct reference to the massive “Zapad” [West] exercise from 1981 seems to confirm that is the prevailing mentality in the Kremlin. In fact, Shoygu claimed , “They (the exercises ‘Vostok-2018’) will in some ways recall ‘Zapad-81,’ but in other ways, actually, will be even larger in scale [Они (учения ‘Восток-2018’) в чём-то повторяют ‘Запад-81’, но в чем-то, пожалуй, ещё масштабнее].”
In the same statement, Shoygu declared that the exercise would involve more than one thousand aircraft, almost three hundred thousand soldiers, and nearly all Russian military installations in the Central and Eastern military regions, including also the Northern and Pacific fleets. In the article cited above, moreover, the Russian defense minister is said to have asked gathered journalists to imagine “when 36,000 pieces of equipment including tanks, armored personnel carriers, etc. are simultaneously on the march [когда одновременно на марше находятся примерно 36 тыс. единиц техники, включая танки, БТР, БМП].”
A couple of days later and on the occasion of a visit by a senior Chinese military delegation, Shoygu offered that the relationship between Moscow and Beijing reached “ an unprecedented high level .” Interestingly on that latter occasion, he discussed the participation of Chinese units together with Russian units in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) anti-terrorism exercises that just took place in Chelyabinsk Oblast, but did not seem to mention the planned cooperation for Vostok-18. And so it does seem that Russia-China military cooperation has genuinely been regularized, with one exercise or exchange following closely upon the next and reaching higher and higher levels of intensity and scope.