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Russia starts annual military exercises with six countries

Expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board (Official Internet Resources of the President of Russia/Released)
September 16, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Russian military’s yearly strategic and operational exercises are starting on September 16.

Forces from China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan will join Russia’s Central Joint Strategic Command (JSC) for exercises running through September 21.

The annual exercises rotate and this year’s mainly focus on the Central JSC. The other JSCs are West, East, and Caucasus.

Ever since Russia started revamping its military in 2008, the Central JSC has held two exercises: in 2011 and 2015.

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Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said these exercises aren’t aimed at any third-party country and focus on “counterterrorist” operations.

This year’s exercises will be the biggest encompassing “128,000 personnel, 20,000 pieces of equipment and weapons, 600 aircraft and helicopters, and 15 warships,” according to an analysis by the Jamestown Foundation.

In the 2015 exercises, for example, 95,000 personnel took part and they were used as a preparation for Russian operations in Syria, according to the Russian-language Military and Industrial Courier.

The 2019 exercises “look less like preparing for counterterrorist actions, than for inter-state war; this has been a feature of all Russian strategic exercises in recent years,” wrote the Jamestown Foundation.